This week the sixth years have had meetings with the guidance counselor about completing their C.A.O choices. For anyone unfamiliar with the CAO, students complete this prior to completing the leaving certificate. Students who wish to attend third level education complete a form in which they rank ten level eight college courses in order of which they would prefer to attend. Students also have the choice to list ten six/seven level courses as a safety net in case they do not receive the points they are hoping for in the leaving certificate or if they wish to attend a College of Further Education. When the results come out in August the students who have achieved the grades and get the necessary points for their chosen course will receive an offer for a college course.
Students are told to take care when completing the CAO forms. They must insure they complete the relevant information, research the courses they are imputing to make sure they are the correct ones and to put them in the correct order. The order of the courses is one of the most important things in my mind for the following reason. For example let us say a student puts nursing first, teaching second and business third on their list. August comes and the student has done exceptionally and got the points needed for their first choice. They receive an offer for the nursing course but then decide no they really want to be a teacher. If a student is offered their first place they can reject it however they will not be offered any other place on the list. This means a student will have to wait a whole year before they can apply again.
Some of the students I have chatted to about this have told me they feel extremely pressured and unsure of what to do. This is completely understandable. Students are aged between 16-18 and they are being asked to make decisions that will have a huge effect on their adult lives. They also have the stress on pre-mocks, mocks and the actual leaving cert to deal with also. My advice to students this week has been to breath. Take a moment to sit down and think about your options. To the students who have an idea of what they would like to do I am advising them to shop around for different college courses that offer similar things in regards to the career offered at the end. For the students who do not have a clue I have told them to look at what they are interested in and to research ways they can make these things into a career. I advise all students to look at the level 6 and 7 courses. Some of these courses offer amazing skills. Many are only one year long so if its not what you want it will not last forever and you will still be young enough to start another course the following year.
Above all I am trying to get the message across that if for some reason students to not get the course they want or if they change their minds later it is not the end of the world. Like I said above you can do a PLC for a year and reapply or you could work for a year while deciding what you want to do. Students think that if they do not start college straight away they will fall behind and never go back. That is not the case anymore. People are starting college at all ages and at different stages of life. Personally I made the mistake in the example above. I put business number one and when the offer came in I said No I want to be a history teacher. At the time I was heart broken but I got some good advice from my own teacher and I signed up for a beauty and leisure course for one year. In this year I feel I grew up a lot and I felt ready for college then when the time came. I do not regret my choice for a second.
Students need support at this time in their lives. They have so much to deal with in school alongside any personal things in their home lives. If we as teachers can help them through and show them they have options and different roads to go down I think it will make the journey easier.