On Friday, more than 60,000 Leaving Cert students will finally receive their results. There is concern among many – and for good reason. Their grades will summarize their academic achievements to date and can affect the rest of their education – and possibly the rest of their lives.
But there is another source of concern: no cohort of Leaving Cert students has cumulatively experienced as much disruption to their education as the Class of 2022.
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Leaving Cert 2022 results released online at 10 a.m. on September 2
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These students missed large chunks of transition and fifth year due to school closures; the cancellation of the Junior Certificate meant that some had never taken a public examination; and the sixth year was spent under a cloud of Covid-related uncertainty and absence.
Add to that the emotional fallout from Covid-19: most were isolated from friends and relatives, and without the rituals of life that define most people’s teenage years.
The strong impact of the pandemic on the mental health of young adults is evident in a recent report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI): around four out of ten young men and over half of the young women surveyed were classified as “depressed”.
In addition to the race for CAO points, there is also uncertainty around student housing for students who want to study from home, in the teeth of a housing crisis.
For many, however, there is also an acknowledgment that they have learned important life lessons in recent years. They have made it through uncertain times – and are about to come out the other side.
“I think it will stand us,” said Ellen McCabe from Co Wexford, who is due to receive her results on Friday. “We learned how to live and learned new ways of living. We can adapt quickly. It’s good to know you could do that. We have that resilience.”
“It’s been a strange few years not knowing what to expect”
Leah Quigg, 18, Co Wexford
“I’m excited and nervous. It’s been a weird few years not knowing what to expect. We didn’t even find out if the auditions were going to happen until right before we did the mock exams. It was all last minute, but we just went with it .
“During Covid at least we had iPads, so that helped. But it was hard – trying to do an art project over Zoom is not easy. There was a lot of disruption especially in fifth year and a lot of uncertainty in sixth year. I was always a motivated student and liked school and had that drive – but if you didn’t, online school was nearly impossible.
“I’m hoping to do Arts and English at Maynooth University. The points aren’t that high — about 350. My real concern is accommodation. I can’t drive there every day. If I can’t get somewhere to live I’ll have to reconsider my options. I have applied for on-campus housing, but I have been told that about 60 students have applied for every available place.”
“I’m proud of how far I’ve come”
Ryan Sharpe, 17, Cork
“I am proud of how far I have come. When I entered my fifth year at Cork Life Centre, I barely said a word. I now help kids like me come out of my shell.
“Right now I’m feeling a little nervous. If I do well, I’ll be happy. If I don’t, that’s okay too. It really won’t affect my course. I’ve applied for a PLC course in music management. It offers a road to Cork School of Music.
“During the exams, we received training in how to deal with stress and anxiety. Like most students, I felt quite stressed about it. The first day I felt scared – but once I sat down and realized it wasn’t the end of the world, the two weeks flew by.
“The adjustments to the exams this year made a big difference. There were more choices and fewer questions. It was needed. Online learning was not viable for many students. I ended up having to cram a lot into sixth year instead of revising.”
“It’s been quite stressful, but I think it will bear up with time”
Ellen McCabe, 18, Co Wexford
“I’m definitely getting more and more worried the closer we get to the exams. I’m not worried that I failed at everything, but I just want to make sure I did the best I could.
“I would love to do general nursing at DCU. The score is about 450. Will I get it? It depends on how it goes.
“I didn’t even bother with student accommodation. I knew it would be too much trouble. My sister lives in Louth, which is about an hour away by bus. It’s not close, but it’s better than trying to commute from Wexford. I’m lucky to have that option; the anxiety would be 10 times worse otherwise.
“I’m not looking for sympathy, but I think this year’s Leaving Certs have been through a lot. I never got to do the junior cycle and missed a lot of fifth year. Already in the sixth year there was a cloud of uncertainty over all of us.
“We didn’t even find out about the tests until January, a week before the mocks. It’s been quite stressful, but I think it will bear up with time.”
“The lack of housing remains an additional hurdle to overcome”
Denis Lynch, 18, Co Meath
“This year I took my first state exams: the Leaving Certificate. I think they went pretty well. No exam felt impossible to pass, which was a huge relief. I think that’s a testament to the adjustments made to the exams. The exams were challenging, but the adjustments allowed me to attempt all the necessary questions, even though I failed the syllabus in some subjects.
“While I’m happy with how the exams went, I’m a little disappointed that continuous assessment wasn’t a factor this year. The exam was heavily focused on my ability on the day rather than my long-term work ethic.
“I’m hoping to go to DCU to do economics, politics and law. The score threshold was about 450 in 2021. I really hope I can achieve this.
“Unfortunately, this is not the end of my worries. Even if I achieve the points needed, the lack of accommodation is still another hurdle to overcome.
“I am very worried about whether I will get a place”
James O’Donoghue, 18, Co Limerick
“My dream is to study medicine. For the sixth year, I transferred to another school, which offers classes and studies from 09:00 to 21:00, all with the goal of studying medicine. I would like to work in a job that helps people.
“I received a conditional offer to study at the University of Bristol. Why England? First year students are guaranteed a room, and it’s much cheaper than in Ireland. The NHS is also a better health system to work in.
“Now I am very worried about whether I will get a place. The university recently told me that it can only guarantee places to students whose results are available by 31 August. Leaving Cert results are released on 2 September. I feel like this is a really tough shot and feel very stressed about it.
“Given the work I’ve put in over the last few years, I think it’s very unfair. The University of Bristol offered me a place conditionally, but now it seems to have been withdrawn due to a technicality, which I think is very unfair … I just hope it can be resolved.”
“Leaving Cert was easily the most stressful experience of my life”
Andrew Victory, 18, Co Louth
“I recently graduated from St Joseph’s Secondary School, Drogheda Co Louth. I’m hoping to do law at Maynooth University or UCD. In June I couldn’t really make up my mind, so I’d be really happy with either option.
“Taking my Leaving Certificate this year was different to anything I could have imagined. I got Covid back in February, straight after my pre-Leaving Certificate exams, which had a massive impact on my energy and overall wellbeing in the following weeks.
“This put a lot of pressure on me both in my school and in my personal life. But I really felt it was balanced right by the adjustments to each subject, especially my languages English, Irish and Spanish. These adjustments, while balancing out a part of the stress and additional pressure I was under didn’t relieve me of the infamous Leaving Cert stress. The Leaving Cert was easily the most stressful experience of my life. I’m extremely happy to be on the other side of it.
“I am very anxiously waiting for the results to come out. I am doing my best to keep myself busy by hanging out with friends who are going through the same situation, seeing family and taking time for myself.”