Exam Time

Advanced entry: the backdoor route

Martin Phelan gives an insight on how advanced entry can offer you another opportunity to get your chosen course. 

The perception of the leaving cert that most students have is that it’s the determiner of everything you’ll come to be in life.

The two weeks you spend in the June of 6th year, when most people sitting the exam aren’t even old enough to buy a beer, decides the rest of your life. The reality couldn’t be further from this.

When I did my leaving cert back in 2010 I finished about 60 points off of the course I wanted. Three years and two advanced entry courses later, I’m now heading into third year of that same course.

When you get your results at the start of August and your CAO offers a week later, things can get hectic mentally. This is especially true when things haven’t gone to plan and you haven’t gotten the course you wanted.

You’re then expected to make a massive decision within a few days that has a bearing on what you’ll be doing for the next three to four years of your life. Do you repeat your leaving cert or do you settle for a course you weren’t as enthusiastic about?

But those aren’t your only choices. There are alternative options available even at this stage, as we approach September. Advanced entry courses are there for people who haven’t gotten the points they needed but don’t want to repeat their leaving cert and I can’t put into words how valuable these courses are.

I hated secondary school. I hated my crappy uniform that smelled like a wet dog when it rained. I hated my subject choices and I hated that I was being forced to make massive decisions about my life when I could barely decide whether to write with a blue or a black pen in each class.

So as you can probably guess, there was no way I was going to repeat my leaving cert. Thankfully there were other options that I had already looked into ahead of doing my leaving cert. I found an advanced entry course for journalism in Stillorgan and applied there.

It was easily the best year that I’ve had in education and from there I went onto to do another course in Dun Laoghaire that granted me advanced entry into second year of journalism in DIT.

Level 5 and 6 courses can be a lot of fun. From my experience they’re basically like college. You have the same freedom as you do in Third Level and it’s nowhere near as expensive. But they are very competitive. If you have plans of taking this path to get into Level 7 or Level 8 then you need to score high grades.

But if you’re passionate about the course you choose then that won’t be a problem. And the added beauty of advanced entry is that it’s only a year. If it turns out the course isn’t for you then you haven’t spent €2,500 on a year where you finish up with nothing. You also get a qualification that will make you employable in whatever field the course covers.

My advice is to do a bit of research to see if there’s a course to fit your needs. Talk to your old guidance counsellor in secondary school as well. For some the best option may still be to re-sit the leaving cert. And if that is the case then keep the positives in mind: you’re a year older, you’re that bit more mature and you have the experience of what the pressure is like for those two weeks of June.

Regardless of what your choice is, I wish you the best of luck.  And remember that there’s nothing to freak about when it comes to degree choices because there are always other options.