Have All Places Gone for This Year? Think New Year Courses

Photograph of vivid painting by Dublin artist, Neil Douglas, neildouglas09@gmail.com. Courtesy of the Artist.





Re-Think ALL your Options


The New Year is a start date for many Courses, please check out something that might suit you!




This is a companion piece to ~








Iseult Catherine O'Brien

Montessori Teacher & Supervisor |  Volunteer Tutor with Second Level Students     





Examinations and education organisations mentioned below are specific to Ireland.  However, the general contents are relevant to any students, younger or older, based anywhere.







Some Courses start in the New

Year, have a look and see

what might help you get there.




I have rejigged part of this Article ~ skip the part about reading your results for the first time if you've been through it previously, and go straight to rethinking how you thought your education path would go, and the way you should look at other options.








If you were disappointed with your exam results ~ I hope you let the shock hit, and then pass.  When you are ready, you can read the results again.


 There is never an imperative to discuss your results until YOU are ready to do so.  Don't let ANYONE push you into disclosing your results.  If people try to push you, just walk away.



Perhaps, you did well in a couple of subjects which had not been in your reckoning for your planned higher results, do not discard these as irrelevant.  However your results turned out ~ STAY CALM.  Assess how you did in the subjects for which you felt you would need the best results to allow you take a specific Course, and follow your ambition.



If you feel lost, as if everything has fallen apart, and you begin to doubt yourself, have a look at my Article, 'A Student's Curriculum Vitae', on this website.  It is full of questions which will help you calm down, recover your nerve, and realize how much you have to offer.



PLEASE REMEMBER, just because you may not have done as well as you may have hoped or expected to in an exam, that does NOT make you a FAILURE. 


Failing things, like not getting a grade, or a specific mark, you wished for, is part of life for everyone, and one of the best ways of getting to learn where one's skills, aptitudes, and sticking power lie.  We all fail.   To quote the not widely successful for a long time, playwright and author, and recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Samuel Beckett,   


"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again.  Fail better". 



Beckett knew it is the getting up, and trying again that counts.



Now, more than ever before, a Student has many options to investigate, through various college courses, and in-place-training with some additional college days, even if it is via a circuitous route.





Much of the following advice is written for parents, but the advice is worth reading by everyone.



(St Patrick's is the oldest Psychiatric Hospital in the world, originally funded by Dean Jonathan Swift.)






Excerpts from St Patrick's Hospital's Website "Five tips for parents whose children are set to receive their Leaving Cert results" follow.



The following does not just apply to the Leaving Certificate, but to every exam a student faces in his or her academic career.  Apply this thinking to yourself, let it reduce the pressure you put on youself, and accept as true not suceeding in an exam is definitely not the end of your hopes of ending up where you want to be.  ICOB.



It’s easy to think that this is an ‘all or nothing’ scenario and although the Leaving Certificate is important, it is not the only deciding factor in any element of life.




The CEO of St Patrick’s Mental Health Service, Paul Gilligan, emphasised this point when stating: Your child will be too close to the event to realise this; but the Leaving Certificate isn’t going to determine their whole life’s purpose."



It’s essential that you give them the perspective of knowing that if their results don’t go to plan, it doesn’t mean that they can’t achieve their ambition.”


The Walk in My Shoes Helpline for 18-25 year olds is a confidential telephone and email service staffed by experienced mental health nurses, 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, with an answering and call-back facility outside hours.  You can contact the Walk in My Shoes Helpline service by calling Dublin 01 249 3555, or email help@walkinmyshoes.ie.




The Mental Health Support & Information Service is a confidential telephone and email service staffed by experienced mental health nurses, 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, with an answering and call-back facility outside hours.  You can contact the Support & Information Service by calling Dublin  01 249 3333, or email info@stpatsmail.com.





NEVER feel that spending a year getting a qualification to enable you to get onto your ultimate course is a waste of your time.  See it for what it is, a bonus!



YOU WILL LEARN how better to manage your study time, as your workload will increase compared to school requirements, as will the overall standard of work required.  There are No Excuses for work not submitted on time, or missing references and / or a bibliography - none of this is tolerated in college.  




YOU WILL LEARN how to pace yourself, including daily exercise and some time to relax.  You need to learn how to manage your health, both mental and physical, and to eat properly.  You will need to schedule time for the above, and for food and other shopping, required for your welfare.    See my Post,  Student! Help's Here.


These are the life skills you shall need to manage and stick with your workload throughout your education and future careers.



YOU WILL LEARN to devise, from very early, a proper filing system for your source materials, both physical pieces, and backups on memory sticks, large external hard drives, or whatever system works best for you.  'Belt and braces' is always the best approach.  You will learn how to maximise the use of each piece of information that comes your way.



YOU WILL LEARN, at the start of the first term, your required referencing and bibliography systems, so that you are on top of your projects and papers, and when you do get on your ideal Course, you will be able to jump right in.  The various colleges and universities use differing referencing and bibliography systems, make sure you know which is required for where, as soon as you get there.



The amount of stress you will have saved yourself already, with this degree of preparation, is extraordinary!







