The moment of truth . . .
The Irish Times ExamWatch diarists describe the exhilaration and disappointment of finally getting their Leaving Cert results
Dunshaughlin diarists: from left Linda McCormack, Stuart Bridgett, Catherine Vance, Sarah Keane, Aaron gilmartin and Albert Wilkinson. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
‘How many points did you get?” “Did you hear about the fella who studied the biology course by himself in 12 weeks and got 9 A1s?” “Will you get your first college choice?”
The last sound of the Leaving Cert isn’t the final clink of the pen as it falls to the desk for the last time. Nor is it the sound of sighs of relief. The incessant chatter endures through the long, anxious summer. Often, the results don’t shut the noise down; they amplify it, as the wait for a college drags on for five interminable days.
And the CAO offers are so noisy and attention grabbing that they insist on dragging the already bedraggled college candidates out of their beds at 6am in the morning, when they become available online – unless, of course, the candidates wisely roll over and go back to sleep.
This morning, our diarists, all students of Dunshaughlin Community College in Co Meath, who followed the Leaving Cert papers for The Irish Times ExamWatch in June, wake up to the latest stage of the process. Anything less than their first preference would be a devastating and unforeseen shock for four of them. So how have our they fared, and what distracted them this summer?
“It’s been horrible, and so disappointing. I was nervous before opening the results, but hopeful. The school is closed for renovations, so we picked up our results from the nearby pitch and putt club. It felt like a long walk to my own doom, but yet I had to do it. My eyes immediately fell on my LCVP grade, and then I glanced at the rest of my results, and I knew it wasn’t enough. I burst into tears. Mum was there with me. I needed more to get into home economics teaching in St. Angela’s, Sligo. I needed, I think, around 470 or 480 points, but I got 440.
“I thought I had done better, particularly in English and history, which I will probably get rechecked once I see what CAO offer I get. I’m one of the students that now needs to “consider my options”. There’s CAO round one, and round two. I don’t think a PLC course would benefit me personally, and I don’t like my level six/seven courses. Repeating is a possibility, but it’s far from ideal.
“It’s really rough having to wait to learn my fate. Media and social media don’t help, with so much focus on all the brilliant results.
“Three As immediately jumped off the page and smacked me in the face. And then I was shaking, I couldn’t hold the sheet, so my father had to hang onto it while I got out the calculator and totted up my CAO points.
“I was so busy during the summer – some farm work, and a trip to Cork – that I didn’t have time to think about the results. Then, on the night before I got them, the nerves really hit.
“I got more than I could have hoped for: 545 points. I had wanted to break the 500 points mark to get philosophy, politics, economics, and sociology (PESS) in Trinity College. Last year it was 545 points, so I’m very much on the cusp and may or may not get my first choice.
“That’s ok, as my second choice – arts in UCD – would also be great, and I have more than enough points to get in there. That said, Trinity would be a lot easier to commute to as it’s just the one bus into town.
“I’m really looking forward to college now. It will be a new experience and hopefully fun. Career wise, politics has crossed my mind, but that’s some time away.”
“I scanned the black letters on the white page, trying to match my grades to my points. Then came a surge of excitement: 570 points. I got four As and three Bs, plus 25 bonus points for honours maths. I’m really, really, really thrilled. I was hoping to do well and thought that, if I worked really hard, I might hit the 500 points mark. This exceeded my expectations. I’m most happy about English; I really wanted that A1. My parents are delighted. Dad wanted to double check that I got my points score right.
“Barring some massive surge of interest in primary school teaching, I’m expecting to get an offer of my first choice: primary teacher training at the Marino Institute. I’ll probably move up to Dublin because I like the idea of being on campus and surrounded by student life – Dunshaughlin is not too far away to nip home every now and again.
“I have some “spare” points. A few people have told me I could have got into medicine, but I’ve always known that I wanted to be a teacher, so I think of my good grades and points score as a bonus.”
“A mixed bag for me; I was happy with some results and quite disappointed with some others. I was delighted to pass higher level maths, but I was a bit let down with German and art, because I had expected to do better. Art is my favourite subject and I had done well throughout fifth and sixth year, so I was really hoping for that A. I got a B2.
“I’m going to look over my German script and I will probably appeal, because I had also done well throughout.
“The first result my eyes scanned for was maths. It wasn’t my best subject, and I wasn’t a fan of Project Maths because it was hard to figure out what they wanted from us, so I was glad to pick up the extra 25 points.
“In total, I got 440 points, which is probably about 60 short of what I need for pyschology in DCU. I should have enough for my second choice, arts and psychology in NUI Maynooth, and I’d be happy with that. I’m getting my driver’s license soon, I hope; NUI Maynooth is just a few minutes down the road from Dunshaughlin.”
“The Leaving Cert: too much hype, too much focus, too much pressure? The pressure is a double-edged sword. It can cause people a lot of stress but it can also push them into doing the work. Would they put the work in if teachers, parents, and media said: ‘Ah sure relax, it doesn’t matter’?
“I’ve probably laid back a little bit as the hype swirls around me. That’s why I wanted to open my results alone and get my head around it, alone. I’m not a worrier. My Leaving Cert could have gone a lot worse. I got what I wanted – games development and design in Griffith College – but I was always confident that I would, because it’s less about how many points you get than your abilities in programming.
“How many points, how many points, how many points? I’m relieved with my 250. I got a lot of Bs. I’m already struggling to remember what my favourite subject was. German? I think it was German.
“Summer went well. I met up with friends in England. Now my attention moves to college. I can’t wait to get stuck in.”
“The night before the results, a weird mix of worry and curiosity kept me awake till about 1.30am. TV failed in its duty to distract. I logged onto social media to pass some time and Facebook was infested with status updates about fear, worry, concern, anxiety, hope . . .
“Confession time: I think I may have been the first to pick up the envelope. I took it out to the car, and opened it with my mum and my sister, who will go through a practice torture when she collects her Junior Cert results next month.
“B2, B1, B3, B3, C1, and – did I read that right – an A1 in honours physics? I’m pretty pleased with myself. With 510 CAO points, I’ve a good shot at engineering in UCD, unless the points rise by around 50 or more. But I’d be happy with my second and third choices, science in UCD and computer applications in UCD.
“I’m really excited about college life. I’m excited about student life, and about the course. Most of all, I’m excited about having independence. I’m moving out: I don’t think I fancy the idea of a two and a half hour commute every day.