Not getting into college was a blessing in disguise

Karen was disappointed when she didn’t get into college but it all worked out for the best

Written by Karen Condell


School was always an iffy subject for me. I was sick a lot and missed on average thirty days a year, from first to sixth year. I was passionate about some subjects like Religion and my languages; Irish, German and Spanish.

The mock exams were not that bad. Then came the orals. I had three to do and just my luck I had a throat infection. I muddled through. The leaving cert itself was kind of a blur. I got through each exam and put it behind me, until results day. Walking up to the school, my stomach turns. This is it.

I’m greeted by fellow students with a head nod and a kind of half smile.  Some students look happy, some sit down shaking their head, looking at this piece of paper again and again, hoping it would change. I get my envelope from a teacher. This is actually it. Everything can change with this envelope. I don’t open it.

I slip away from prying eyes and get outside. I have missed calls from my family. I finally answer the phone and open the envelope walking down the road. A quick glance and I don’t see any F’s. Phew.

I add up the points. Not enough. I applied for Psychology and Philosophy. I was short 30 points. The next few days I pretend like I’m okay but then the question burns, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’’ It was tough to hear all of my friends planning college life. This was such an exciting part of their lives and I was just watching from the side.

I typed up my CV and sent it to anyone who was hiring. I got a few interviews with retail shops but they never amounted to anything. Everyone was starting college and going out on ‘Fresher’s Week’. I was sitting at home worrying. I got a call to come into a cafe for a trial. I was to clean dishes off tables. It was so busy, I was in a fluster. Somehow, I got told that I got the job. I now worked full time, it was tiresome. This was my first job. I cried every day for the first two weeks. It was scary to be thrown into the deep end having had no experience. But I kept going.

After a few months of work, I got a promotion to be on the counter serving the customers. I was taught how to make barista coffees. I started training new employees and being trusted like this validated me. I soon felt confident and even proud of the fact that I didn’t get into college. I love food and people so in a way I was doing what I wanted. You get close to your regular customers and find yourself really caring about them. I worked there for two years and then wanted more responsibility.

I found somewhere that was looking for a barista as I had become passionate about coffee and the art of making it. I quickly progressed to being a supervisor. I trained the new barista. It was so rewarding being trusted with this. I had a gained a lot of experience learning how to work under the pressures of a busy lunch time and with the demands of the customers.

I listened to my friends complaining about assignments they had to do. I saw how worn out they were from long commutes and the unreliability of public transport. They will get their degrees and it will all be worth it for them but I don’t envy them anymore. I loved my job and I got to make people smile and I got to smile with them, everyday. Yes there are tough times and long hours sometimes and you get those customers that just make you cry. That’s life. I feel a lot more prepared for ‘the big bad world’ as I’ve had the experience with the public every day.

I was told in school that college  was the ‘proper’ way to become successful. I think this can be damaging to people. If you don’t get into college, DO NOT PANIC. I believe that everything happens for a reason and not getting into college was the best thing for me. When and if  I choose to study, I can, on my terms. As Einstein says; ‘’Everybody is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid.’’ It’s your life, do things your way. Sometimes the ‘bad’ things turn out to be blessings in disguise. 

Our work is supported by