It’s no secret, but Covid19 has had a grave impact on the ability of students to graduate from 2 or 4 year schools. A recent Gallup poll of 6,000 student from the fall of 2020 confirmed these assumptions, as 49% of students in 4 year colleges and 56% of students in 2 year colleges replied that it was likely or very likely that the pandemic would prevent them from graduating.
Theories on these attitudes are not overly speculative. A lack of means in a recession and the difficulty of navigating the dangers of exposure to the virus seem to account for a good portion of this concern. But another less visible effect of the virus is the anxiety resulting from it. In a poll by the National Association of Student Personnel of 3.500 students, 81% of those attending 4-year schools reported feelings of anxiety related to the pandemic.
The top netting response explaining the source of this anxiety was worry related to the ability to stay engaged with remote learning. The Zoom format that confronts college students now is a grind. It’s difficult not to be distracted by other windows on the device, by the surrounding environment, and just by the static nature of the medium itself.
The second leading explanation for this crippling anxiety was about making friends and maintaining relationships. While adults looking in on a young adult’s life often underestimate the value of this domain, it is, generally speaking, a focal point for them, even in its absence.
The impact of anxiety is invisible, but the escalating college drop-out numbers this year allude to its impact. The tangible issues that confront students in Zoom education often appear insurmountable, and the resources to overcome them scant. I had one student who is currently working with me who had become so overwhelmed with these challenges and how to address them on a fundamental level that he began to google, “how to drop out of college,” before fortunately ending up on tutoring & coaching as a solution rather than capitulation.
But the pandemic has been incredibly isolating for young adults, loathe to ask for assistance from parents or caregivers in their natural quest for autonomy. The paths to the resources that could help them have been obscured as a result.
Seeking subtle channels to evade the social stigmatization of getting assistance is one area that I see could really help alleviate these issues facing pandemic college students.
In addition, the medium of VR, though not available to all due to its expense, has incredible potential to mitigate the anxieties of a lack of engagement and of diminished socialization. Imagine meeting with peers and instructors in three dimensional space to engage in the limitless possibilities of virtuality. The software and hardware to do so is available now and evolving rapidly. So many young adults would benefit tremendously from its use, and I hope many educational support programs may develop systems for utilizing it soon.
Until then we must do everything we can as parents and educators to connect young adults teetering on the cliff of surrender to keep fighting the good fight with virtual education. A dry job market is not an appealing alternative, and though much is unclear at this point, a college degree will still mean something in the future, regardless of what apocalyptics would suggest. Keeping them on the path is critical.