- 24 Jan 20
In the run-up to the CAO deadline on February 1, we’re sharing some words of wisdom from students who have been through the process – and lived to tell the tale.
Lisa Murnane, Archaeology and Classics, University College Dublin
I remember a tight cramp in my lower abdomen that lasted for two years – I called it the CAO. Though the CAO does the important job of attempting to fairly allocate college course places in Ireland, it does so with the care and compassion of a meat grinder. For two academic years, I was obsessed with my hypothetical points. Unsurprisingly, being an acne-prone, overweight, gender-confused kid in an all-girls Catholic school wasn’t ideal for developing a healthy self-esteem, and I clung to my points like they were the only thing that mattered in life. The rhetoric that surrounded the CAO, did nothing but exacerbate this.
I knew that I wanted to study archaeology in UCD. However, the continuous utterance of “that’s a waste of points”, nearly prevented me from choosing it. I felt people would look down on me for choosing a large course with a low point threshold, and I certainly felt judgement. Additionally, I measured my self-worth in terms of how many points I would get. I thought that if I failed to be good at Maths, Irish and German, I was a failure forever; doomed by my inability to do tasks broadly irrelevant to my desired career. For the last few months of Sixth Year, I was viciously depressed, convinced I would panic on the day of the exams and ruin my future.
However, the exams went fine, though I barely remember doing them, as I was in some sort of dissociative, hyper-stressed state. I put the course that I wanted, Archaeology and Classics in UCD, as my first choice, and I got in. It took a year to shake off the feeling of constant competition and ranking, but eventually I started to really love college. The immense competition of the CAO is dangerous in the minds of mentally ill students, and we as a nation need to create safety nets to prevent vulnerable students falling through the cracks. We all have value far beyond our CAO points, but within the system it’s certainly hard to believe it.
Keep an eye on Hotpress.ie for more words of wisdom during the countdown to the CAO.