One of the most stressful times in a family’s life is the year someone in the household is doing their Leaving Certificate (LC). This stress is not just confined to the individual studying, but it can filter through the entire household and the best way to avoid it taking over your life is by being prepared.

Helen Dillion is a LC coach. Through her company Your Path Coaching, she coaches students through their LC year to make sure the candidates have the access to all the materials they need to make informed choices about their career.

She will also keep the parents informed on what to expect when their child is taking the LC year and she has designed some courses accordingly. She offers up some expertise for Irish Country Living readers – including both students and parents.

Students – no matter how well they did in their exams this year – did not necessarily walk into their first choice of course to study. As a result, Helen has already seen and heard of growing stress of this year’s LC students and their parents, but she is not buying into it.

“How can we ask students to study even harder than they are already studying? It’s already a huge stress in their lives and asking them to study harder isn’t – I don’t think – the way forward,” she says. “I’d much prefer them to really understand the CAO (Central Applications Office) system and work that better, than studying harder.

“Both parents and students are in a tizzy because of the points in the season gone by and they are worried already about how they are going to get their course, especially when it’s a lottery. But you can’t work harder than 625 points.”

Parents should inform themselves

If you are a first-time parent for a LC student, then you really should inform yourself of what is going on. You need to understand how the CAO works and what the crucial dates are for your child.

“They also don’t encourage their kids to have a good, rounded plan,” says Helen.

Kids should have a back-up plan for if they don’t get the course, or indeed college, they dream of. Expectations should be managed and students should be prepared to go to any of the colleges which teach the area of study they wish to follow.

“Don’t be so tunnel-visioned, parents should encourage students to research all the courses available to them,” she adds.

Where to find course information is Ireland’s national learners’ database listing all of the courses that are available in Ireland. Here you will find course requirements, course content, careers paths post study and course delivery.

You will also find a detailed events calendar that has all the relevant dates for the CAO as well as careers fairs and college open days so it is an excellent resource for both student and parents.

Tips to surviving the Leaving Cert year

1 Have a good study routine

First off you need to make sure you have a good comfortable place to study, whether you choose that to be in school, an after-school class or a desk and chair at home. Comfort is key to a good study routine.

Try to develop a routine right from the beginning of the school year. Get in the habit of doing a little bit of study now, it will not only benefit your knowledge in the long run, but it will form a healthy habit which will become second nature to you as the exams loom. Parents should facilitate their kids study by providing a decent study space in the house and perhaps some quite study time in the evenings or weekends. Keep outside distractions to a minimum where possible.

2 Narrow down your area of focus

For those fortunate enough to know what they would like to do with their career after school this is not an issue but for those who have still not settled on a chosen career path then narrowing down the area, they would like to study in would be beneficial. Even just narrowing your options down to the area of study will help you focus and claim the LC year as your own. Think of it as goal setting – get a feel for the grades that may be required if you do decide to go into that field.

3 Know your key dates

All the dates for the CAO application process can be found on their website and additional informative dates can be found in the events calendar in the Qualifax website.

Timetable the year ahead so you don’t miss any of the key dates for exams, course applications, grant application deadlines and open days.

Parents or carers should also have a copy of this timetable as there may be information they need to provide by certain dates, such as SUSI grants.

4 Keep up with the workload

Pace yourself. It is a long haul until June and the closer it gets the more the workload will ramp up so don’t burn yourself out early.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint so no sudden bursts at the end, the routine you develop early on should help combat that. Start as you mean to go on and keep up with the workload, so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the time mocks and final exams come around.

5 Lead a good lifestyle

Balancing study with exercise, decent sleep and exercise will help to reduce stress. Try to keep exercise and a good night’s sleep in your routine, it’s important for stress levels especially during crunch times before exams.

6 Don’t panic

Remember, if you don’t get the course you want, it’s not the end of the world, it is not the totality of your life. Helen would like to point out that she graduated at 52 and is now in a dream job helping others to realise theirs.

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