Student Stories

Thomas Ward

Ward’s Way;

Foundation Maths, PLC route,

Living my best life in college

My background

My own experience of getting to college was kind of messy. In my sixth year in St Aidan’s CBS, I was struggling with maths so I knew from early days that I would have to do foundation maths. I gave ordinary levels maths a go, but it was too difficult for me. Instead of focusing all my time on that one subject, I decided to drop to foundation level to give my other subjects an equal chance.

In February of 2016, I went for an interview in Coláiste Íde to study Post Leaving Cert (PLC) business. I saw business as a route into college. I got offered a place at Coláiste Íde studying the course Business, Marketing, and Administration.

My support

Later, at the higher options event, I spoke to Enda Fitzpatrick, the athletics coach in DCU. I knew then I wanted to go to DCU, but I also liked the look of other colleges around the country. I was unsure of what path I would take.

My journey

When my results came out, I passed everything and got 270 points. All my mates were happy with their offers for college courses. I was left with a mixture of emotions. I was excited, disappointed and wasn’t sure what to expect out of my Post Leaving Cert course.

Going into my Post Leaving Cert course I knew I had to work hard and get the work done. Throughout the whole year, it was hard to keep my motivation up. This led to me being late most days and missing other days. I didn’t look up my options for the following year until after Christmas. These were business in NCI, Tourism in DIT and International Relations in DCU. I put International Relations at DCU as my first preference.

When the results of my Christmas tests came back, I could see that I was doing well. The more the year went on the more competitive I got. There were eight modules and I was aiming to achieve all eight of the distinctions, so I would stand a chance of getting into DCU.

Nothing compares to the stress of the Leaving Cert, but doing the assignments and studying was very stressful. Mainly because I was putting a lot of pressure on myself. I would tell myself that this was the only chance I would get to go to college because I was not going to do another PLC if I didn’t get it any college offers.

When it came to graduation, I got my results and I achieved the eight distinctions that I had hoped for. It was a surreal feeling. My attention then turned to being offered DCU. I knew I had hit the quota which was five distinctions for International Relations in DCU, but I knew it was competitive. Good news followed as when round zero came out I received an email from the CAO offering me International Relations in DCU. After going down a different route in an attempt to get into the college I was successful.

Now that I am in DCU I know that even though I did a Post Leaving Cert course there is no difference between me and another person who got the points and hit the criteria. We both deserve our places to study the course that we both worked hard for. You will encounter setbacks and won’t always have the motivation to get the work done, but if you even try and keep your spirits high, there is a good chance that you will succeed.

My experience in higher education has been nothing but positive. It is really what you make it. I have struggled with some of my modules and I am not embarrassed to say I have failed a few modules but when I repeated I passed with flying colours.

College is very different to school when it comes to writing essays. That is one part of college that I struggled with at the start and why I failed a few modules in the first year. Failing modules is normal, so do not be too stressed if you do end up failing a module. There are so many supports in college to help you do better and pass the module when you repeat.

The timetable is very different to school because it is not always nine to five. This gives you loads of time to meet your mates, be involved in societies or even work a few hours to earn a few quid.

As I have said, it’s really what you make it. If you make it to most of your classes and do the work prescribed, then you’ll have no issues with falling behind or being under pressure to submit your work.

Although I do love my course and the modules I study, like the American Political System and Terrorism. What has made my time enjoyable is being involved. I am currently a student Ambassador and my role is to promote DCU and go out and visit schools.

I also work closely with the staff and students around the college, which has helped with making friends and knowing what is happening around the college. Besides being a student Ambassador there are plenty of opportunities to be involved. We have loads of clubs and societies to join. I am a part of the International Relations society and in January we went to Rome where we got to see so much. This was also the weekend of my 21st.

My vision

There are endless opportunities in DCU and my pinnacle moment in DCU so far has been running for the Humanities and Social Science Faculty Rep. Although I did not win, it was a great opportunity to not only put my poster everywhere and to meet and chat with students about the issues they are facing.

During the campaign there were debates and I had to give class talks. This really helped me with public speaking, which I have always had an issue with. I have learned so much from the campaign like how to speak better in public and to understand students’ concerns more. These are things I can keep with me throughout college and beyond.

One piece of advice I would give you if you are considering higher education is to get involved in college life. Join as many societies and clubs as you can and enjoy the experience as it goes so fast. Everyone used to tell me that school years were the best years of your life, but I could not disagree more. I well believe that college years are the best years of your life.

I see students coming in from all walks of life and taking any opportunity they are giving. And you don’t have to drink, be young and be madly sociable to fit into college – there is a place for everyone no matter what kind of person you are.

I am asked all the time: “What are you thinking of doing after you are finished college?” I have two to three options that I am looking into. One is getting an internship in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. This internship would be four years and would give me two years’ experience in the Department and then two years in an Embassy in another country.

I am also looking at moving to the United States because I have a big interest in American politics. In the future, I hope to run for office and become a politician for my area of Dublin North West, as I love working with people and representing those who deserve more in life.