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Dealing With Leaving Cert. Results

Posted by Francis O' Toole on August 7, 2015

Thousands of Students will get their much-anticipated Leaving Cert Results next Wednesday.

As a parent, you will deal with one of three likely scenarios:-

  • Good Results
  • Results not as good as planned
  • Disappointing Results

Whatever the results – always remember – nothing is more important than your own child. After that, it is your relationship with your child.

The Leaving Certificate results or rather the reaction to the Leaving Certificate Results is the key to all of this. To their ‘dying day’ some students will never forget their parents’ response to their results.

“How do you want to be remembered?” or more significantly, “How do you want to remember yourself?”

On reading this, should you have any regrets – then apologise – it is never too late. Then start all over again.

You will find useful information and practical advice on dealing with your individual situation by looking at the following:

Good Results

Congratulations and hopefully these results will achieve the college or course place your student would wish. Nobody can tell you the points that individual courses are going to be for Entry, so you and your student have a little more time to wait – till mid-late August.

  • Try and remain calm
  • Speculation will not help
  • Should the points achieved be close to last year’s points, the waiting will be tense
  • Should they be higher, though exultant, you will still have to wait
  • Should they be lower, then nobody can tell you that they are not enough.

Your Attitude

Your attitude, as parent, can greatly influence the emotions of this waiting period. By you staying calm, it will greatly help your student to do likewise.

Try not to ‘overdiscuss’ your child’s Leaving Cert. Results – either with the student or most of all, with extended family, relations, neighbours and friends.

There is a great temptation to do so, but please respect what this exposure can do to your student. They are probably under immense private pressure – and to find themselves the constant source of conversation can irritate, at best, and can more likely, truly embarasses and upset.


Some families choose to go away for these intervening few days. It can allow privacy. It really does depend on the student, for should the student wish to be surrounded by classmates and colleagues – and many, many do, then open your home to long nights of videos and midnight chats.

These ‘limbo days’ can be a lonely time for students and they can cling to each for support.

Try to remember, it was these pals who shared their classrooms and their dreams, some for fourteen years. They have traveled a path of close bonding and friendship and being with each other, intensely, over these days may be the only way they know how, to cope with the waiting too.

Feeling Rejected?

I know you may also reply –

“But what about all the ‘hand and foot’ waiting that I have done over the years? – and probably seventeen, eighteen years at that!

“What about all the money I spent on ‘grinds’, on heat and light, on that special study desk, on all those revision courses and books, those languages courses and colleges!”. And the list could go on and on.

Try to accept that your Leaving Certificate student does not intend to hurt or reject you, and that yes, they do appreciate all that you did – but for now, huddling together in packs is what may help the tension and the waiting most.

It is not rejection, in the real sense, but rather a reflex action of comfort and need. This is where you are the ‘grown-up’. Your turn – for their intense attention – is coming soon.


This is also the time when a Leaving Cert. Student can most definitely celebrate, for until the Points are revealed, they have a rare opportunity to simply celebrate the Leaving Certificate, in itself. It is a marvellous achievement for ‘both of you’ to have got this far – so well done.

Just for now, no-one knows what ‘they have got’ – so the waiting is, in a sense, a great leveller.

Enjoy it. Live in and trust the preciousness of ‘now’.

Finally, again remember – ‘You have nothing, until you have it in writing’, so there has to be a sense of caution and precaution for these waiting days as well.

Nothing is certain. So carefully couch your language with a sense of control, in that ‘come what may’ you will both deal with it effectively and well. This is the only certainty that you can give your student – and indeed yourself. You must convince yourself of this, even if at times, it may feel like “whistling in the dark.”

When Student Does Not Do As Well As Expected

Every student knows what is disappointing – to them! So too each parent.

Nothing can, initially, take away the bitter taste of results ‘gone wrong’ – particularly for the hardworking, honest and honourable student. And, even for ‘the chancer’ my heart always goes out to them – for if we did not have the ‘optimism of youth’ how could we, as a race ever survive!

520 Points in the Leaving Certificate can spell disaster for a good student. So too can 200, 300, 400 Points – for even though official points are not released until the mid August, there is a traditional benchmark for certain courses. Should you find your student’s results close to that ‘ twilight zone’, the waiting can be interminable.

