I think a lot of people when they are going into 5th year are coming from two different worlds. One just had their shortest summer ever after sitting the Junior Cert (well that was in pre-COVID times…) in 3rd year. The other just spent the last year mostly dossing but that’s not always a bad thing. So I thought I would make an outline of the advice I would give to 5th year me, if I was to start it all again. Depending on how you come into this year can lay out how you feel about the entire year. If I was to summarise in one word what I would say 5th year me – Balance
Deciding from the outset what subjects you want to do will not only make you less stressed but it will mean you actually enjoy doing the subjects you are doing! If you decide to do chemistry but then realise you don’t like well good, change! Find something you want to do, now you know you’re not doing Chemical Engineering in university. A good example of this is I knew I only ever wanted to do Engineering. So that meant in 5th year I picked up Engineering (after not doing metalwork in the junior cert) – which I loved.
Since I knew I was doing Engineering that meant I didn’t need to do a third language (bye French!). Now not everyone is fortunate enough to know exactly what they want to do in university. But knowing what you don’t want to do will help narrow it down. If you want a taster of what different subjects are like, why don’t you look at some of our notes?
You will get back into the swing of it
As I alluded to in the introduction, some people come back to school with a learning or a leaned back mindset. This depends mostly on what you just spent the last year doing. For me, I was one of the people that came back from TY after doing nothing and was shocked by the change. It was such a difference having no homework and barely being in class to being in evening study until 6 pm every schoolday and double block math classes. For the first month or two, this will be a massive shock to your system. But you need to know you will get back into the swing of things. Some people take longer than others but everyone gets back to there pace eventually.
If you doing a subject that has a project component I would really recommend getting as much of it as you can done this year. It will pay dividends come March of 6th year. When you have just been stressed out from mocks you have 2 projects due and the Leaving Cert breathing down your neck it’s not a nice position to be in. That’s why I started some of the smaller parts of my Construction Project when I was in 5th to have myself ready for 6th year.
Study Set up / Planning
While I am not saying you need to be studying every waking hour of the week, I am also not saying that you should just wing it. Everyone has their own way of setting up a study plan. But what matters is being consistent with it. Why do 5 hours on a Sunday when you could have done an hour every school day and probably learnt more? I know for myself I had a system of every 30 mins set out 9:00-19:00 every day. Then I just made sure I did an hours study whenever during school days and 2/3 hours on a Saturday.
I made sure to put in subjects I didn’t like studying such as Irish and English in key time slots I would most likely to be sitting down and studying. This made sure I didn’t just sit down every day and only study for my strong subjects. You need to be strong across at least 6 subjects (ideally 7) not just your favourites!
Keep on top of it
By keeping to your schedule that you have created above it will allow being more flexible to do what you want. Nobody wants to be cramming for a test first thing Monday morning. Especially on Sunday when they could be watching a match. This “drip feed” approach to studying will help you to keep your sanity. But it also keeps your grades up. Also, I have also found if teachers see you putting in effort, they are more open to helping you where they can.
The Leaving Cert – It’s near but also far
Just like the 3rd years and 4th years mentioned in the beginning. There are two types of people that see how far away the Leaving Cert is. One thinks “2 years? That’s ages away”. While the other thinks “I have no time”. To be honest, neither of these are really the approach. You should be in between them. No, you don’t have all the time in the world, can you remember how fast the last 2 years went by? Also no, 2 years is a lot of time to get a lot done. Remember how long the 6 months from schools closing for COVID and opening back up was? If you stick to a flexible plan with a general outline you will be fine, you got this 🙂
You need downtime
As the great philosopher Homer (J. Simpson) once said “No TV and no beer make Homer go something something” . BTW this is a homage to the saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” & The Shining. Like Homer going cold turkey from what you love can make you go a little crazy. So it is important you can make time for doing what you find enjoyable be it TV, gaming etc. PS I would recommend getting some exercise in at least 2-3 days a week. Not only is it good for your physical health but the fresh air is equally good for your mental health.
It Is What It Is
The title of this section is going to date this post in years to come as an outdated meme. But there is a nugget of truth to it. Chance are if you are Googling advice for 5th years you are stressed out. I know you hate to hear people older than you saying “It’s just the Leaving Cert” (as I hated it too). To some extent they are right but time dilutes a lot of feelings and they were probably the exact same as you a few years ago. But you need to take a set back and release that just constantly chipping away