Be proactive regarding what you should do next, and decide who would be most useful to you for sensible advice. 



Advice on how to get the most satisfactory and useful Referees and Letters of Reference is to be found at the end of my Post, A Student's Curriculum Vitae.



Contact your former Careers' Guidance Officer as soon as possible to make an appointment (if you are contacting him or her after a fair break from school, make sure you give your class and year details, and your name as it appeared on the School Roll). Also, bring two copies of your exam results and any other new qualifications or certificates, and any material you think may be relevant.  Ensure he or she is CLEAR on what advice you require on routes available to you for you to take a third level / FETAC course, or any type of course which, when completed successfully, will gain you access to your goal.  Ask for advice on the subjects in which you did unexpectedly well, and try to discover if there is another course of study starting in January, or any date,  which would suit the skills you demonstrated in your Exam results. Make sure he or she knows you are looking for advice on any or all possibilities that would suit your skills, even if you didn't receive the marks required for a matching course.



You are asking the Careers' Guidance Officer to use his or her imagination, and to visualise you in never previously considered learning situations.  Let him or her know that you shall be happy to hear any ideas, no matter how unexpected or unusual, as you are confident in his or her skills.



Your Careers' Guidance Officer will require time to investigate the available courses and how they might be knitted to your ultimate goal.  Check in with him or her regularly, to see about updates.




If, for whatever reason, you did not get or take a place available at third level, do not despair.  If you have found yourself with a year on your hands, not knowing what to do, investigate internships in various colleges and universities, and large companies. 



Try to get a place as close to what you wish to pursue as possible, BUT if you are offered a place on an internship, it is very well worthwhile considering taking it, no matter how irrelevant it is to your original goal.  It is always best to be busy, learning, keeping  in the loop, making contacts.



Also consider working part-time for Concern Worldwide, the Simon Community, the local Hospice, or whatever is your favourite local charity, would be a useful thing to do in any case, and you would learn a great number of skills in dealing with many types of people, decision-making, and you would receive useful mandatory training which you could add to your CV, and make sure to get your certificates.  Showing a willingness to become engaged in your own time, with local charities, is highly regarded by educational establishments and employers.  



Were you reasonably good at or enthusiastic for any sporting or design / art activities in school, or do you come from a large family, with lots of cousins, and know how to interact with young children and older?  Consider part-time volunteering with the local after school homework club. This would be a very worthwhile activity and you might take the opportunity to introduce some elements of your sporting or design experience to the young students.  



It would be a chance to develop leadership and management skills and, again, you would be making contacts with people you may well come across later in your career.


See the best way to get a Letter of Reference from the above, and other, situations on my Post, A Student's Curriculum Vitae.




The rest of your time should be spent working on improving your proficiency in subjects central to your goal, and learning any other skills likely to make you an attractive prospect to a college next year.



A Local Authority run comprehensive course on computer skills would be a very useful experience to have to assist in future studies of any kind. Many of them are free as part of schemes for getting people back into education or the workplace.  Ask, always ask!  




A year may seem like a very long time now, but it goes really fast, and at the end of it, you want to have packed in as much as possible!




If, for whatever reason, you did not get or take a place available at third level, do not despair.  If you have found yourself with a year on your hands, not knowing what to do, investigate all possible internships in various colleges and universities, and large companies. 




The rest of your time should be spent working on improving your proficiency in subjects central to your goal, and learning any other skills likely to make you an attractive prospect to a college next year.



A year may seem like a very long time now, but it goes really fast, and at the end of it, you want to have packed in as much as possible!



The age for doing State Exams is fairly fixed during a school career, and one usually does the Leaving Certificate, or your last ever second level State exam, between approximately 17-19 years.  Some very few of us are mature and are good at making the right decision at 16 years, equally, some of us don't mature until our mid-twenties.  I'm not suggesting we do nothing while waiting to mature, I am suggesting that nowadays, very few people make a decision about their future in the year they leave school, and are still doing that job thirty years later.



People's working lives have changed fundamentally.




We are expected to engage in life-long learning for our personal development, and also because work changes so quickly we have to be flexible, able to change as quickly, including retraining quite a few times in a working life.  You must also bear in mind you shall probably be working until around the age of seventy, so planning for retirement has to start early.






NOTHING IS A WASTE, and so never ignore a possibility out of hand, because you do not see the potential immediately.  Few of us can claim 20/20 vision when it comes to our own skills and abilities. 



Ask for the opinion of someone you respect, who is knowledgeable about educational matters and your skills ~ perhaps, a former teacher with whom you had a good rapport.


People do want to help out ~ do not feel you are imposing.








Take all interviews offered to you, and ask for ones in situations where you think that your varied experiences may trump your exam results.  The more interview practise you get the better ~ nothing beats the frisson of the real thing!


Please see my Post, “Interview Season, Yikes!!!”



AFTER EACH interview, make a quick note of the questions you were asked, and especially the ones that surprised you, or caught you on the hop.  Based on this list, work out suitable answers to all the questions.  Even if you are only asked one or two of them again, it will have been worthwhile.  The extra confidence you shall have going into a future interview, will benefit you, helping you give a more polished and professional performance.  Interviews ARE performances, you are showing your best side. 



