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College students feel left behind in this pandemic

College students are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in news


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College students have said they have been forgotten about and left behind during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.

Since campuses closed across the country in March, college students feel they have been put under an unreasonable amount of pressure to complete assignments and exams, and they have received no support from the Government or Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).

How college students have been affected by COVID-19

We asked college students to share their experiences since this crisis began. These are some of the most common issues that came up:

Difficulties with online learning

Online learning can be challenging, especially for students who are used to having lectures and tutorials in person. Not all students have the space they need to be able to focus on their work, and they could have other responsibilities. Another challenge is that the way classes are delivered can vary from one lecturer or department to the next, meaning students have to adapt to a new way of learning for each class.

In other cases, some students were receiving no online support at all. “In my college, depending on what course you're doing, you either had online classes from day one, constant communication with lecturers and a dialogue about how best to proceed, or you had no classes, you were told to teach yourself and you've had several new assignments added with little time to complete them and no leeway,” said college student, Mike Edgar. Chloe Boland, a language student, has received no support or online classes from her department in the final few weeks of the term. "It’s kind of impossible to teach a language to yourself at home," she says.

Natasha Sutton, a student from Co. Cork, said that while her lecturers did their best to support students online, “they all had different ways of doing so, such as through Google Meets, Canvas Discussion Boards, etc. I believe it would have worked better if each adopted a similar approach rather than having to access different apps for different lecturers.”

Unrealistic workloads

Students feel that colleges and departments are putting too much pressure on them to complete assignments and exams before the end of the year. Because the traditional end-of-year exams have been cancelled, it is up to each department and/or lecturer to decide how to replace them. For many students, this means more assignments or online exams which need to be completed in a very short space of time.

Niamh Quinn, a law student at Maynooth University, said “I was given 16 essays ranging from 2,500 words to 7,000 words, to complete in 4-5 weeks,” the equivalent of a PhD thesis which normally takes 4 years to write. In addition to this, she has received no slides or notes from some lecturers, and she is worried she could miss out on a place for a Masters degree if she has to repeat any exams. This could come with a cost of €9500, as she would need to pay her fees to secure a place next year instead.

Digital divide

With many students forced to return to their family homes during this pandemic, access to technology or a reliable internet connection can be limited for some. Students in rural areas are finding it hard to engage with online classes or submit assignments on time because their wifi or data is so unreliable. “My internet here in the countryside is very unreliable. I had to email my lecturers countless times to inform them that my internet cut off midway through live zoom calls or just before it - causing me to miss valuable information and possibly affecting my attendance grades,” shared Lauren Maunsell, a 19 year old student in Tipperary.

Not all students even have access to the technology they need to engage with classes. Criodán Ó Murchú, a 22 year old student at NUI Galway, said one of his classmates had to share one laptop between four people in her family, one of whom was a medical student, so that they could all take part in exams on the same day.

Another student, Mair Kelly, age 21 and from Cork, said “I was lucky to be loaned a laptop thanks to the SU, without that I would not have been able to complete exams and would have had to wait and see whether we would even have repeats in August.”

Lack of financial support

Many students around the country are supporting themselves through college. With job losses and business closures, students are concerned that they may not be able to get work during the summer to save for the next college year.

Niamh Quinn, the law student in Maynooth, said she took a break from work during her final year to focus on her studies, which meant she wasn’t eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. “I have unfortunately run out of the savings that were keeping me afloat, yet am still paying rent and bills in a house that I have not lived in for 2 months. I have had to take a loan out to cover this” she said, a situation that many students across the country are facing.

Missing out on college life and important milestones

For many students, college is an exciting time and an important phase in their life. Being forced to leave the campus means they are now missing out on college experiences. Lauren Maunsell, a 19 year old student from Tipperary, had just put herself forward for Social Sciences College Officer in the UCD Students’ Union when things were ground to a halt. She was looking forward to taking part in a traditional campaign by speaking to students and putting up posters, but this was all moved online instead. But aside from that, what she’s missing is the experience of being in college surrounded by other students. “I miss the interactiveness of the lectures and seminars. I miss the chats with my friends and grabbing lunch with them.”

Students in final year feel like they have been robbed of the opportunity to mark the end of this part of their life. “I did a PLC after I left school, and am now about to finish a 4 year degree, so I’ve been in college for 5 years really, and everything it has been building up to has ended quite suddenly and abruptly,” said Róisín Murphy, a 23 year old student from Mayo. Students attended their final lectures on campus, without realising they wouldn’t be returning again.

Students want support

It is clear that students want support and recognition from the Department of Education and the Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) to help them through this crisis. They have been put under a lot of pressure in recent months, and they are worried about the impact it will have on their degrees, as well as their mental health.

Want to share your experience as a college student during the COVID-19 pandemic? Write about it for SpunOut.ie.

Read more testimonials form college students on how they have been impacted by COVID-19.

Read opinion pieces from young people on this subject:

View our Wellbeing Guide for College Students here.

Need more information?

Would you like more information? Maybe you would like to talk through your own situation? Get in touch through our online chat system for 16 to 25 year olds - Monday to Friday 4pm to 8pm.

Feeling overwhelmed or anxious around the current pandemic?

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Published May 14th2020
Last updated Octo­ber 25th2020
Tags covid-19
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.
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