Advice for students on managing the impact of the virus

Credit to Author: Geneviève Beaupré and Susan Qadeer| Date: Mon, 10 Aug 2020 21:41:01 +0000

There is no doubt the worldwide coronavirus pandemic has upended plans for postsecondary students. The impact can be felt academically, socially and financially.

While plans and delivery modes of academics may vary, the result is bound to increase the number of unknowns for students. While some stress can be expected at the post-secondary level due to exams and new challenges, the current environment makes the usual worries pale in comparison. As a student, there are some things you can do to manage your worries and get support from your school.

Find ways to help yourself
As a post-secondary student, you are bound to go through many different feelings. The coronavirus has brought significant changes to school life and many of them are clearly ones you may not have anticipated. While it is not yet clear what post-secondary school will look like in 2020-2021, it it will likely be different from what you imagined and planned for. There may be disappointment caused by curtailed socializing and cancelled events, isolation and loneliness, and confusion on where to get good information on school services, facilities and academic regulations. Contact with faculty will be different and the customary ways of doing things modified.

For first-year students, the challenges are compounded as they are not familiar with the lay of the land at their school and may not know how to ask for help.  Familiarizing themselves with the school’s website, attending online orientations, and asking questions will be crucial to learning how to navigate school.

Maintaining academic standing as well as physical and mental health will be more important than ever. You will need to take control of your academic work, find time for regular exercise, keep a good sleep schedule and eat healthy without giving yourself too much grief for slip-ups.

Staying connected with family and friends and making the most of new connections where you find them will be very important. Although you will be busy with academic work, you will not want to eliminate sports, interests and activities that give you pleasure and add meaning to your life.

Finding some volunteer work may help you get perspective and increase your sense of connection during this time. Staying hopeful, energized and positive will fall  fully on your shoulders. But you can also look to your school for some help. Most colleges and universities will continue to offer counselling through phone or video, so you don’t have to do it all alone.

Look to your school for help
Most schools and student associations have well developed student support services including counselling, academic advising, career centres, tutoring, writing centres, health providers and other supports commonly used by students.

Although the coronavirus may change the way these services are now delivered, help will still be available even if it means being referred to other services outside the school. When you find yourself in need, let the school do what they can.  The staff at school are professionals who are experienced in dealing with post-secondary students. While there is a lot of information on the internet, you want to be careful who you listen to. Misinformation can be detrimental to your wellbeing whether it be academic, health, financial or otherwise.

Even if you’re not physically at school, you may still be able to find ways to connect with other students. Although opportunities to interact with others is more limited, the school’s student association, student life department, peer centre and the counselling office may continue to offer online events and activities to help keep you connected to others. Examples of online events may be trivia games, scavenger hunts, mindfulness and yoga sessions, wellness groups, workshops and more. There may also be drop-in times where you can chat with staff and/or students about any questions you might have or anything you have on your mind. While it is more challenging to feel connected, there are ways to reduce isolation while you study remotely.

The pandemic has created less than ideal situations for post-secondary students and no one can say when they will improve, much less when they might go back to what we knew as normal. With your own efforts and the resources of post-secondary schools, you can move forward in your academic and career goals. You may still be able to learn, earn credits, get help with your career and job search, grow through personal counselling and meet new people, even online. School without the full experience may be a disappointment but given the current health, economic and financial crisis, it may have to be enough.

For some students, there may be even some silver linings to be found such as no more long commutes, reduced travel costs, the preference for online learning and the possibility of surprises as professors tackle teaching in new ways.