Find your Resolve

Resolve is a little like attitude. While it can mean resolution, it can also mean:

  • reflection
  • a time of analysis
  • a time of conversion
  • a time of mental strength.

Use these days carefully and well. Take your time. Hasten Slowly. ‘All is well’. Keep repeating ‘all is well’ as your mantra and, in time, it will gradually seep into and transform your heart, your courage and mind.

Consider your Choices

  • You can wait until you know the actual points for this year – pragmatically
  • You can sit down and positively talk through ‘alternatives’ right from the start
  • You can spend the waiting days terrified and grief-stricken – no support to your child.

I keep using the word ‘child’ at this time, for no matter how confident your seventeen, eighteen or nineteen year old may seem, ‘inside’, at a time like this, ‘they will ever be your child’.

I am also aware, that at a time like this, the umbilical may as well never have been cut. You ‘are your child’s feelings’ and yet nothing that you can do can save them from these ‘waiting days’.

Again – it is attitude that makes the difference. For remember, it has never been so good out there for students and young people today. There has never been so many positive alternatives or choices for our Leaving Certificate Students as there is today.

Yet, students also know, that hidden within those ‘good times’ is the wisdom and the benefit of a good post-leaving certificate, third-level qualification, course or training later on.

The question that really counts is: “How Does Your Leaving Cert. Student Feel?”

‘Inside’ they ‘sort of’ already know. They ‘know in their hearts’ whether they are going to have to consider an alternative career or course option, or else consider repeating the Leaving Certificate. Many had already sensed this throughout their Leaving Cert. Year, but had neither the courage nor the skills to face such a choice.

For many, simply doing the Leaving Cert., simply getting through the year was enough.

Seek out Information

Talk to someone who knows – either your student’s School Principal or Career Guidance Teacher. Talk to a wise ‘mother or father’ friend who has already gone through all of this. Quite often, it is the very ‘inexperience’ of all of this that creates the pressure.

Few parents are prepared for the ‘Rollercoaster of Emotions’ these days can bring. It can be most frightening for the ‘First Child’ in the family. You are more prepared for numbers two and three and four.

What are the Alternatives?

While ideally, alternatives might have been looked at and planned throughout the previous year, and in particular when filling out the CAO last January and more recently the Change of Mind Form in May/June – Find-out now what alternatives you have – there are many.

For example – if it was say Pharmacy that your student had their heart set on – just remember, your student can take a good Bachelor of Science Degree here in Ireland, and with excellent results, and at quite a cost financially, seek to transfer to Northern Ireland, Scotland, England or Wales and commence a Degree in Pharmacy in three or four years time. There are also many other pathways to this route, but for now – a Bachelor of Science Degree here in Ireland is the simplest way to discuss.

For further information – contact the British Colleges, in the UCAS system, to discuss alternative pathways you might consider.

Examine the Options

All of this, of course, will be bounded by the wise filling out of the CAO Application – this year, for your student will be restricted to the choices – and in what order – they have already entered on their Degree and Diploma Choices for Entry. So examine well the options that is open to your student from their existing Certificate, Diploma and Degree choices.

Whatever the reality of your situation, Ask Questions, that is what colleges and advisers are there for. They have the experience. They also have unbelievable kindness. They have seen all of this – year after year.

It is okay for you to feel ‘inept and confused’ – there is ‘nothing’ that they have not been asked or heard before. With all our so-called sophistication – the CAO/Careers or rather the Pathway through the CAO/Careers is still relatively unknown to many parents still.

New Courses – Direct Entry

Direct-Entry New Courses are new courses that are advertised by individual Colleges and Institutes, generally throughout August, sometimes September. These courses were not sanctioned in time to go into the Official CAO System, so therefore a student applies directly to the College or Institute of each individual course offered. Watch the papers daily! Watch closing dates for these courses – they are usually within days of appearing in the papers.

While many of these courses open sudden and wonderful opportunities to students, for remember, these are the courses that will be in the CAO Handbook next year, a student and a parent does need to be careful. You both need to sit down and ask yourself – “is this a course I am genuinely interested in or am I simply chasing a place in college”. Some students may find that they have suddenly accepted a course, half way across the country from them – something that they had never planned to do.

