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Opinion: Life doesn’t begin or end with those elusive CAO points

Things may not go to plan for you today, but that just means there are some unexpected turns on the exciting road ahead.

Caitriona Redmond

LEAVING CERT RESULTS Day. Being ancient (according to my children) means that I remember this day in crystal moments, not as a full day. Driving my mother mad by not collecting my results until later on in the day. Crying bitter tears as I missed my number one choice on the CAO by 5 points. Going to another school with friends to get their results. Standing in a local pub with a drink in my hand that evening not knowing how to celebrate as I felt like I’d failed.

A time later I started college; my second choice course, a contingency. I knew early on that it wasn’t for me, that one of the subjects I’d selected wasn’t sitting right. It was like a shirt that was a bit too short, too tight, too uncomfortable. No matter how much I pulled it into place the shirt never sat right. I left; fled college and started working. To this day I have massive feelings of regret that I have never finished that degree. I’ve since completed many night courses and have a wealth of qualifications that I rarely use on my CV but no “magic” degree.

I wouldn’t change my life for the world

The ESRI study Leaving School in Ireland: A Longitudinal Study of Post School Transitions published this week says that “almost half of school leavers (47%) would not choose the same post-school pathway if they could choose again either completely or ‘to some extent’. It’s a really interesting study to be published this week, considering the context of the Leaving Certificate results today.

So now that I’m in my mid-thirties would I choose the same “post-school pathway”?

Perhaps it comes from being older or more mature that I think now that my pathway was the right one for me. At some point in the future I would love to return to that college degree but I know that right now with small children it’s not a viable option. My journey through life has brought me to where I am today and I wouldn’t change my life for the world (well, perhaps a little less housework would be good!).

One of the things that I’ve learned since I left school is that life doesn’t begin or end with those elusive CAO points or the course that you choose. Life skills that I picked up in childhood have given me a brilliant foundation to work with.

You can achieve a lot, regardless of formal qualifications 

This year saw the publication of my first book, which isn’t bad for somebody who never completed their formal third level education. The cookbook has over 100 recipes that I designed around living on a tight budget, and I took all the photographs myself. I never would have been able to do it if I hadn’t learned how to cook for a family as I was growing up.

Transition Year gave me typing and office skills along with great work experience. When I started working full-time, being able to speed-type, speed-read and knowing my way around an office found me a great starter job.

Ten years after I left school, I became the Irish PA of the Year, despite not having those magic formal qualifications.

If things don’t go your way today or over the next few weeks when the offers are made, accepted or rejected, remember there are always other choices and options. Who knows where you will be in 10, 20 or even 30 years time?

Caitriona Redmond will finish that college degree someday! She writes the blog Wholesome Ireland, you can also find her on Twitter @wholesomeIE and Facebook. Her first cookbook “Wholesome – Feed Your Family Well For Less” is published by Mercier Press and can be found here.

Read: Not happy with your Leaving Cert results? Here’s some useful advice

Read: The results are out: How students got on with the Leaving Certificate

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Caitriona Redmond

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