Any question you are asked about your 'failings' must be turned to positives using your imagination.  This is a common question, along with "describe a situation you did not manage well".  This gem is still being used! 



Choose a situation for which you had not been prepared, or one where you were landed in it.  Never blame someone else, instead, describe why you didn't manage the situation well at first, two hints given above, and then speedily tell how you got things right.  It's perfectly fine to say you asked for advice.  Knowing the correct person to go to for the information you needed, showed you were able to assess the requirements of the situation, and were smart enough to decide who would be best person to approach.  From there, depending on the time constraints of the interview, you could deliver a very quick, short list of the remedies you put in place.



Please do not give "I am a perfectionist" as your 'failing'.  Not only has it got very stale, perfectionism is not a welcome trait.  Those people cursed with it are never satisfied, and work far too long and far too late, trying to reach unreachable perfection, often ruining their health in the process.



At the end of an interview, no matter how you think it went, always thank the Panel for giving you the opportunity of the interview, and always say that ...


 ... "In case I have not made my enthusiasm clear to you, I want you to know that I should really love to get a place ..."


... on the particular Course in question.  Surprizingly often, that display of enthusiasm is what wins a place.  Panels hear from many, many, applicants, so show them how keen you are ~ and STAND OUT!



ONLY REJECT some training / course when you are certain it would be of no use to you at all.  However, bear in mind it is always better to be studying something, rather than taking “a year off'' unless, perhaps,you can get relevant and recognized practical experience in the arena of your ambitions.  Once you get out, getting back into the swing of study and a structured day and week, is very hard work.



Entrance to a vocational-type course is particularly likely to depend on a record of work and volunteering in the specific field.  Now is where your Referees and Letters of Reference become VITALLY USEFUL.  If the Interviewing Panel is choosing candidates for the last few places, prior experience, and an obvious commitment through voluntary work, are likely to count in the balance.



Prove yourself in every Submission you make, and at every Interview you attend.



NOW you know why you have to investigate your exam results deeply, almost as if they were the results of someone else. 



You are looking for possible connections, previously not noticed or recognised.  You also have to evaluate all your activities, pastimes, coaching / training, in school or outside school, volunteering work ~ everything you have done or still do.



These may suddenly become very relevant to your options.



It is always worth having a go.  

It is always worth asking for help.


Someone, somewhere, may know the very thing for You.


Always try to stay positive, even when it's hard!

It is good for your mental and physical health.





Photograph of painting by Dublin artist, Neil Douglas, neildouglas09@gmail.com. Courtesy of the Artist.






Listen to Those Who Know You Well and are Clear Thinkers


Do Not Get Distracted by Extraneous Opinions



Students frequently get unsolicited, well-intentioned, advice and / or encouragement to concentrate on specific subjects, as the adviser may see a career path he or she thinks would suit a given Student's abilities.  Indeed, a Student can be inundated with advice on which subjects to choose, and at what level, for State and other examinations.



This is usually well meant, but unless an 'adviser' knows you well - strengths and weaknesses, knows your ambitions, and has seen your efforts to reach your goal, a polite 'thank you for your interest' is sufficient.  You will have enough ideas and options and prospects whirling around in your mind, to give room to unsolicited advice.



This advice can sometimes lead to confusion, and to a loss of clarity or confidence on the part of a Student.  He or she may have thought the agonizing was over, difficult choices made after a great deal of consideration and, then, yet another perspective is offered.



DO LISTEN to advice offered by people who either know you very well, or understand your abilities well.  However, do not get stressed over a passing comment from a well-meaning someone, especially once you have already made your decisions.



IT SOMETIMES happens that adults will unknowingly transfer their unfulfilled dreams of an educational opportunity onto a young person.  They may then envisage the Student fulfilling his or her dreams vicariously. 


Be kind, but do not get caught up in someone else's lost dreams.




Best of Luck!

Regards, Iseult

Iseult Catherine O'Brien



If you see any errors, typographical or factual, or if you disagree with any of my ideas, I should be very glad to hear from you.

Email iseultccobrien@gmail.com.



 I am an elected Member of The Tutors' Association.



Also, please see my Linkedin site ~




Please see my website, www.icobrien.com, "Education Matters", where my Posts originate, are developed and updated as required.



Thanks to Dublin artist, Neil Douglas,  at   neildouglas09@gmail.com, for kindly letting me use copies of his vivid, vibrant, paintings. 



All shades of opinion are very welcome, please do let me know what you think.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank You!






If I quote a person, group, organisation, or establishment, I do my very best to source the material quoted, and to attribute it properly.  If I cannot satisfy myself I have found the author or speaker who voiced a quote, I resist using it, no matter how tasty a bite!  If I refer in passing to views expressed by others, I attribute the views even if they have not been given verbatim in the text.


I work on a basis of goodwill and good intentions.  I shall make errors, being human, and when I do, I apologise now, and should always welcome a correction, which I would insert in the relevant Post prominently, in clear unambiguous text and type, repeating the apology. That's is the best I can do!