Is repeating really the right decision?

Have you fallen short of the results you were hoping for? You have options

Why would I think about repeating?
Hard-working students may have fallen a few points short for the more competitive options, such as medicine, veterinary or dentistry. Some students may have been unlucky enough to suffer an illness, bereavement or family problems during the all-important year. Others simply realise that they didn't put the work in and that they should give it another chance.

Is repeating the right choice for me?
Mary Dorgan, guidance counsellor at the Institute of Education, advises students to ask themselves why they performed below expectations, what their study habits were like, and whether they are likely to improve the second time around. "If you are going to repeat the bad habits of last year, it might be a bad idea," she says. "But a lot of students reach a certain level of maturity and realise they weren't putting in the work; these can make excellent repeat students."

The thought of repeating is repeating on me
Is the only CAO offer that vaguely interests you appearing elusive? Is the thought of repeating the Leaving unbearable? There are plenty of alternatives; you may still be going to college.

Frank Costello, head of admissions at Dublin Institute of Technology, points out that some college programmes will have vacant places after the first round of CAO offers. Students apply directly to the college.


A list of vacant places is available on the CAO website and will be updated regularly. A large number of these vacant places are available in the private college sector. However, applicants still need to meet the college’s minimum entry requirements.

But I don't like any of these courses. Do I have to repeat?
No. You could still get into college, but you may have to take the scenic route. Independent career guidance consultant Joe Casey suggests that students might consider a post-Leaving Certificate course in the further-education sector.

“Further education is vocationally oriented and may actually suit some learners over the more theoretical and academic courses in higher education,” says Casey.

“Unfortunately, some of the more popular PLC courses get oversubscribed early in the year, but there will still be plenty of choice.”

Liberties College and Ballyfermot College of Further Education are among those with excellent reputations.

Students apply directly to the college; those who perform particularly well – usually earning a merit or distinction in their exams – can progress on from further education to higher education. And many do.

I want to go straight into higher education. I don't think Fetac is for me
You can still avoid repeating. If you have missed out on that dream course, consider taking a different CAO offer. For instance, a student who missed out on a specialised business course might take that place on an arts course and study economics before going on to do a more specialised postgraduate degree. Aspiring doctors who miss out on that place in medicine might accept a place on a biomedical-science course and then enter medicine as a postgraduate.

Another option is to seek a transfer to a different course after the first year of college. Frank Costello says that, for instance, a student who decides to switch from a business to a hospitality-and-tourism course could receive an exemption based on particularly strong first-year grades. But it’s a risky strategy, and there’s no guarantee that the student will be granted their transfer request.

Don't write me off yet: I still haven't got my CAO offer
The points requirement next Monday may fall, or you may get a second-round offer on August 29th, with the deadline for responses falling a week later.

“If you don’t get what you want in the first round, you might get it a week later,” Casey advises. But don’t hold out hope – points for some courses rarely change. Consider all your options. There are offers beyond the second round, but waiting in hope is a risky strategy.”

Don't like that either. What about going abroad?
A number of European universities offer courses that are taught through the English language, and some students may consider the European option. The website has a comprehensive list of options; membership of the site costs €28.

What about taking a year out? Is that a good idea?
"Not at the moment," says Casey. "Unless you have a concrete job offer, it is very difficult to find work right now, particularly for young people just out of school. There's a danger of languishing around at home, getting into bad habits, and becoming demotivated. That said, a year of volunteering or doing something constructive – not just getting a job for money – could be beneficial down the line."

None of those options works for me
Maybe repeating the Leaving Cert is a good choice for you. There are a number of factors to consider.

Firstly, where to do it. Although some students want to stay in their old school, others prefer a fresh start in a grind school or a school with a specialist repeat class.

Check out what subjects are on offer in the schools. If you’ve met your matriculation requirements in the core subjects – Irish, English, maths and a foreign language – you don’t have to sit them again.

“Go for six or seven subjects you are really good at or really care about,” says Mary Dorgan. “For some students this might mean dropping maths, while others might flee from Irish.”

There is some risk in taking up a new subject and trying to cram a two-year course into one year, but many students take this route and are successful.

Ultimately, students need to weigh up all their options.

“Of course, after the exam, the long wait for the results, and the uncertainty and activity surrounding the offers, students might feel traumatised. But, once they lick their wounds, they should ask themselves honestly: am I in a stronger position now? Can I really give it more the second time around?

If so, repeating is the right choice.”