Ask questions about each course – get onto the individual departments, for that is what they also need. They do not want their ‘precious courses’ suddenly filled by uninterested and unsuited students, for while these courses will also have specific course requirements, it could also end-up with a high degree of unsuited students, and that is disastrous for everyone concerned.

Again – keep an eye on what is offered. Follow-Up. Then Discuss. These courses will be offered to your student, outside of the CAO System, so keep a careful eye on your Official CAO Application as well.

Vacant Places – CAO System

Every year, particularly after the First Round Offers, vacant places are advertised. These are courses that have not been filled by earlier applicants to the CAO System. Again, while they can open wonderful and unexpected doors, you do need to ask yourself – is this the course for my student? Together sit down and discuss well.

Visit the individual college websites and find out all that you can about the course. Pick up the phone and ask questions of the course directors – for they will need to gain suited students as well. While these courses are open to students, with the minimum entry requirements, sometimes as low as five Ds lower passes, and indeed sometimes specific honours and grades, be very, very careful as to what is really right for your child.

The sorrow and the panic of not having a ‘place in college’ – when all their other friends have, can be very lonely, but it can also be very dangerous. Again, both of you – take your time. If necessary – travel to the actual college – and see for yourself. This can often be the factor that really settles your mind – that yes, this is a course that is right for your student, but it also may be the trigger to realise, that you may be making a mistake. To take a course for the wrong reasons can spell disaster for any student. Examine such options wisely.

Should you find that the course is actually what your student may like, but that you both feel that your student is not quite ready academically for it then you might discuss with the college a suitable and linked Post-Leaving Certificate course. Consider deferring the college place until next year and spending a positive and course-building year on such a Post-Leaving Certificate Course. That way you will gain in strength – both ways.

Just know that there are many options so ask questions before you finally decide. Don’t forget College is hard and you do need to be prepared academically. While five passes on the Leaving Certificate may give you such a Vacant Place Course – wrongly chosen – it may simply be ‘fool’s gold’. Be Careful. Be Honest – especially with yourself. Be Wise.

Post-Leaving Certificate Courses

Some students may consider taking a Post-Leaving Certificate, as their next step to Third Level, rather than consider repeating for ‘extra points’. Post-Leaving Certificate Courses now offer a real opportunity to the suited, directed and motivated student. Used wisely they can open that link to Third Level. See what is available, ideally in a college near you.

Discuss the pathways and the previous success of these pathways for their students, before you finally decide on this route. Check which courses are directly linked to specific Post-Leaving Certificate Courses – this must always be checked out.

Repeating The Leaving Certificate

Repeating the Leaving Certificate is a reality for a certain number of students each year. Some know, even now, that it is the choice that they will make. Others will need to wait, until they know for certain ‘ by the points’, before they can even contemplate the possibility of repeating.

What you do need to be aware of is, that in some Education Centers and Schools, repeat places can be a premium, but not for another few days. The majority of students will not be making their final decision until after the 21st, and a smaller number will be ‘ hanging on’ for the second and later round of CAO Offers.

What you can do – is again Ask. Maybe consider making an appointment, to discuss the wisdom and the sense of repeating the Leaving Cert. Should you then find that your student is happy with the course offered to them, make sure to immediately cancel this appointment – for there will be other students desperate for such a meeting by then.

When to Repeat

Should a student accept a college course – with disappointment or dread, with a sense that they are ‘accepting second-best’ – for them, then you do need to sit down together and consider the alternatives.

Maybe there is no alternative. Maybe this year’s results – ‘are the best that can be achieved’. Maybe temperamentally – your student could just not cope with the stress of repeating – for repeating the Leaving Certificate, for many students, while life-changing and positive, is also a daunting prospect.

Apart from ‘chasing’ a dream or a specific career – the majority of students repeat because they know in their hearts that their results – ‘ are not their best’ – ‘are definitely not what they know they are capable of’.

  • For many students – it takes doing the Leaving Cert. to know how to ‘get the Leaving Cert.’
  • Be patient – with each other
  • Again – Ask Questions
  • Trust your instincts
  • Use this waiting time – well, but with confidence.

‘All this will pass’ is well to remember. What will most remain – is the memory of how you both dealt with these days. Keep that ever in mind – and together you will all work it out.

