As the dust settles in exam halls around the country, this year’s Leaving Certificate students move swiftly from exam season into pre-results limbo. Whatever brief excitement one feels when walking out of that exam hall for the last time is quickly subdued by the worry that accompanies not knowing where they will go from here. For many, the next step will be college. But will they get into the college course they really want? Or what if they get there and realise they don’t like it? Or what if they don’t get any course at all? These are the questions that will run through the minds of the same students who have been plagued with stress and self-doubt from the outset of the Leaving Certificate. Though there is not many things one can do to stop such thoughts, there are certain things one should and shouldn’t do in order to help put their mind at ease anytime such thoughts arise. Here are my top 5 dos and don’ts for anyone who has just sat their Leaving Certificate:


Leaving Certificate Exams |

1. Dissect:

As tempting as it may be, the worst possible thing you can do following an exam is to spend time dissecting it. In the first instance, we tend only to reflect upon the exams that didn’t go well, and as a result we tend only to remember (and exaggerate) the things that went wrong. Though it’s hard to pick ourselves up after performing badly, the more time we spend dwelling on the things we can’t change, the less time we have to put them right.

2. Question your ability:

Though nothing can be quite as disheartening as failing to live up to our own expectations, it serves no use beating ourselves up over it. Sometimes we aim high and achieve, others, we aim high and fail- it’s all part of life. The important part isn’t how close we get, but that we believe in ourselves enough to set ambitious goals in the first place. Life isn’t about getting to a specific place, but learning to enjoy the journey.

3. Underestimate the Unrewarded:

Although it goes unrewarded, the very act of sitting through classes one cannot stand, studying subjects that were of no interest and learning material that would be of no greater use shows a well of resilience and maturity that will only be of use to you in the future. The exams are all that count, but what really matters isn’t what we get in the Leaving Cert but what we learn from it, and even if all it teaches us is that we are far greater of going on even when we feel like giving up, then it was a worthwhile lesson to learn.

4. Think your future has already been decided:

Despite the fact that that it is built up to be the deciding factor in one’s life, the reality is that this just isn’t the case. Doing extremely well in the Leaving Cert is the easiest way to get into one’s dream college course and onto one’s dream career, but it’s not the only way. Spending a year in a PLC, repeating sixth year, taking a year out or returning as a mature student are all viable options that, though being sometimes mocked or ignored, offer just as much value. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there. When they decided to go to the moon, they didn’t look up and say “it will take too long” or “it’s too far”, instead they took their ambition, devised a workable strategy and gave it their best shot. It’s not a matter of can or can’t you get there, but rather, will you allow yourself the time to?

5. Try to have all the answers:

You’re still young, and you’re allowed to get things wrong. Some of you will get your dream course and love it, while others will soon realise it’s not what they expected it to be- and that’s okay. There’s no shame or embarrassment in not having all the answers. In fact, the most shameful thing you could do is be so embarrassed of being wrong that you spend your whole life without ever really looking for what’s right. This is not the beginning of the end of your life, but the beginning of whatever you want it to be.


Students after taking the exam | Tallis Photography

 1. Be Proud:

Regardless of the outcome of your results, there’s nothing you can do about it. There is little use in feeling any loss of pride in yourself for failing to reach your goals, because all that will do is prohibit you from achieving your next one. Getting through all those years of education and coming out of it a better, more ambitious and more rounded person is an achievement in itself, and one to be proud off.

2. Look for the good:

In those moments when you reflect back upon your time spent in school and the difficulties you faced, try to find the positives in it. We all have some bad memories, but letting the hardships of the past control your present already decreases the possibility of the future being any better. Instead, when you look back, look at the friends you made, the skills you learned, the strengths you developed, the things you achieved and, most importantly, how much more of life is left to live.

3. Relax:

It is important to stress how beneficial it can be to just do nothing for a while. Take some time to do the things you missed out on during the Leaving Cert. Buy that book that you wanted to read. Visit that city that you seen in an Instagram picture. Go see the film that your friends were talking about while you were studying. Give your head and heart some time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life, because if we can’t appreciate the little things, we’ll never be able to fully appreciate the big ones.

4. Be Excited:

Though what’s to come may no longer be in your control, be excited for it anyways. Let the next few years of your life be lived on your own terms. Whatever happens, make a promise to yourself that you won’t let it change the person you are or the optimism you hold for the future. Some of the happiest moments of your life are yet to come, and the more you look for them, the more often you’ll find them.

5. Take ownership:

You will now find yourself with a lot more free time than you have had before and regardless of what you decide to do with that time, make sure it was you who made that choice. You are the only person who has to live with the consequences of your decisions, so make sure that regardless of what position you find yourself if, it’s you alone who put you there. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you are ‘too young’ to make big decisions or ‘not good enough’ to do certain things. You are whatever you allow yourself to be, and as the great Russian author Leo Tolstoy wrote “if you want to be happy; be”.