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Three days and counting...

Tears of jor or tears of despair: Leaving Certificate results day is an emotional hurdle for our teens.

In just three days' time, the Leaving Certificate results will be out. For some, that will mean celebration. For others, though, there will be disappointment. And not just those who do really badly, either. Rose Tully, post-primary helpline coordinator with the National Parents Council, says: "The high achievers are often the most keyed up, they expect high points, and if they don't get them they feel they are letting themselves and their parents down.

"Parents can help," she says. "We all want what is best for our children, but sometimes we try and live our lives through them. We must let them make their own choices, and their own mistakes. On results day we must be there to love them; to help and support them whatever the outcome."

Greg Dalton, a job coach, entirely agrees: "Parents must offer pure support, whatever the results turn out to be. And then they should sit down with the teenager and go through their options. They should encourage them to look back at the exam. Did they work as hard as they could have done? Is it possible, if they repeat, to get those extra points they need?

"They should look at the other options they have. They may not have made their first choice, but they can still have a great future. Not making the points is never as bad as it seems."

Points

Andrew Bannister wasn't happy with his Leaving Certificate results last year.

"I'd done OK," he says. "I'd got into Arts at UCD, but I hadn't got into the course of my choice. I was 50 points shy of that -- music at Trinity.

"I didn't know, for sure, if music was what I wanted," he says. "I wasn't really sure, back then, what I wanted to do."

Andrew admits that he hadn't worked as hard as he could have that year.

"I was relaxed on results day," he says. "It's not the greatest feeling in the world when your friends do better than you, but I didn't feel superior to those who did worse than me. It's not a competition."

Andrew discussed his results with his parents, and with their support, he decided that he would repeat. He went to the Institute in Leeson Street.

"It was my decision, but my parents supported me absolutely," he says. "There were times during the year that I wished I was in college with my school friends, but I've kept the friends who matter to me. And I've had time to think about my future.

"I've enjoyed English this year, and I've become interested in human behaviour, too. I'd like, eventually, to do psychology or counselling or perhaps become a psychotherapist. "

This year Andrew will be abroad for results day. He feels reasonably confident that he has done better than last year. What, though, is his advice for others?

"Keep calm," he says. "There is no point getting hyped up about your results. And enjoy your night out, but don't forget to drink water. It helps to dilute all the alcohol. Last year I felt really ill the next day."

REASONS NOT TO PANIC

  • There are excellent courses in DITs and other colleges that do not require such high points.
  • You can always repeat.
  • You can get work experience in your chosen career and then decide if it is something you really want to pursue.
  • You can earn a living and study part time.
  • You can be successful in life without a degree. Not having one didn't stop Charlie Bird from becoming RTE's chief news correspondent.
  • In five years' time nobody will care how you did in your Leaving Certificate. And that includes you.

The helpline is courtesy of National Parents Council in association with the Irish Independent, the Institute of Guidance Councillors, and Eircom. It is supported by the Department of Education & Science. Helpline phone number: 1800 265 165