Congratulations are due to the 58,000 or so students who got their Leaving Cert results this week. One chapter in their constantly evolving autobiography has just been finished, and the first few lines of the next chapter are forming ahead of them. The direction their lives will take from now on is still very much up in the air despite the number of points they have managed to accumulate over a fortnight in June after a six-year slog that brought them from childhood to the verge of adulthood.
While the stories of those who got 600 points in the exams are easy copy for the media and make a pretty picture on the pages of newspapers and soundbites on the radio and our TV screens, there are plenty who are just delighted to have passed what they have been told throughout their lives is the most important exam they will ever do. There are also plenty of students in the middle ground who will be disappointed that they did not do as well as they hoped and are now fearing they will miss out on what they believe they want to do in third level. For those students, it is not the end of the world. Far from it.
The notion in itself that 17- or 18-year-olds know exactly what they want to do with the rest of their lives is a little bit preposterous, except for a very lucky few. At that age your tastes and interests are still developing. You only have to look at first year third level students and the changes that occur in them after a few months of mixing with a new peer group and experiencing new things in life away from the bubble of home for the first time in their lives.
The pressure to picki a so-called ‘good’ course which will give you a good career once your finished can be unwarranted. While the advice in which direction to take is, of course, given with the best intentions, it can lead to a miserable few months for an impressionable 18-year-old before he or she drops out or just grinds through for a couple of years doing something they have no real interest in.
Unfortunately even if you embark on a course you enjoy and flourish at the prospect of getting a good job you like, this is not what it used to be due to our economic woes. The root cause of those woes is as far removed from the feet of this year’s crop of Leaving Cert students as could possibly be.
While most eyes will be focused on the students at this time, there is another group who right now are both delighted and worried. Many parents are struggling to balance the household budget as they deal with mortgage payments, pay cuts, unemployment, and investment portfolios which were supposed to pay for their children’s third level education but are now only a fraction of what they were. This can be a very trying time. They have raised their children, given them the encouragement and every possible tool to make a good future for themselves, and now they face into having to try and find the money to make that future a reality for their children. Hard decisions will have to be made around kitchen tables, and corners cut if possible, to ensure that future is given a chance. You cannot but feel for people in this situation, they will do whatever they can and they can only be commended for the hard work and effort they have already put in and will continue to do.