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Dropping out of college after two days was the right thing for me

Posted by Francis O' Toole on August 25, 2015

Sorcha Doyle1
Sorcha Doyle

We spend the first 18 years of our lives being told exactly what to do and how to do it. From having our homework journals signed every week to having to ask permission to go to the toilet (even if you’re in sixth year and asking a student teacher who could pass as a second year), our lives have been fully controlled by a ‘higher power’.

All of a sudden the CAO comes around and you’re just expected to know exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life. But of course this decision must be purely your own and not your parents’ or teachers’ even though just last week you weren’t even allowed to take a drink of water without a teacher’s prior consent.

I, along with approximately half the girls in my year, had no idea what I really wanted to do right up until the closing day of the CAO – and I mean the Change of Mind deadline of July 1, which, conveniently, was the day I left for my sixth- year holiday. So, I didn’t have much time to dwell on the fact that I had chosen a course as my first choice that I didn’t really want to do at all. It was engineering, but I had also seriously considered languages as a study option.

It got to the point where I was more nervous about having done well in the Leaving Cert than having failed miserably as I really didn’t want enough points for my first choice, which I got and which I subsequently accepted.

I ended up ‘dropping out’ after only two days. I have put dropping out in inverted commas as I am quite sceptical about using this phrase in my particular circumstance. Can you really call it ‘dropping out’ when I had ‘dropped in’ for a grand total of two days and seven lectures? I do enjoy using the phrase for shock factor though.

People’s reactions to my somewhat spontaneous gap year never fail to amuse me. Some people are genuinely shocked, like “how could you ever dream of doing something so idiotic?”, some give me that attempting to be comforting concerned look as if the family pet has just died, which is just oh so condescending, and some are just completely speechless. One couple even ushered their child into the next room upon my announcement because God forbid the five-year-old got any crazy notions of doing the ridiculous that is taking a gap year.

When did people become such snobs? When did gap years become frowned upon? When did it become the law to go to college as soon as you sit the Leaving Cert? What’s the big rush? Just because something’s the norm does not mean you have to conform.

Ultimately, fourth, fifth and sixth year students need to know that it’s ok not to know what they want to do.

How could they, when all they do is sit in a classroom all day? Take the year. Explore, discover, learn, develop and maybe even earn a bit of cash along the way.

My plans for the year are not yet set in stone but I’ll be working here, and in both France and Spain. Then, next September when I go to study languages, I’ll be so much more experienced, I’ll have an impressive C.V and my language skills will have hugely improved.

And, because my birthday is after Christmas, I’ll only be a few months older than most people on my course. Why not do it? Ultimately – my message is: If in doubt, take a year out!.

Sorcha Doyle (18) is from Stillorgan, Co Dublin. She sat her Leaving Cert this year.

Irish Independent

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