Disappointing Results

Five subjects passed, at Ordinary Level, is the minimum you would wish all students to achieve. In saying that, once the student has sat the Leaving Certificate itself – they have achieved what is called ‘ Leaving Certificate Standard’.

However unless a student gets four to five passes at ordinary level, in their Leaving Certificate their course and job options can be limited – for now.

While we all have heard of the ‘millionaires’ who did not even have their Primary Cert., not to mention their Inter.Cert., in today’s world, the kindest and the safest way you can shepherd your student out into the ‘big world ‘of life and of work, is to protect them with the dignity, the confidence and the opportunity of a fair Leaving Certificate.

Viewing Examination Scripts

Each student is given the opportunity to view their examination scripts. To do this you have to fill out a form which is available at your child’s school or, in the case of private college students, is enclosed with the results. This form has to be returned to the Supervisor promptly.

Viewing sessions: Check date with school

While many students, just now, could not face the thought of looking at their scripts, particularly those with disappointing results – please, please, please encourage your student to always view their scripts.

There is nothing that can give them such an advantage – should they decide to repeat their Leaving Certificate.

They will also benefit – for every single exam ahead – no matter what they may do.

It is also an immense help to view the scripts when deciding whether to apply for a subject re-check. This also has a deadline, discuss this with your school.

It is an alarming experience to see how ‘you have thrown away points’ by ‘silly mistakes’. It is also chastening to see how – you just cannot fool an Exam or an Examiner.

You do have to know your subject, waffle will not do.

It may take the weekend for them to agree to this – but if they are at home and they can view the scripts themselves – then encourage, ‘bribe’, ‘threaten’, but somehow get them into that Exam Review Room!

Some Options to consider:

  • Post-Leaving Certificate Courses
  • Repeating The Leaving Certificate
  • Crafts Courses/Trades
    While ‘officially’ Junior Certificate Level is acceptable for the majority of Apprenticeships and CERT Training Courses, the majority of such students now, have successfully completed their Leaving Certificate – so while possible, do not immediately rush in. Above all, talk to your student about their feelings, their wishes – and then work from there.
  • Taking Up A Job
    There are a number of students who simply could not, under any circumstances, face repeating a Leaving Certificate Year again. They have either already given of their best, or they have no interest in such an alternative. For them – school is over.

    For some students – that is okay. Just help them not to rush into the workforce as an angry re-action. Stop and think. Well thought out it will work out. Don’t make it automatically the ‘first choice’ and also remember – it need not ever be their last choice’.

    Many students, after taking this year out, return to the education system, wiser and happier within themselves, confidently repeating their Leaving Certificate a year later than their friends, or else taking-up a Post Leaving Certificate Course – of their choice. This is the key – Of Their Choice.

    Some students wait even longer to consider repeating and others will build successful careers for themselves, without their Leaving Certificate and never look back – either in anger or regret. It is wise to remember, ‘with a Leaving Certificate’ most students head out with the ‘keys of life’. Without the Leaving Certificate, the doors of life will open, but they may have to be ‘forced open’, rather than ‘swing open ahead’

    For some students, that is a far more attractive option, than face, what to them – just now – would be the impossibility of ‘another school year’.

Causes of Poor Leaving Cert Results

Like with so many issues relating to a student’s Leaving Certificate – reasons and difficulties are individual and personal to each student. Try to honestly evaluate the truth of your particular student’s situation.

Try not to make excuses – but any one of the following reasons could make a successful Leaving Certificate extremely difficult for some students – not all.

Student Too Young

We have one of the youngest school-going populations in the world, where we send many of our children to Primary School at age four and to Third Level at, on average, seventeen to eighteen years.

Being too young can be a significant key as to why a student may not do well in their first Leaving Certificate.

Five to six years of age is more common for Primary School – worldwide, and eighteen, nineteen, twenty years of age – for entry to Third Level.

While not the only reason – you do need to look at the age and the maturity of your student, not only now, but take a quick mental check right back through their school history overall.

One more year – can be the making of many a student – so keep such a possibility, positively in mind.

Student Very Weak – Academically

While some students are weak – academically, quite often this can also be, again, not only from being too young, but because there have been ‘missed gaps’ along the way.

