ColumnistsVogue Williams

Vogue: CAO process puts too much pressure on Irish students

Vogue: I hated my Leaving Cert
Vogue: I hated my Leaving Cert

As I read that the closing date for the CAO early-bird online applications is January 20, I felt a twang of sympathy for those 17-year-olds who have to decide what their future careers might be.

So much pressure is placed on students, who at such a young age couldn’t possibly know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. 

They also may not get the points they want for their course, which is an extra stress for such a young mind. 

I hated my Leaving Cert. I was smart – albeit unfocused and easily distracted – but exams were never my thing. 

The points I got definitely didn’t reflect how intelligent I was. I applied for courses with 400 points and over and was left very disappointed when I only got 300 points.

I even think now I would struggle in an exam situation and I’ve always thought the Leaving Cert should be changed. 

A student can work very well throughout the entire year, achieving fantastic grades, and then mess it up at the end of the year because too much emphasis is placed on one set of exams. 

I don’t see the point in an exam like that. It’s essentially a memory test, whereas if you did continual assessment it would be based on all of your work throughout the year. 

That way the pressure is spread evenly through the year and the students are still being assessed. 

I didn’t get any of my courses, I felt my options were very limited and I had more or less failed to achieve what I wanted to from my Leaving Cert. 

Of course this wasn’t the case, but without my stepdad I would have been doing a post leaving cert course to become an estate agent, because I felt like this was the only real option for me. 

Thankfully my stepdad helped me out and I was sent off to University in Scotland where I began  my first degree in Construction Design and Management, which I ended up loving. 

The college system in America is very different to ours and I think it’s way better. Students deal with lots of topics before deciding on their Major, whereas if you go to college here you pick your course and are stuck with it. You can change after a year, but that’s a year wasted on something that you never intend on using. 

I’m not completely bashing our education system in Ireland because I do think we have quite a good one, but I do think there is a huge amount of stress placed on young people and we really should be doing anything we can to alleviate that. 

Every student deserves a chance to do the course they want to do and maybe the Leaving Certificate isn’t for everyone. I would like to say to any young student who might be reading this that failing the Leaving Cert or not getting the course you want is not the end of the world. 

It may take you longer to achieve what you want, but you can do it – regardless of how many points you get.