I am now in my second year of university, and when the pandemic began when I was in Year 12, studying for my A-Levels. I remember being told that we would probably only be off school for a couple of weeks, and definitely could not have predicted what would unfold over the following two years. I ended up spending most of my final school years at home, teaching myself three essay-based subjects from textbooks alone. The lack of routine during online learning caused many students to fall behind and fail to achieve the required grades needed to progress into higher education. In January 2021, the UK went into its third lockdown, cancelling exams for the second consecutive year, and putting life back on hold. This instilled great uncertainty amongst students, including myself, because we were unaware of how this would affect our results, and more importantly, our chances of going to university.
Moreover, young people have been left worried about their qualifications and likelihood of securing a stable job in the future. The British Science Association reported that almost three-quarters of young people (73%) expressed “concerns about the impact that the Covid-19 will have on their future career as they face an economy in recession.” This is not only a concern for the future, but also for the present, as many students have been left unemployed and unable to sufficiently fund their studies.
Retrospectively, I am glad that my university experience was not impacted by Covid. I spoke with a friend who started university in 2021, the year before me, and they said that students were only able to mix with their own households, all lectures were online, and societies could not be joined due to risk of infection. This not only impacted students financially, as they were still expected to pay full tuition fees, but this sudden isolation had detrimental impacts on students' mental health. A survey conducted by the Higher Education Policy Institute in the UK reported that 58% of undergraduates’ mental health deteriorated during the pandemic. Similarly, the charity Mind reported that 9 in 10 (88%) young people said loneliness made their mental health worse during the rise of Covid-19. The lockdown caused a significant increase in loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
Ultimately, it is clear that the pandemic had indisputable academic, social, and psychological consequences for the youth of today. The instability and insecurity of the future has instilled great anxiety in young adults, robbing them of their formative years, and putting a huge weight on their shoulders as they transition to adulthood.