Students all over Ireland are waiting with their hearts in the mouth for the release of the Leaving Certification Results and, to follow, the fearful CAO offers, due respectively on August 15th and August 20th.
Fearing that your whole future hangs in the balance on this examination’s outcomes, the summer between high school and college becomes a nerve-wrecking experience for both students and their families.
The Leaving Cert has a crucial influence on a young person’s future. A one-off exam assessing years of learning is a lot of pressure. And if it also determines the quality of higher education you’re going to get, it’s almost torture. It’s kind of a sadistic system, isn’t it?
Coping with this amount of stress is daunting, but learning how to handle anxiety is a skill you need to have for life because, whatever path you take, exams will always be a part of your life and the Leaving Cert is just the first one. It is said that exams in life never end: your driving license, contests, qualifications, promotions, not to mention university, the kingdom of exams!
Therefore, we believe it’s of utmost importance that you learn how to manage stressful events. In this article, we would like to provide you with something to hold onto whenever you feel overwhelmed.
An Exam Does Not Define Who You Are
Thousand of restless hearts beat in unison while some guy in a quiet room of the Central Application office corrects the exams that will determine your future career. Aren’t you feeling like you are about to reach into the Sorting Hat at Hogwarts?
In short, these are probably the worse days of your life. Maybe you are spending them lying on your bed blankly staring at the roof, maybe you’re trying to keep busy to avoid thinking about it or more likely you’re drowning your worries in alcohol.
Whatever the case, stop. It doesn’t matter if you’re placed in Gryffindor or in Slytherin because that does not determine who you are or what you can achieve. Do you really think that a number can define how intelligent you are? Oh, I’ve got only 350 points on my Leaving Cert, I won’t be a capable doctor. What are we? Tesco’s Clubcards? Seriously, a person’s value cannot be measured in points. Don’t let your self-esteem be bashed by such a triviality.
You’re Whole Life Does Not Depend On A CAO Offer
Some people are born with a passion. As soon as they develop their first conscious thought, they know who they want to be when they grow up and they row in that direction. We are talking about the 0.00001% of the population. The rest are just like you. They have no clue about what they like doing and even if they do, they change their mind at least three times a day.
When choosing a college in Dublin, a student’s brain is like a monkey, jumping frantically from one tree to another. We’ve all been there. We know what that little brain of yours is waffling about: “I intend to apply for philosophy because I love psyching myself up. But what am I going to do when I graduate, the full time philosopher? No, no, I’ll do computer engineering. It’s a profession that opens a lot of doors. Jeez, wait! I hate mathematics, what if study psychology? Yeah, I like all that helping people thing. It’s decided. Psychology. Hold on, now that I think about it, I remember reading somewhere that people studying psychology have psychological issues themselves. Maybe physics?”
At your age, one cannot possibly know what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Our personality and our tastes are in constant evolution. You should know that every single cell of our body get substituted every seven years. So, we can say that in seven years time you’ll be a completely different person. Even if you enroll in the faculty of literature, after a couple of exams you might find out that you don’t like it and you’re more suited for scientific subjects. Or you might start studying human resources and end up being a nurse after a sudden humanitarian epiphany.
For this reason, in case you’re not selected for the college you wanted to attend, remember that it might have been for the best. You might start another career path and absolutely love it or decide to take a year off college and have a work experience in Mauritius.
Let Things Roll Off Your Back
Whether you have studied to the end of your possibilities or not, a little trembling before the examination is normal and productive. Stress is the natural response to any external event that causes a state of personal "disequilibrium" and has the function of mobilising responses and behaviors that produce a new equilibrium. Stress is thus nothing more than the psychophysical effort to adapt to environmental demands. Events that can cause stress are not necessarily negative, and even something awaited and desired can be stressful, like marriage.
Even anxiety, within certain levels and in certain contexts, is a normal part of life. Anxiety is that unpleasant tension given by the harbinger of an imminent danger and of a largely unknown origin. Like stress, even anxiety, if contained, can prove to be a useful support in the face of difficulties or tasks to be faced.
Specifically, examination anxiety is a particular type of performance anxiety: a feeling of apprehension that arises when one feels judged and evaluated. Several experiments on the performance of university students have shown that the best results are obtained by those who feel a contained anxiety and are able to control it. These people achieve better results even than those who do not experience any form of anxiety, as they have an optimal level of "activation" with respect to the task. But when the examination anxiety takes on excessive dimensions it becomes a big obstacle. A strong anxiety, in fact, can inhibit intellectual performance, hinder concentration and memory, significantly worsening the student's performance.
In a nutshell, it’s good to feel anxious, but with moderation!
If You Have Dreams, Go Chase Them
It is fundamental that you give the due weight to exam results and all the other things that will happen to you in the future. Leaving Cert might feel like Doomsday and your CAO offer like Armageddon, but they are nothing more than a lottery spin. You’ll get many more chances to win.
If you want to become a doctor with every bone in your body, will a number on a paper really hold you back? Pack your suitcase and attend a medical school in the Himalayas, if you have to, or take it the long way and complete a Level 6 science course and then climb your way to college where you will get your degree to be a doctor. If you really want something, strive with all your heart and sooner or later you’ll achieve your goal.
John Quincy Adams, an American statesman who served as the sixth President of the United States, once said that “patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”
Our final urging is don’t get discouraged and never give up on your dreams because even Slytherins have their charm and if they didn’t exist Gryffindors would be just a bunch of losers!