Understanding the full toll of the pandemic on high school-graduating students
Transition periods are some of the most frustrating and uncertain phases a person has to go through. Whether it be changing houses, switching jobs, or moving to another country, the transition phase -- the time before everything settles down -- is inevitable and unbearable.
For the batch of 2020 -- those who, like myself, graduated from high school right before corona started -- this phase has stretched out for far too long. It has been over a year since everything ceased. Our exams were cancelled, our results auto-generated, our graduation ceremony still pending. We never got to say a proper goodbye.
But the world kept moving. Everything shifted online, from shopping to conferences to teaching. But batch 2020 didn’t. Well, most couldn’t anyway.
Typically, after HSC and A levels are over in April and May, students get around three to four months of preparation time before sitting for university admission exams in September. However, due to the pandemic, admission exams were postponed indefinitely.
We waited without a single clue as to what would happen. At first, I’m sure we all enjoyed having so much free time, something we haven’t had for years. Most of us started binging on new TV shows, got hooked on new video games, started working out, picked up a new hobby, or did an online course for fun. But believe it or not, having this much free time gets extremely boring after a while. Especially after 12 months of doing -- nothing, really. After a point, you crave the routine life you used to have, the people you used to meet every day, and the new things you’d learn.
Admittedly, you miss school!
Some of my batchmates have given up waiting and have enrolled in private universities, which are still operating online. However, private universities are not a viable option for everyone. The majority are waiting to try their luck at public universities such as DU, IBA, BUET, JU, CU, or government colleges. It’s a gamble really.
Ramisa Rakib of Adamjee Cantonment College expresses: “It has been emotionally draining for me, not knowing if I’ll get admitted. If I don’t, I’ll have to opt for private, which would mean my waiting for public university was a sheer waste of time.” Not only are we losing time, we’re also being deprived of Covid vaccines for being neither a university student nor a college student.
After almost a year of anticipation, the public universities finally released admission circulars.
But that doesn’t solve our problem.
Just two months after the release of their circular, DU postponed exams to August due to the recent spike in Covid. IBA and BUP followed soon after. “When I heard the DU exam was postponed, I knew that all my cramming, sacrifices, and the pressure I put myself through went to waste, because by the time the exam actually comes around, I will have forgotten everything” says Mansiv Hamid Shangram from Sunnydale School. Exams getting delayed are indeed infuriating. All your efforts seem futile. Your concentration crumbles. You have no motivation left to keep revising and thus leave it till the last minute. Exams are like ripping off a band-aid -- it’s better to just get it over with.
Although we have had ample time to study for admission exams, a lot of students are still under-prepared. Many people dismiss our challenges saying: “Wow, you had all the time in the world yet you didn’t utilize it?!” It’s not that simple. Towseef Ahmed from St Joseph school remarks that “focusing has been a key struggle for me. Without an exam date, there is no goal to work towards and no urgency either.”
Besides this, constantly hearing news of deaths of relatives and acquaintances and being confined at home all the time really takes a toll on one’s mental health. There are hundreds of distractions in the house too, especially when it’s full to the brim. All these factors combined fuel procrastination even further.
These are not excuses -- they are a reality.
However, after an entire year of endeavouring and experimenting, I have found a few tactics that can help increase productivity.
First and foremost, create a routine. This includes a sleep schedule tailored to your productive hours (ie, if you’re an early bird, get up early to study, and vice versa for night owls). Then, set targets and plan out your day. Start with very small targets like finishing five pages of your GK book. Reaching those goals, no matter how small, will give a sense of accomplishment.
Lastly, keep a journal. Every day feels the same in lockdown, right? I have found that, to differentiate my days, writing down what I did each day helps me form a clearer image. I can keep track of the progress I’ve made and emphasize on where I’m lacking. Every day doesn’t feel like déjà vu anymore.
These suggestions are easier said than done. The present situation is in no way easy to manage. We don’t know how many postponements it will take or how long we’ll have to wait till the situation is safe enough to take exams. It may seem like we have all the time in the world, but others don’t understand just how insufferable being stuck in this no man’s land is. Everyone is facing hardships and fighting their own battles, so don’t let anyone tell you “you have it easy.”
Because floating in this dark void with no sense of direction or purpose is exasperating, excruciating, and enervating. But even though we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, we have to be hopeful and keep marching forward.
Noyolee Munim is a student, from the Sunnydale batch of 2020.