LEAVING Cert 2020 has been a rollercoaster of uncertainty. The announcement by the Department of Education and Skills that there were errors in the grading system, which will lead to about 10pc of students having their grades marked upwards, comes as yet another sharp twist on that rollercoaster.
he disappointment some students may have felt with the grades they received three weeks ago may still be keenly felt. Frustrations with the system and how it functioned or malfunctioned may also have lingered
The discovery of errors in that system may fuel any anger that is present. Or it may have increased the anxiety of others, igniting fears that if there were these errors, could there have been more?
Yet again, for some students, hopes of particular college choices may be reopened, but reopened in the context of further uncertainty about whether there will be places available in those courses.
Even within that, the first hope is that you, the student, are in the 10pc for whom grades will change. It is like a lottery. Once more, the Leaving Cert of 2020 is drawing on the emotional reserves of students.
You may have suffered through that Leaving Cert process. Some of you will have been strengthened and found inner resources to meet the challenges and cope with that suffering. You may have learned how to deal with uncertainty, regulate your anxieties and may now feel better prepared to face other adversity or complexity in future.
Not all students will have had that experience, however. So, if you have struggled with the uncertainty, or felt overwhelmed by anxiety or stress about how the whole process has rumbled on, then take heart in the fact that you are not alone and that there are things you can do to cope.
One of the most important things you can do is to reach out to others for help and support. Ideally, you will have family supports and can rely on the understanding of your parents, siblings or extended family.
Perhaps it will be your friends who are able to listen without judgement and without trying to fix anything. There’s an old saying, “a problem shared is a problem halved”, and in my experience, having someone who “gets” it and who understands does take us halfway to feeling better.
When there are so many uncertain things ahead of you, it can feel overwhelming, especially when some of them are out of your control.
Indeed, expending a lot of emotional energy on things that are out of your control is not helpful. Focusing your efforts on doing the things you can feels much more effective. So, try to activate yourself to do things that will make a difference and just park those things that you can’t influence.
The new information about errors in the grading may have flipped you back into a flurry of “what ifs”, again drawing your thinking and emotions down many avenues that may never materialise.
Wait until you have definitive information about your own circumstances before you start any process of decision-making.
If you find that your thinking is consumed by the Leaving Cert again, then do try to distract yourself with activities to take your mind off things, like reading, music, gaming, chatting to your friends, sports, hobbies and so on. Being able to take a break is a healthy short-term thing to do.
Hope, disappointment, anxiety, frustration and so on, are all powerful emotions and have the potential to send us into a spin. Being able to notice the different feelings that you have, and linking them to the circumstances you are in, may help you to make better sense of them, such that they don’t overwhelm you.
Talking things out, writing things down, drawing or making music are all ways to connect to our feelings.
Leaving Cert 2020 has been difficult. The difficulties it has created may not yet be over. So, be kind to yourself if you feel like it is too much.
Today might feel like a struggle, but tomorrow always has the hope and possibility that things will be easier.
So, hang in there and remember the long game. There is more than one road that will take you to your destination.