Hi, my name is Aaron, and I’m going to tell you all the reality of being a student. I’ll start from the very start.
I went to secondary school and I completed my Leaving Cert. I got a pretty good result of just over 400 points. In the months leading up to the Leaving Cert my school began to schedule regular college talks and guidance counsellor meetings to ‘help’ me and my classmates choose what we would like to do after secondary.
If anything, these talks and meetings did nothing other than confuse me and make it harder for me to decide what I wanted to do. My school would constantly remind us that it was our choice. However, at the same time they would always remind us that ’90 per cent of last years’ Leaving Cert students are currently studying in third level education doing a level 8 degree’.
Choice or no choice?
So, yea, it was our choice of what to do after the Leaving, but there was a huge amount of pressure placed on students. We were told to do a Level 8 by the school, our friends and even our family, because that’s what everyone else was doing. But was it really?
The truth about it is that at the time when I was told 90 per cent of the lads in the year before me were in university doing a Level 8, they were. But what about a year or even two years later? Were 90 per cent of them still doing Level 8’s? Well nobody really tells you the honest answer to that. So here I am, and I am going to give everyone a chance to learn from my experience.
So I did all the steps everyone else was doing, I applied for courses through
the CAO. I applied for both Level 8 and Level 6/7. Then came the end of August and the ﬁrst round of CAO offers. All of a sudden, it was decision time. Most of my friends had already chosen to do an Arts degree at Level 8 in a university, but I was still unsure. I wasn’t ready to throw myself into a huge big campus and huge big lecture halls, trying to study a subject that I wasn’t really that convinced I was interested in. This was the point I started to panic and thought: “well I better pick something or I’ll be left behind”.
All I needed was more time to decide what I wanted to do, and then my mind was made up. I deferred my Level 8 for the year and chose to go to a college of further education to give myself a chance to ﬁnd out what my real interests were. My parents were quite supportive. They were glad that I was taking a year to ﬁgure out what I wanted to do. I think they were pleased as well because after the expenses of getting me through sixth year, they weren’t in too much of a hurry to start forking out large sums of money for fees and accommodation etc.
So everyone else I knew was packing up their bags and heading off to university, including my best mate Glenn, while I stayed at home and attended my local college of further education. I’m not going to lie, it felt pretty rubbish at the time, as if I was being left behind. Glenn chose to study medicine in university, a 5 year degree course. He was now part of that ‘90 per cent’ , while I was not.
The year began and things got very busy, very fast. I began to lose contact with Glenn but promised each other we’d meet up again before the end of the year. Turns out, I didn’t really mind not being part of that ‘90 per cent’. The college I went to was absolutely brilliant. I was shown how to use computers properly, Microsoft Word, taught about plagiarism and everything else I needed to know to prepare myself for the big campus I was planning on going to next year.
The small numbers of students in the classroom gave the tutor more time to work with each person individually. This was extremely beneﬁcial to me, because I don’t always get everything the ﬁrst time.
Over the course of the year I began to realise that my favourite class to attend was business and marketing, so I knew that I had made the right choice to come to this college because I was ﬁnally coming to an understanding of my interests.
The following year I went on to university and I am now in my second y
ear in a Level 8 Business Marketing degree. Over my ﬁrst year in university, I noticed how many students dropped out due to lack of interest or not having the proper tools to deal with university life. However, I did not drop out and I would like to say that is thanks to the study skills and other tools that my tutors back in my local college gave me.
I never met up with my mate Glenn at the end of that previous year, not for any main reason or anything, it just didn’t happen. It’s been over two years since I seen him now so I decided to drive out to his house and drag him out for a catch up.
Glenn isn’t part of that ’90 per cent’ anymore. In fact he dropped out of university after his ﬁrst year and didn’t even complete his ﬁnal exams. He explained to me that he actually had no interest in Medicine at all and he was far from able for the course at the time, having just completed his Leaving Cert the year before, it was all just too much stress for him. He’s been working for the past year packing meat in the local meat factory on minimum wage and currently has no plans of returning to college.
So take my advice, don’t just do what everyone else is doing or fall under the pressure that your school may put you under, but instead make up your own mind. Everyone doesn’t have to take the same path to university, everyone isn’t the same and that year in my local college of further education taught me that.