Senior Year Around The World: Ireland

The 4th post in our Senior Year Around The World series is here!

Hi everyone :)

My name is F and I blog over at The Fence Of Stars. When I'm not managing Teenage-Blogger-Central, I'm just another frazzled Irish student. To start with, our schools are quite old-fashioned, usually single-sex, very Catholic, and I tell you Putin would by the number of things banned in Irish schools. Sadly, the year is structured around exams so we don't have much time for celebrations or traditions..

August - Fearful students return to school, to start the second-year of their Leaving-Certificate (LC) course. For the LC, all students have to study Irish, English, and Maths, but you can choose the other 4 subjects yourself - I am doing French, Business, History and Geography, but other popular choices are Biology, Chemistry, Accounting, etc.

In June, we will have to sit a nightmarish 3-week exam. Your grade in each subject of the exam is given a certain number of points (e.g, 100 points for an A+ in a Higher Level test, 60 points for an A+ in an Ordinary Level test, etc). Your points is the only credential colleges look at, so messing up on the day is a true disaster! Unfortunately, the exams are held only once a year so you must repeat the year/grade to take them again.

A typically exhilarating Friday night for me!
September - As you might have gathered, doing the LC is quite intense! Our courses rely heavily on memorising, and it has gotten ridiculous. After the 3rd hour of homework, I start to give up, and I really don't know how my classmates who get outside tutoring or have special learning needs can manage it. In recent years, more students are going to "grindschools" where students are in school from approximately 9 a.m. to 9/10 p.m. I doubt that's a very good "Senior Experience"! The only advantage of doing the LC is that adults understand how demanding it is, and don't judge you for being lazy when it comes to other parts of your life.

October/November/December - As if you aren't busy enough, now is the time to start thinking about what you want to do next year!

It is inarguable that Irish universities are of an excellent standard. We have 7 public universities, a few small/private ones, and many educational options for those who don't want to do something academic. 4 of our universities are in the top 200 worldwide - not so bad for a small country!

After much research, I finally found what I want to do, Law at Trinity College Dublin. It's located in Ireland's capital city, which is in the top 30 "student cities" worldwide, and classed as one of the 11 great cities for literature. It's also far enough from home for me to engage in "suspicious activities" without the neighbours finding out, has an excellent academic reputation and will offer me many new, interesting experiences.

Also, there is an old law from the 1600s that says all students of TCD must carry a sword at all times (I'm disappointed they don't still enforce this). In December, my friend and I went to visit TCD, and because our bus was delayed, we decided to do a spot of tourism around Dublin. I was quite underwhelmed when I saw The Spire, Ireland's "most iconic" monument. Comment if you can understand what the frick it's supposed to represent.

Is it a needle? Designed for a giant pole-dancer? A giant's toothpick? A magic wand? A UNICORN'S HORN?? 

January - Get serious! This is your last chance to register with The Central Applications Office. This will probably seem strange to people from other countries, but in Ireland you do not have to apply each university individually - you apply just once to a centralised office.

You apply for 10 degree courses in order of preference, so if you get enough points in your LC for your number 1 preference, you will be given that one. If not, you will get the 2nd/3rd/etc, whichever you have enough points for.

In the past few years, there has been "points inflation" in which every degree course has become harder to get into. Also, there are far more applicants than before, so you now need crazily high points for popular courses. People complain that the style of learning in university is completely different from school so things other than LC results will be considered, and hopefully there will be changes to reflect this soon.

Me on Day 8 of the exams.
February - MOCK EXAMS. A time of great terror, hunger, sleep-deprivation, stress and comfort-eating.

 One day, I have an exam from 9-12.30, a short break to revise/eat/etc, then another exam from 12.50 to 4.00! My hand will probably break as there will be a lot of essay writing. Then, I have to go home and revise for the next day's exams. I will probably screech when I see sunlight again.

It's quite intense, but luckily these exams are just a "practise" so you know what kind of questions/time limits you will have, and the results aren't taken into account on your college application.

June - The LEAVING CERT! These exams are damn painful, because only a tiny fraction of what you have studied will be tested. For example, you need to memorize around 30 English poems, but will only need to quote around 5 in the exam. You need to learn 5 short stories for Irish, but will only be asked one. Worst of all, you need to learn 10s of essays for history, and will only need to write 3! It's impossible to narrow down what will be asked, so you need to prepare everything.

Our teachers warn us that if you are caught cheating, you will be disqualified from state exams for 7 years (including the driving test!). They also say that this will be "registered" on your official documents and you will not be given a Green Card to immigrate to the US, because you are an evil conspiracist/terrorist/fiend/dissident/threat to national security. I think this may just be a rumour. After the exams, students traditionally burn all of their textbooks (not fun if you end up repeating the year and have to buy them all again), drink themselves into a black-hole, or, as I plan to do, sleep for around 4 days straight.

How does senior year in your country compare? I hope it isn't as stressful!


  1. I'm realluy dreading the LC. I did my Junior Cert last summer and it was a nightmare (it went well thankfully but even still). In any case, I'm really happy that I go to a mixed school because everyone seems to hate single sex ones.

    Unfortunately I live in north Wicklow so I'll have to stay with my parents during college. However there is that scholar's exam thing you can do in Trinity where, if you do well, you get free accommodation and food and everything. I think that if I go to Trinity, which I hope to, then I'll definitely go for that. Speaking of Trinity, it's cool to see that you're studying law! Both of my parents studied it at Trinity and they really enjoyed it. I'm debating between law or some type of business degree but I'm still not too sure.

    Great post as usual!

    1. My advice to you re dreading the LC is to get flashcards ASAP, and rearrange the information in mind maps/condensed form from the start of 5th year. It'll save you a lot of stressful nights of rapid note condensing coming up to the Mocks!!

      You should feel lucky to be able to live at home, I live in a very remote undisclosed Western location so I have no choice but to move out, and I may not be able to afford to come home every weekend.. It's cool that both your parents studied law, I'm sure you'd be talented at it yourself!

      Thanks :)

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