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08th Sep 2021

What to say to your child if they didn’t get the course they wanted

Kat O'Connor

“I felt like the biggest failure on the planet”

There are many moments from your teenage years that you’ll never forget.

Your first kiss, your first love, your last day of school, and the dreaded day the CAO results come out.

I can still feel the searing stress and intensity that was buzzing through my body during that August day.

Expecting teenagers, who often cared more about Twilight than Irish grammar, to figure out what career they want is way too extreme.

I was one of the lucky ones who knew what I wanted to be from quite a young age.

I wanted to write in some way, shape, or form so I applied for Journalism courses and English studies.

And then CAO day came along and the points for my dream courses went up.

And they were all higher than the points I received.

I felt like the biggest failure on the planet.

I was pleased with my exam results and knew my parents were proud of me, but not getting the course you’ve dreamed of is like falling at the final hurdle.

It’s like tripping and hurting your ankle a mile from the finish line.

There’s so much pressure placed on young people in Ireland to get the dream course and it can really damage their self-esteem when they don’t.

There was a significant rise in most courses in Ireland this year.

It is believed 50% of pupils who applied to Level 8 courses were offered their first choice.

Points for popular courses like Primary School Teaching and Arts increased this year.

DNA and Forensic Analysis, Archaeology, and Science Degree courses have also risen this year.

Something that has sadly increased is the number of applicants missing out on their desired course.

That means there will be a lot of heartbroken teenagers across the Emerald Isle, who missed out on a spot.

If I could go back in time and tell my teenage self something about the CAO results then I’d remind her that they are based on how popular the courses are.

It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve a place or are less than others who did get a place.

If something is meant for you it won’t pass you by and this is something parents need to remind their teens of, especially after today.

Your dreams are possible, even if a hurdle has been placed in front of them.

As parents, you need to show them that not all hope is lost and be their cheerleader.

You need to be the one to help build them back up and prove to them that there isn’t just one path they can take. Help them research other options, encourage them to follow different avenues, and inspire them by talking about all the incredible things ahead of them.

Everyone’s story doesn’t have to be the same.

You could take a year out, do an internship, or maybe even a PLC.

There are dozens of options out there and we need to help them open their eyes and look beyond the CAO offers. Nobody should ever base their worth on them.

They can blind them and fool them into thinking that if they don’t get a place on a degree course then their life isn’t mapping out as it should.

These exams and the results are not the be-all and end-all. It is so important to remind our teenagers that they are more than the grades in that brown envelope.

Nobody said it better than Maya Angelou.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”