With the Leaving Certificate results coming out today, Eoghan Ryder looks back and explains why he decided to not go to college until he was older.
The Leaving Certificate. It’s a time of major hardship and frustration for many secondary school students who are all in a race against time and memory to earn as many points as they can, in the hope they get accepted into their dream college course. 
 
I did my Leaving Cert in 2011 at the age of 17 and I recall it being an incredibly anxious and emotional time in my life. I had always been the best of pupils in primary school, but throughout secondary school, from first to sixth year, I slowly but surely began to lose that teacher’s pet persona I had practically mastered in my childhood years. The reasons are varied and to some, probably sound ridiculous but they were my reasons nonetheless.
 
One of the main reasons I began to falter was the sheer level of expectation placed on my shoulders by not only my school and teachers, but by myself. I have always been my own worst critic and the Leaving Cert certainly became my hardest challenge to date. I never fully settled on what course I wanted to do, and my options were as diverse as philosophy and journalism to film production and social studies. 
 
The amount of points and requirements that many of these courses and their respective colleges expected me to earn intimidated me beyond belief. I was never particularly good at maths or Irish, which are core subjects, and through studying them at ordinary level, it really didn't help in my mission to earn 400+ points to be in with a chance of being accepted into many of the courses I wanted to do.
 
During my sixth year, I began to take a great interest in the teachings of Sir Ken Robinson, an educationalist of sorts who had some very eye opening TED Talks about the state of formal education all around the world and how it desperately needs to be modernised in order to keep up with modern standards of industry and life in general. 
 
These talks and countless other articles and think pieces influenced me greatly and I began to quietly and internally rebel against my formal education. I began to understand that there is far more to life and to what’s possible in adulthood than earning arbitrary points to do a course that would lead me to a career that I potentially wouldn't even enjoy. Passion became my new inspiration for what I wanted to achieve in life.
 
Fast forward to the Leaving Certificate itself, and for the two weeks or so I did my exams, I became an insomniac due to the stress and worry. Then, on one of my final exams, I made the conscious decision to not go on to third level education (for the foreseeable future). I left my exam early and felt an odd sense of relief and excitement at having made this decision. 
 
I knew my results were not going to be astounding by any means, but that didn't bother me nearly as much as I had thought it would for my entire senior cycle. I saw an opportunity to go out there and live my life as I never had the chance to whilst in formal education. The world was my oyster and I could do anything I wanted to do (within reason).
 
While many of the people I went to school with went on to college as expected, I was living life as a true adult with no safety net of college to keep me going. I had to grow up very fast and experienced many things within a few months that still amaze me to this day. 
 
I had an internship in a film production complex once known as The Factory, I took part in a major worldwide protest movement called the Occupy Movement and experienced life on the dole. That last part doesn't sound appealing at all, but being on the dole taught me the value of making a decent life for myself, and whilst it was a difficult time, I don’t regret it for a moment.
 
By the time of my 19th birthday, I began to truly wonder what my calling in life was because I hadn't got a clue whilst I was still in school. I took personality tests, tried a couple of small courses out and came to the conclusion that acting was the path for me. Now, at the age of 21, I’m about to begin a full time acting course in Liberties College this coming September and it happened at exactly the right time for me. 
 
The Leaving Certificate is not the be-all-end-all and getting less points than what you wanted or less points than someone else does not mean failure. There are many opportunities out there, despite the state of this country’s economy, and if you go out there and just live your life, you’ll be amazed at what can happen.
 
Take this from a “loser” and a “failure” who got “only 270 points” in his Leaving Cert. Don't hate yourself all because of a giant memory test, it’s just one path to success of many, many others.
 
 
Photo: Pete/ Flickr