So a month has passed and you’re not so sure about theology. You’re an atheist after all. Plus the prospects are limited.

Maybe going for the first course you qualified for wasn’t such a good idea.

Didn’t get medicine, might as well do gender studies?

No please don’t. I speak with authority on such matters as I preposterously picked Germanic Languages, when I should have gone to art college or studied photography or film.

Seven months previously, I had thrown ten degree options onto my CAO form in no particular order and ended up deconstructing Old Icelandic prose and scrutinising the finer intricacies of Old Dutch morphology for four years amongst other really boring things.

Like, who cares? Stupidily, I didn’t even change to English literature along the way. Instead I completed this ridiculously ill-suited degree I didn’t like. Looking back, if I had the incredible opportunity of four years of study and leisure again, I would have done things very differently.

We live in Ireland and we’re so lucky that education is accessible to everyone across the country, whether they’re starting later in life, or don’t even have a Leaving Cert. We’re blessed compared to other countries, as tuition fees are very low or non existent, grants are available and opportunities are endless. Look at graduates in the US-  tens if not hundreds of thousands in debt after a classics degree wondering why they can’t get a job.

At the risk of sounding like someone who survived the Black Death, in my day, when I finished school in the 1990s, choices were much more limited. In Dublin, there was Trinity  UCD or Art, technical college and rock school.

We benefited from cheaper rents, so students could get a place to live with ease, get a grant and a part time job and leave college largely without debt. Unfortunately the housing situation has permeated every aspect of Irish life and will affect where and what young people study.

But, rose tinted glasses aside, we had screw all opportunities. An arts degree, with no interest in further study in the subject, meant you’d get a nice job in call centre.

I used to wonder throughout my twenties working in factories and doing door to door sales, why I wasn’t discovered to something cool. Much to my horror, it was simply simply because I didn’t have a skill. Had I studied photography, film editing or Djing for four years, I would have put myself in a unique position where I could start earning money doing something I loved, during college and as soon as I finished.

This is the key to making a good CAO decision.

When I look around me now, the people who aren’t happy in their careers, are often the ones who didn’t focus on one skill or passion early on.

We spend the biggest chunk of our lives working. It defines our state of happiness more than anything else and yet, according to a global survey by Gallup International of over 200 countries released last year, eighty five percent of workers worldwide admit to hating their jobs.
People often stay in jobs they dislike because they want to impress other people and feel a fleeting rush of validation, which is so infantile.
So just because you got enough points for Law in Trinity doesn’t mean you have to do it. It sounds great, but ask yourself do you want to be a lawyer or do you want to validate yourself to other people?
The problem in Ireland, is that we’re asked to make CAO decisions, when we’re 17. How do you know what you want to do at that age? It’s difficult. 
So sit down with your parents now that the results are out and think about something you like or can see yourself doing after leaving college. Then find someone who has a job in the area you want to study and talk to them.
Also don’t use judgement. Success isn’t measured by what other people think. Not wanting to sound like Tony Robinson, but ultimately it’s about how you feel about what you do. You can be successful in other people’s eyes, but if you don’t feel it yourself it’s irrelevant.

80 percent of students will have filled out a CAO form, but there’s loads of other stuff you can do. Social media platforms like Youtube and Instagram offer opportunities to make millions. The political discourse has opened up massive contingencies for people who just want to get their opinion out. Others use it for social media influencing. So you don’t even need talent, just a plan.

I remember photographer David LaChapelle at a seminar saying ‘If you’re a creative person, don’t do a semi creative job. It will keep you busy just enough to stop you from pursuing what you really want.’

Relying on luck or visualising the best possible outcome, generally speaking, doesn’t work, despite the fact that social media meme’s tell us so.

But fret not either way. You can learn so much for free online these days, so no opportunities are lost if you didn’t get the grades you want.

In the grand scheme of life, Leaving Cert results are no reflection on future successes, and anyone who does pick an unsuitable course, there’s plenty of time to change things around. I can vouch for this.



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