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COVID-19 Lockdown: Dealing with the Academic Uncertainty

COVID-19 Lockdown: Dealing with the Academic Uncertainty

As the nation grapples with the 21-day lockdown, and questions are mostly being asked about essential commodities and number of positive coronavirus cases, one segment of the population which is faced with a lot of uncertainty are the country’s students. Unfortunately, the virus scare and the subsequent lockdown has come right in the middle of India’s exam season.

Ongoing 10th & 12th standard board exams have been postponed, with no certainty about when the exams will be scheduled next. National & State level entrance exams have been postponed such as the JEE Mains (the national level entrance exam for securing a seat to the prestigious IITs and other technical institutes in the country), college & school admissions are on a hold, and the affected students have no answers to when can they expect things to get back on track. There is also uncertainty over the medical entrance exam, NEET 2020 which was scheduled for end April. A majority of students were in the middle of answering their exams or were prepping up for the same.

Students appearing for competitive exams and final year school or college exams, usually display some amount of anxiety in any case. Even applying to universities abroad and for some who were scheduled to travel abroad for higher studies, has all been put on hold. Most students work with a certain timeline in mind, with respect to their academics. And when this timeline is thrown haywire for reasons beyond one’s control, it becomes pretty difficult to imagine a future where everything will be back on track.

The lockdown and resultant cancelation of exams has only compounded this effect. A student I was counselling just the other day, displayed severe distress on not knowing when their last remaining board exam will take place, when will they be able to apply to colleges, and there were just so many questions about the future. Students are finding themselves in a lurch with not knowing about the future course of action. The uncertainty which has engulfed the academic future of millions of students across the country, is having a negative effect on their overall mental health.

More commonly at this time, parents may notice youngsters displaying an increased irritability in dealing with family members, agitation at the mention of academics, withdrawal from family time, lack of interest in keeping up with the study preparation in a scheduled manner, poor appetite and disturbed sleep patterns. Some students may also display a lack of purpose and express a sense of hopelessness. There may be an inability to imagine a future where things will get back to normal. It may also be difficult for some to consider that other students across the country find themselves in a similar situation and that one is not alone in this.

So, if you are a student who has been affected by the postponement of examinations and admissions, take these simple steps to deal with any negative thoughts you may have about the academic uncertainty in front of you:

• Acknowledge that even though it may seem like it, this won’t last forever. The measures related to exam postponements are for your own safety. It is better that the next date is not announced amid this uncertainty than announcing a tentative date and having to cancel it, if at all.

• Acknowledge that you are not in this alone. Since every other student in your position is affected equally, eventually the solutions that will be taken by college or examination authorities will be equally justified for all concerned.

• While it may be difficult to remain focused on your studies all day long, not just because of the uncertainty but also because of other distractions, like everyone being at home at the same time, remember that it’s not impossible. Set aside a time of the day, when no matter what, you will study and / or revise the portion. In fact, for those of you sitting for competitive exams, treat this isolation time as a bonus time for preparing even better than you would have done, under the normal circumstances.

• Use this time to plan your future career path. Almost all career counsellors / psychologists are offering online career guidance and study planning sessions. Just contact a professional in this field, and take your pending aptitude tests to decide what you want to do later on, once this is all over.

• Spend some time online to search for colleges you would like to apply to. Read up about their admissions process, write down your essays & and keep your applications ready. When the time comes, all this background work will come as a relief. A lot of college admission officials are working from home and would be happy to answer your queries.

At this time it’s important to focus on what’s within your control, in the given situation. While it’s okay to feel upset about what’s happening and how it “is” affecting you; it is advisable not to focus on what “will” happen and how it “will” affect you at a later stage. A structure and routine to most days and a few unstructured days in between will ensure that you are spending the lockdown in a balanced way. We have all entered a pause, but this pause doesn’t have to be entirely negative. How you deal with the current time is what is going to matter, once this is all over.

[Article first published under the same title in The Gomantak Times on 8th April, 2020]