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A Letter To My 18-Year-Old Self On Leaving Cert Results Day

To me, from me xo

What we wish we knew...

Today is D-Day for thousands of teenagers around the country who will be receiving their Leaving Cert results. Some will be delighted with their achievements and will wait with bated breath for college offers to come out, while others may not have received the results they were hoping for and are now feeling anxious about what the future holds.

Whether you want to be a doctor, teacher or a basket weaver on the Aran Islands, there’s something cathartic in hearing that there is a multitude of ways in achieving your common goal.

We did a quick whip-round in the office to find out the advice that we'd give our 18-year-old-selves on leaving cert day.

Amy Heffernan, Editor of

"Personally, I think my Leaving Cert experience was the first time in my life when I realised I was in this On. My. Own. Neither my parents or my friends – while they certainly did all they could to help – could actually do the study or sit the exams for me and ultimately, the results and the outcome were entirely in my control. A thought that was both panic-inducing and empowering for an 18-year-old. 

I kept one mantra close to my heart throughout my entire Leaving Cert year, when things got a little too overwhelming and I started to question the rest-of-life relevancy of it all and that was: "once I get this over the line, no one can take it away from me, ever. "

For some reason, repeating that in my head brought me back from the edge of despair and motivated me to soak up every last bit of information I could, until the minute I went into the exam hall. I had all of the control and did everything within my control to do the best I could. 

There's no denying that it an incredibly stressful time for young people and I still have nightmares about sitting it to this day, but everyone does come out the other side of the Leaving Cert a little more mature and a lot more assured in their ability to survive on their own two feet. 

To all who got their results today, Congrats on getting this far! As they say, 'What's for you, won't pass you!' and with any luck, you'll be like me and it'll mark the beginning of life-long issues around needing to assert control."

Kate demolder, staff writer

"It's so easy to tell 18-year-olds that the Leaving Cert means nothing and that some of the best minds in the world failed State exams. Something far more constructive to say, I think, is that it doesn't define you. I wasn't happy with my results on the day and resigned myself to the hermitage. Thankfully, I had people around me who made me reluctantly accept a college course I wasn't too sure about.

This lead to my meeting of the best people I've ever known who frequently allow me to share stories of failure without judgement – something far more tangible than 600 points (or whatever it is now, I'm old). While life until now seemed to start and end by way of the Leaving Cert, the truth is that everything is just beginning and whatever it is you do next – repeat, take a gap year or spend time figuring yourself out – points will soon become a distant memory. 

Also, you're SO YOUNG! Go make bad decisions while you still can."


When you’re in school, the leaving cert seems like the most important thing in the world. But once you leave school, you learn that it quickly becomes irrelevant. Luckily for me, I realised this in my final year. 

I knew that going to a university like UCD or Trinity wasn’t for me. Big crowds of people make me anxious and my ego couldn’t bear the thought that a lecturer may never know my name. 

So I didn't bother with a CAO and I didn't open my leaving cert results. I knew whatever was in that envelope wasn’t going to determine the rest of my life. Still, to this day, I've no idea what results lie in that brown envelope. 

All my teachers, relatives I saw only at funerals and nosey neighbours were all telling me that I’d never get anywhere in life if I didn’t do well in my leaving cert and subsequently go to a “good college” but I refused to believe them. Now I sit here, in my dream job (a dream that would have been crushed had I left it to the Leaving Cert to determine) having never opened my results.

If I could speak to my 18-year-old self on leaving cert results day, I wouldn't have a whole lot to say. She was an extremely confident, headstrong individual who wouldn't let anyone or anything stop her from achieving what she wanted. If anything, I'd like for her to give me advice now.

Brenda McCormick, Managing Editor

"Dear 17-year-old me,

True to form, you've been sick with nerves on results day and, being more of a crammer than a dutiful student, you sort of know you didn't do as well as you could have. (Don't mention that to the parents!) 

I'm afraid you won't get the points you need for that Communications course you wanted to do, but repeating your Leaving Cert will prove to be a good option. It will give you a year of fun and friendships and take you a little out of that shell you're so fond of. Sure, you'll miss the points second time around too but, honestly, don't worry. This will put you on a better path. 

After an Arts degree, you'll do all sorts of things like teaching English in Spain for a bit (yes, really - and still have friendships from it 20 years on) and even go back to study on your own terms. You'll take a different path but not too long from now, you'll find yourself in the career you always wanted. You'll travel lots and be and do more things than you can imagine now. 

You have a great life ahead with lots of help to get through the tougher times - just maybe start believing in yourself a bit earlier than I did, okay? Oh, and if you could build up some savings before your lengthy fun-but-badly-paid freelance era, that'd be pretty handy too.

Lots of love,


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