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Monday 2 October 2023 Dublin: 11°C
Laura Hutton/
'The Leaving Cert doesn't define you. My life has completely turned around since this time last year'
A year on from her own Leaving Cert results of 200 points, Sadb Molloy is on her way to UCD.

I SAT THE Leaving Cert last year, absolutely terrified as before then I was 99% sure I was just not going to show up.

I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t “smart” like everyone else, and I wasn’t doing many higher level subjects, so I thought what is the point in this? I’m not going to get enough points to get into any college.

At the start of 5th year my grandad’s will got contested and this all depended on where I was going to end up living.

To cut a long story short, I moved house during the orals in 6th year – the same day I also lost my dog who I grew up with as I’m an only child. I lived in a B&B for five weeks during 6th year.

I had no motivation, and I was so down. And over the two years of the Leaving Cert I missed a couple of months in total.

I didn’t do enough work over the two years, I didn’t study for it. I didn’t want to either, with my situation going on. I thought what is the point?

And I was constantly comparing myself to others – which I recommend to anyone doing the exam next year not to do.

Everyone is different. Everyone has strong and weak points. There is something everyone will excel in.

Results day

This day last year I opened my results to see I passed everything, but I got under 200 points and it meant nothing to me.

I felt a big relief after I opened it but I didn’t even bother counting my points, knowing I was not going to get any offers when the time came.

I went for food with all my friends as they were obviously celebrating. The difference was they were celebrating mostly over 400/500 points.

I felt little – and different to them, even though they were my best friends. It made me question everything.

Why am I friends with these people when they are all better than me? That’s not really the case but it took over my thoughts. I didn’t go out that night, as is the usual routine, because I told myself I didn’t “deserve it”.

‘No choice’

I remember the night before the first exam, I didn’t sleep. Heading into that English paper, I actually had a panic attack and I went into the exam room crying.

I rarely think about my Leaving Cert now but today’s results were a reminder of how truly awful my experience of it was. Obviously it’s not a fun time for any student, but personally it was cruel.

I felt I had no choice in what was happening over those two years. A lot of students will go through a tough time outside of school and this causes a knock-on effect. If you have stuff going on outside of the classroom, studying and doing homework is almost impossible. Then, if you’re not as good as the person next to you, you automatically put yourself down.

So how is it fair that we are chosen to go to college based on how we did in two weeks of exams when anything could be going on?

But when that day was over and it all died down, I put it to the back of my head because when I look back my Leaving Cert years were the lowest for me and my mental health. I thought everything depended on it.

But that wasn’t the case at all.

Different path

Today, I have graduated from a PLC from the wonderful Colaiste Íde, Finglas.

I did eight modules and got eight distinctions – which is the equivalent of 400 Leaving Cert points, and student of the year.

I worked so hard over my year at Colaiste Íde and had my down days and absences but I still came out on top – because continued assessment, assignments and essays suited me better.

I was more confident in all my work and my Mam told me “the Leaving Cert is not for everyone, everybody learns and takes to different subjects differently and you just happen to be better at this”.

My family was so proud of me and I feel like my life has completely turned around since this time last year. And on 2 August, I got accepted into my first choice course in UCD. Somewhere I thought I’d never end up all because of the Leaving Cert.

I would highly recommend doing a PLC if you are unsure about what to do next or if you’re doing your course for the sake of it.

PLCs are a great way of getting prepared for what college is like and getting one-to-one help in small classes. It changed my life for the better and I wish I could go back to Colaiste Íde where I did mine.

So if you are a Leaving Cert student today and you are disappointed because you didn’t get the points you wanted; or failed a subject you thought you passed; or are just overall overwhelmed by it all; I say this to you – You’ll get to where you want to be, even if you feel like you won’t like I did, it will happen because the Leaving Cert does not define you. It is a piece of paper, simple as that!

Sadb Molloy from (19) is a student from Co Meath who got under 200 points in her Leaving Cert and now has the equivalent of 400 points through her completed PLC and will now go onto study in UCD this year.

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