How can students plan for the future with so much uncertainty?
April 21, 2021
In the midst of our third lockdown, planning for the next academic year will likely be a priority for many students right now. This can be a stressful process in the best of times, so the air of uncertainty around when things will return to normal, can make it feel impossible to make long term plans and prepare. The next year or so feels too uncertain to even book a holiday at the moment, nevermind take steps as big as making the move to another city, or securing your post-graduate job. Yet there is a whole generation of students going through this process in such unique circumstances, so what does this look like for them?
These circumstances may feel particularly uncertain for students travelling away to university, particularly those starting their first year in September. The preparation for this can be such a positive experience, planning for so many social, practical and academic opportunities, it really is an exciting time for young adults. It can therefore be unsettling for current students to discover they are unable to go and view university campuses or accommodation, before they commit to staying there. Or that the borders may restrict when, and how often they are able to return home. So how can you prepare for the unexpected? Policies regarding Covid-19, remote learning and tenancy agreements are a crucial new part of university research. It may be helpful to have an idea of what remote learning would look like at your university, particularly if you were to return home in the event of another UK lockdown. Some accommodations have offered full or partial refunds for terms where students had to return home, whereas others have not. A good place to start is accommodation affiliated with your university, alternatively if your private accommodation doesn’t include any information about the event of a lockdown in your tenancy agreement, don’t be afraid ask the landlord about this. Local organisations have also created a lot of resources specific to the circumstances of Manx students, such as the Manx Students’ Union ‘Operation Fairy Bridge’, with up to date information around travelling to and from the island. There are countless students all in the same boat (no pun intended), so engaging with local organisations and groups is a great way to connect with people who may understand exactly how you are feeling.
While there are some considerations that can be taken to prepare for unexpected changes, this is a good time to give energy to those things you know you can control, rather than keeping track of all the things you can’t. This could look like paying attention to your support systems, maybe ensuring you can have regular calls with a family member or friend is something that would benefit your wellbeing at university. Some people may feel more comfortable knowing they are up to date with government information about the pandemic. Whereas for others, who may find a daily influx of this information stressful, a step back from social media may be beneficial. This can look like researching the city or town you are going to, finding people from your lectures and seminars through university pages, or even researching the experiences of students over the past year. In a time where there is a lot of discussion about all the things that could go wrong, it can be worth remembering all the things you are excited for. Maybe you’re excited to meet new and like-minded people, get stuck in a course you love, or have your first taste of independence living on your own.
This uncertainty affects people no matter where they are in their academic career, for students remaining on the Isle Of Man, it feels there is still always the threat of another lockdown looming. This can be stressful for so many different reasons, there are people who would much rather be in their school or college, around their friends and out of the house. While others may benefit from spending more time at home, or have become so used to it that the idea of returning to normality again is actually very daunting. Even without this issue of travel some students are facing, having your time and resources limited during a period of life already involving a lot of pressure, is overwhelming to say the least. The prospects of returning to normality are equally strange for recent or upcoming graduates right now. With a lot of workplaces unable to conduct face to face interviews under current restrictions, this creates another obstacle for those trying to plan for their future outside of education.
While we are all going through this, everyone’s individual experience of it will be very unique. In a situation like this, it is okay to be feeling unsure, more stressed than usual, or to not be sure how you are feeling at all. If the things that you usually find help you manage stressful times, don’t seem to be working at the moment, this could mean you may benefit from some extra support. This can come from a trusted individual in your life, whether that is a teacher, a parent, a friend. It could involve supporting you within that relationship, or helping you to identify external support through your school, or local organisations.