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Not the Results hoped for – what are the options?

The Leaving Cert is seen as an important rite of passage in most young peoples lives and so the arrival of the results is a highly charged event for you and your child.

If your child is one of the lucky ones and feels confident that their points will deliver what they hoped for, you can relax and enjoy their tremendous achievement while they celebrate the past years of hard work!

If it hasn’t worked out for them and they didn’t get what they wanted, it is usually a disappointing and depressing time. And your initial support and patience is vital towards how they move forward, particularly in the tense time before the first round College offers. Remind them that no major decisions can be made until this happens.

Looking at the Options

If they do not achieve the course they hoped for, you will need to sit down a couple of days later, when calm has broken out and explore all the options available

  • accepting an alternative CAO course offered,
  • applying for a re-check
  • repeating the Leaving Cert
  • looking at vacant CAO places,
  • Further Education Courses,
  • Independent Third Level Colleges,
  • UK alternatives
  • direct employment.

Accepting an alternative CAO course

While you may not have gotten your first choice, consider carefully what is offered as it may be a good alternative to the one you hoped for. You may be happy to accept the course and the College on offer.

Applying for a re-check.

You can view your scripts prior to deciding to go for a recheck. Contact your school to view at an assigned time. You can bring someone with you and students often ask their subject teacher, if available, to view the script with them. Remember there is a cost for each re-check and the process takes a few weeks. If you become eligible to a place due to such an up-grade, you will be entitled to take it up. Read more about reviewing scripts here.

Repeating the Leaving Cert.

This is not an option lightly taken and needs to be thought about carefully. It can be a realistic option, if the points are narrowly missed and the student is very focused and determined, or if their study or examinations were interrupted by personal circumstances.
Remember you do not need to sit the same subjects again. Also you don’t have to retake subjects, which are specific requirements for particular Colleges or courses, if they are already obtained. It is very important to check up to date course and college requirements before you make decisions on which subjects to repeat. Checkout for up-to-date information.

However, for many the thought of repeating is daunting; they don’t, want to go through it again and what’s more they may know what they got was the best they could achieve. So be realistic and honest with your self.

Vacant College Places

Many college places become available, at minimum entry requirements, after the first round offers have been allocated. These are places that aren’t taken up by other students and can be in a whole range of areas. But be careful that you are indeed interested in the course if you take this route. Check availability on the CAO website and the specific college website to get as much information as you can. You need to know exactly what you are signing up for, not just taking a college place because your school friends are going on.

Further Education Courses

There are many places available in a huge variety FE /PLC courses These training programmes can lead to FETAC awards (The Further Education and Training Awards Council) and in turn some are linked to reserved places on higher education courses. Check what is available in your local VEC or PLC/FE centre and their links to third level Colleges.
Think of them as a stepping-stone to skilled employment or higher education. Remember each College takes charge of their own applications. There is no centralised system.

Independent Third Level Colleges/Private Colleges

In addition to the state funded colleges, private fee paying Colleges, some outside the CAO system, offer a variety of courses with recognised qualifications. Contact them directly to check availability and cost.

The UK Alternative and Gap Year

You do not need to have applied to UCAS (the UK central application system) previously to apply for a course listed as ‘clearing’. Check out their web site at and check availability on the clearing option. If there is a course that genuinely interests you, make sure to contact the College administration directly to find out as much as you can. But you need to act fast when places are advertised, as popular courses are taken up quickly.

Taking a place in the UK is a big decision, apart from being away from home; there is the cost of tuition fees, living expenses, books and travel to consider.

Some may also consider taking time out after Leaving Cert. and going on a ‘gap year’. Basically the idea is that you take a year out abroad doing some voluntary work. Apart from travelling, gaining life experience a well-structured gap year may help decide your career path while developing valuable work skills. There are a huge number of voluntary gap year projects from teaching to conservation work all over the world. Research carefully. Check out the many web sites on ‘year out’ organisations and talk to anyone who has gone. It is important that you think it through properly and work out what you will do at the end of it.

Direct Employment

Given the down-turn in the economy, direct employment for school leavers is difficult to source. Continuing within the education/training system is undoubtedly the best way towards improving your employment prospects.

Naturally you will face disappointment if you haven’t been offered the course of your choice, but clearly all isn’t lost. There are pathways to success catering for different skills and results. Make use of these opportunities; keep positive, research what is on offer, make an appointment with your Guidance Counsellor and make an informed decision on what you will do next. You can also research a variety of careers and organisations on

Review important post-leaving certificate result dates here