My CAO day 2012
My brother just got offered his first choice on his CAO this morning and I couldn’t be prouder! I’m proud because he chose a college and a course he really wanted to do for the next four years and will make great friends and memories along the way because of that choice. I can’t but sit here and think how my CAO day drastically contrasted to this happy and relaxed one three years ago.
When you think of a typically stressed out leaving cert teenager, imagine me in 2012. From September to May I had put so much ridiculous pressure on myself to get as many points as I could possibly squeeze out of my brain just to prove I was the most intelligent, high achieving version of myself I can be. Grinds, after school study, endless study aids and even a brief idea that I was going to change schools at the beginning of the year to achieve the best results I could have. I don’t know what got into me, but I became consumed in the idea that if I didn’t push myself to my limits, then I wasn’t reaching my potential. I suppose you get caught up in the competitive nature that is the points race from my best friend down the road to Mary from county Sligo who was doing all those extra hours studying for the same course as you, according to my business studies teacher.
Fast-forward to Leaving cert results day 2012 and it had all paid off. I was delighted to receive 485 points with all B’s across the page. Knowing I had done my best was the greatest feeling in the whole world and it finally felt like I could relax and enjoy my life now. As the oldest of three kids, it was the families first experience of the dreaded leaving cert and we collectively felt like we had tackled the beast and come out on top. I was the first grandchild going to university, the first in my family and I knew I had managed enough for one of my top courses.
I was that person who woke up at 6am on the day of the CAO offers. The week had been a blur of ‘congratulations’ and ‘well done’ remarks that the reality of turning those points into the reward of a university place hadn’t really sunken in. I had filled my CAO form with courses from 1 to 10 like the hammer into your brain as you “never know what will happen”, but I never thought that sentence would apply to me. Click and reality set in. I received my fifth choice on my CAO.
I remember the feeling of panic and utter disappointment that my calculated leaving cert plans and dreams hadn’t come true. All those hours studying, late nights and worries all wasted on an accumulation of numbers I no longer needed and showcase my intelligence to everyone who would listen. I had based my CAO on highest points to lowest and put down the courses I thought would match my results and not my true interests. I look back on my 18-year-old self and literally want to shake some sense into that brain and I only feel sorry for my parents who had to deal with the sobbing and complete devastation I went through that day. My CAO fate had dealt me a dodgy hand of missing out on my first 4 courses by 5 points, leaving me with a feeling of what I did to deserve this. After a few hours of the unexpected turn of events I accepted the offer to study at DCU, having had no real investigation or thoughts put into my offer other than knowing I would be attending the college on my own.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about my first few weeks in university but all I know is that it defined the person I am writing this piece today. My first few weeks in DCU were full of new people, new friends and new experiences. I was lucky enough to make a small group of friends that really are the reason that my DCU experience has been as good as it has been and is the reason I fell in love with the whole college. Starting college is tough and it’s even harder when you’re a commuter who knows no one, who can’t find her feet in her new course and constantly had a feeling of what if. The people I met in DCU overwhelmed me with their acceptance and kindness and the experiences I had during my first semester made me realise that it was definitely the college for me. Despite all this, I found it very hard to reach my potential and find my place in college life. Yes I was making friends, socializing and fitting in but I felt that the time and weeks were passing me by without finding my passion within the campus and something I knew I was good at. I made the decision to head to the careers and counseling service at the college and haven’t looked back. I knew deep down that the course I was in really wasn’t for me and it took 8 weeks to admit that to myself. It was a tough realization to come to especially since I was enjoying university life so much and was having the best time. But something was different; I wasn’t afraid to admit I had made a mistake this time, I wasn’t afraid of admitting I had failed myself in the decisions I had made in the past and was preventing my own happiness.
After admitting I wasn’t happy to myself and to my family, I made the decision to not go back for semester two and to reapply for the CAO in something I truly wanted and had passion for and not something my CAO points offered me. It was by far the hardest decision I have ever made but I knew it was the best one I had made in a very long time. I was no longer afraid of things not going to plan and I made the decision to start pursuing the things I enjoyed and that the success will follow. It was a very short 8 months until the CAO day rolled around again and I could happily accept to study Multimedia at DCU for the next 3 years. I was pleasantly surprised to start college with so many others in my new course that had found their way through PLCs and other courses in DCU and other universities that I didn’t feel like the odd one out.
Fast-forward to CAO day 2015 and I look back on my last 3 years since my first experience with the CAO in disbelief. I completely threw myself into college life when I went back in 2013 to DCU and still have that amazing group of friends I had in 2012 with a lot more along the way. I’m now heading into my final year in college as chairperson of a society I could barely get myself involved in back in 2012, just returned from a summer of living and working in Washington DC after being selected along with 29 other university students from across Ireland and I’m entering into my second year as a DCU student ambassador where I get the opportunity to gush about my college experiences to prospective students! I cannot stress enough that if would have told me all this 3 years ago I would have laughed in your face and gone back to my bed crying reiterating that this was the worse day of my life. Leaving school is an adventure I have learned that everything does not go to plan and really doesn’t go smoothly but honestly if you keep pursuing the things you love and enjoy that success will follow! Finding your place in the world is hard and it comes with a lot of set backs, embrace them, keep doing what you love and you will do just fine.