Maybe another year would give such a student :

  • a better or even a basic understanding of Maths
  • more sense of what to actually do in English
  • give a student a respect for the necessity of having vocabulary in Irish
  • same also, in say French, German, Spanish or Italian – and indeed English as well
  • a chance to choose new subjects – maybe a student may have chosen ‘wrong subjects’ for their Leaving Certificate. Or maybe ‘Science’ did not suit the student. Same also with ‘Business’, or History or whatever subject may be a problem in this case – a student could consider taking on new and more suited subject/s in a repeat year
  • maybe the student insisted on taking a Higher Level subject, when Ordinary Level would suit better

Finally – also remember: A student can be weak academically – literally ‘from lack of work’, sometimes for four/five years, and while it is difficult to catch-up on such a missed foundation, with work, it is possible to make some recovery, for such a student, with a planned, honest and directed repeat year. Never, ever under-estimate the power of work!

Student not Working

This can be the most frustrating situation of all. It can test the best of parents and the temptation can be to ‘let them suffer the consequences’ or to ‘wipe your hands’ completely of what they are now going to do.

Should you find yourself with such an angry re-action, then take a walk, away from each other. Either spend time on your own.

Or better still, try and get to talk to someone who has either gone through all of this before – and come through it, or talk to someone who has experienced all of this in their working with young people – ideally your student’s School Principal or Guidance Counsellor. Or indeed contact one of the many Helplines available to students and parents during these weeks.

This scenario repeats itself, year after year. Some students you know can change. Others will not. It is a matter of ‘student ownership’ of the situation and it may take someone, other than you, to reach that consensus with your student.

It may take time – it could be a week or even more – before there is even a willingness to take these discussions further. But, whatever you do, talk to someone.

Do not make a final decision – either in anger, or alone.

Personal/Family Reasons

There is a myriad of reasons that could fit in here:

  • Bereavement, of a family member, a friend or neighbour, a teacher, or someone famous your student admires
  • Parents’ Separation or divorce
  • Family Rows
  • Family Illness
  • Unemployment
  • Moving House/Home

The list, in a sense, is endless. But you do need to put a student’s Leaving Certificate in context.

Families do not plan for the year surrounding a Leaving Certificate to be disruptive for their student, but this is life, and that is what can happen – with the best planning in the world.

Try not to feel guilty over not realizing the implications of such events on a student.

Through many of the above situations, you as a parent have probably been as traumatised as your student. Sometimes, our own grief – as parents, can blind us to the grief of those around us. Just remember – most of us are simply doing our best. And as I have said earlier, this is not the end. There are alternatives for every student – and that includes your own student now.

Most of all – be honest with each other. Avoid blaming. Get clear, compassionate, trusted advice. If reality is faced – together you will work a new pathway ahead.

Health Reasons

The health of a student has always to be taken into account. Should the health of a student have knowingly contributed to a distressful Leaving Certificate Year for a student – then many such parents and students already have plans well in place.

Others may not realise the true effect of ill health on a student until they actually do get the Leaving Certificate Results.

Either way, there are alternatives and choices – so do talk them out – together.

Before going on to choose what is best for your student you might need to consider the following:

  • how serious is the illness involved?
  • will the student have a problem-free year next year?
  • does the student need ‘a year off’ before attempting a repeat Leaving Certificate?
  • where serious illness is concerned – always discuss your plans with your doctor/medical team
  • remember all the career, job and course opportunities out there – without a Leaving Certificate

Remember things do work out in the end.

School Situations

For some students, school itself has not been a happy place and for them, a change of school may be all that is needed for things to change. While not using an unhappy school situation as an easy excuse, it is important that you evaluate the total environment and context in which a student has experienced school and in particular their Leaving Certificate Year.

Difficult situations that students may have had to deal with include:

  • bullying
  • large numbers in school
  • personality clashes
  • long-distance to travel to school – each day
  • genuine unhappiness in a school
  • opportunity to take-up new and more suited subject/s at a new school

Some students have the capacity to overcome any situation they find themselves in – but such students are rare.

While you may be very disappointed right now and all of this can be difficult to take on board, in my experience of over two decades dealing with students things do always work out.


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