This is a post that I’ve debated writing, but I guess it might be relevant and helpful to a lot of people at the moment so I’m going to go ahead. As you know, this is the time of year when leaving cert results come out and CAO offers are made – a very good time for some, while for others it may seem like the end of the world. What I’m going to tell you is; there is ALWAYS other options. Yes it may be a cliché, but that is simply because it’s true!
The career guidance system in most schools leads students to believe that their number 1 level 8 choice is the be all and end all of their third level careers. It’s not. It’s great if you get it, but even then it’s important to consider whether or not that is the option you truly want. You may be offered a lower option that turns out to be a better choice, or you may decide that even if you got the level 8 number 1, your level 7 is a better option for you. I myself fell into the trap of not considering my level 7 which would have been a better option for me. Once I saw that I had my number one choice for level 8 I jumped straight on board with that, without stopping to ask myself what I really wanted – a big mistake.
Many level 7 courses have options to continue for an extra year, or transfer to a different college afterwards to complete a full honours degree programme. On top of that, you don’t even need to put on your CV what level your qualification is. As long as your work stands for itself it shouldn’t be a problem at the end of the day whether you have a level 7 or level 8 qualification.
If you still aren’t happy with your CAO options, or you don’t get what you want, there are so many good level 5 courses available. I’ve only discovered that this year, and from experience I can say that this opens up so many options that you’re not told about during 5th and 6th year. Many colleges offering level 5/6 have brilliant reputations for the high standards of their courses, and there are a lot of progression routes from these courses to continue to a higher level qualification which means you can achieve the same level at the end of the day as you would from the CAO.
Another important thing to note is many courses nowadays let you do a year and transfer to another course that is of relevance to the course you’ve done for the year. This is result dependant so if you hope to take this course of action you definitely need to put in the work to ensure that you keep the door open to do this, and you check that it will be an availability to do this by contacting those involved with the course by email.
Possibly the most important thing to say is if you’ve given it a try and you’re not satisfied, don’t continue. I learned this through trying to persevere for months at something I knew deep down wasn’t what I wanted to do, before assessing my options and realising there were many other things I’d prefer to be doing. I didn’t want it to be that way, but I knew there was no point in pretending so I faced the music and withdrew, probably the scariest but most relieving thing I’ve ever done. I got a job, did a night course in photography, did all my driving lessons and have now reapplied to the CAO. Although it’s not set in stone what I’m doing yet, my options this time around feel much more like what I want to do rather than what I think I should do.
So what I’m saying is if you don’t feel right about it, don’t rush into anything. Make sure you know the dates of transfer and withdrawal, which will make it an easier process to go through. Don’t do something for the sake of it, or because people tell you you should, or because it will open more doors. Spend time finding the option that is right for you, because there are so many more than they tell about you in school, and just because you get your number one level 8 doesn’t mean it’s the course for you. Do as much investigation as you need, as it’s worth making the right choice. At the end of the day if you find the course that’s right for you, it will be so much more rewarding.
And to everyone awaiting CAO offers and Leaving Cert results – Good Luck!