Direct route or circuitous - dreams can be realised

It has been an anxious week for students since opening their Leaving Cert results and now receiving their CAO offers in the first round.

While some will be delighted to have received the offer they sought, others will be disappointed, uncertain, and fearful for their future.

Attending college now appears to be a right of passage, and one that must start immediately after leaving school, putting increasing pressure on young people and also their parents. And it is particularly stressful if students do not have sufficient points for their desired course, worse if they see their friends moving in their desired direction without them.

But for parents who have high hopes of their child achieving immediate academic success, what is the hurry? To school leavers uncertain of their future, what is the hurry?

It is good to remember that no time in college, whether it is studying the desired course or not, is wasted. Some students may simply need to take a circuitous route rather than a direct one, and there is nothing wrong with that. Along the way they will have learned a lot - about themselves and their options. They may reassess their priorities and long term ambitions.

There are also pros and cons of taking a year or two out from college, but, looking at the bigger picture, a person who, truly has the desire to fulfil his/her dreams in a chosen field, will succeed no matter how long it takes.

Colleges are not just the prerogative of the young. A third-level education is not for everyone fresh from school, it may take a number of years for a person to realise what it is he/she wants to do. And more and more older people are heading back to college. In America it is expected that older students (aged 25 and over ) will account for more than 40 per cent of new enrolments by 2020.

There is an anecdote of the young school leaver who rocked up to NUIG - or UCG as it was then known back in the seventies - unsure which course he wanted to take. He opted for the one with the shortest queue. It turned out to be medicine. Today he is a solicitor.

Yes a college education is desirable, and wherever students sees themselves in the long term, college can help them get there. But remember it is not necessary to know where there is immediately.

Linley MacKenzie

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