- 31 Jan 19
BIMM student Emma Quinn talks about her experience with the CAO process.
When you’re in sixth year, it can be hard to find the balance of both working your hardest to achieve what you want & believe to be important, and keeping a relaxed level head. A lot of older friends & relatives will constantly tell you not to stress and emphasise how unimportant the Leaving Cert and CAO is. However, these aren’t always the easiest words to hear when you’re going through it because from your perspective it does feel like the end of the world. At this time in your life the CAO is probably the most important thing on your mind but remember, no matter what, you have options.
I was probably someone who took the whole thing too lightly, with only one course on my CAO. However, this wasn’t from lack of effort. I searched for months for courses I was interested in. My guidance councillor was unhelpful and believed I’d have to go abroad to find what I was looking for. I was both lucky in that I found my dream course of song writing in BIMM, and unfortunate in that it was the absolute only course I could see myself doing. There are lots of music courses in Ireland, but I wanted to focus specifically on my passion for song writing and performance. After finding the course in song writing, I had also applied for a music PLC in Ballyfermot.
The day the CAO was announced, when my mother realised that I had failed to mention that BIMM was the only thing on it (my bad), both delight and anger arose, but I had never stressed too much because I knew I had options.
I was only just gone 17 when I completed my leaving cert and so truthfully, even after receiving an offer on the course of my dreams and being accepted into the PLC, I found myself at a crossroads. I never expected to have so many options. I thought that fate would choose either courses for me, or neither. Suddenly I began to doubt if I even felt ready to go to college at all. The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I could do anything that I wanted with my life now. I always had a desire to travel and considered that maybe then was the right time.
The truth is, it can be hard to plan your future when so much is still unknown but what I’ve grown to realise is that no matter what choice you make you have options. Had I not gotten into BIMM I could’ve completed the PLC or travelled. Even after being offered both the course and the PLC I could’ve just decided to take a year off and work.
The older I get the more friends I see choosing different paths and doing what’s right for them. Some people find the right course, some start college and change or drop out, some would rather work or travel, but at the end of it all, we all eventually reach the destination we hope for. I’m glad I chose the path that I did, and despite the torture of having to go through my first year of college under 18 (also not the end of the world), it led me to where I am today. I also know that had I chosen any other option, I would’ve still veered my way onto whichever path I wanted my life to take. I am now in my final year, and spent last summer travelling, and continue to travel on weeks off. My advice to anyone going through this today, is to do what feels right. I was lucky to have a very supportive family but know that my mum would’ve been happier for me to have done a PLC and gone to college that little bit older. I, however, am very happy I chose to go in when I did as I am now in a position where I will be graduated by 21 and have plenty of time to continue travelling and finding myself.
What I’m trying to say is the CAO is only the beginning, so sit down, have a cup of tea and try your best to just do what feels right.
Emma Quinn was recently named winner of the New Were Talking songwriting competition, organised for students in BIMM, in association with the Now Were Talking campaign on mental health.