The Covid-19 pandemic has completely disrupted everyday life. As the economy suffers and people worry about their well-being, a significant part of the population that has been affected is young people on the brink of entering the next stage of their lives. As is being widely acknowledged, college students graduating in 2020 face the unfortunate fate of entering a job market during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. High School students are in a very similar situation, as they navigate the critical but stressful process of college admissions. The disruption created by the virus has made their futures extremely uncertain.
Three high-school students Prisha Gandhi, Janvi Choksi and Shubham Choudhary understood that mental health is often an overlooked problem especially aggravated due to COVID-19 Pandemic.
According to Prisha, a student of an International Board in Mumbai, “Pandemic. This grave term can simply be defined as a disease which is prevalent in the entire world. However, with a different perception, one can look at it in another way. The current pandemic, Coronavirus, has affected almost every facet of people’s lives. From personal health and well-being, to impact on finances. One aspect that is often overlooked or even demeaned in many cultures is mental health. Along with physical well-being, it is extremely vital for one to be mentally aware, especially due to the current situation.”
Prisha joined hands with two more students, Janvi and Shubham from Mumbai, and conducted primary research. The focus of the study was to find differences in the anxiety levels of Grade 11 and Grade 12 students from both Indian and International Boards who plan to attend university in India as well as abroad.
This research interpreted three crucial things: uncertainty in their academic futures, comparison in the anxiety levels of students from the international school boards and the Indian school boards, and lastly the general anxiety caused by the changes in learning due to the virus. These lead to the aims of the study:
The research showed that 87% of the students interviewed were battling anxiety in their academic lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Words such as “very lonely” and “I feel a sense of loneliness due to being unable to meet friends” were identified. This entails how quarantine limits interaction with the outside world and even though interaction and conversations take place online, the participants still felt lonely and longed for physically meeting with their friends.
88% of the 11th graders from both the school boards were found to be stressed about their academic lives. Many could be stressed about changes in their marks and many could be anxious due to the anticipation of their futures and university acceptances. 77% of the 11th graders felt stressed and overburdened due to online school. As there have been many changes in the learning styles, all of which have been shifted to online platforms, students could be stressed due to the adaptation to these ever-growing changes and any implications that online schooling might have on their grades and transcripts.
58% of the 11th graders validated that cancellation of exams makes them anxious. This could be because they may not have good marks prior to the pandemic and wanted to improve, or it could be stressful due to the importance of exams for colleges and universities in and out of India. The top cause of anxiety was the uncertainty of the future; students felt unsure about the college application process.
“The online schooling system has affected the students’ ability to focus on their work and is actually more stressful than normal school. Online school is quite stressful for many students for many reasons like Wi-Fi problems. Most students find it difficult to pay attention while studying online due to the many distractions at home, and this affects their ability to learn, which may affect their grades, and this makes them stressed out,” says Janvi.
Anxiety is a feeling of unease when an individual’s body responds to stress or trauma. It can make one feel fearful or apprehensive anticipating the forthcomings of the future. Anxiety can range from very minimal, and ordinary situations like the first day of school, or it can be very extreme. In extreme cases, symptoms of anxiety last for more than six months and it can be said that the person is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. 87.1 % of their participants said they feel anxious about their future which clearly shows that the collateral effects of the pandemic are beginning to take a toll on young students’ mental health.
The 11th-grade students appeared to be struggling to fit into the so-called “new normal” of having online classes. Around 77% say they feel overburdened and overstressed due to online school and around 80% of them think that their academics have been affected due to online schools. Astoundingly, 100% of the 11th-grade students enrolled in international boards say they feel overburdened and overstressed due to online school.
“I definitely feel my career is at stake and online school just makes me lethargic with no energy to do anything else. I used to think of myself as an all rounded person but now I’m just constantly studying and receiving no good results. Along with stress and anxiety, I am more sad nowadays and I really don’t like how things are looking in my life. The Coronavirus has caused multiple problems for me and my acquaintances. I don’t feel there is a word that really encapsulates the worry, fear, anxiety, and stress I feel on a daily basis,” expressed Anaya.
“I don’t know what a post-COVID-19 world will look like. I’ve read about comparable events like the world wars, but society is going to undergo an unprecedented metamorphosis. Jobs and college feel like smoke and mirrors now,” said Paras (name changed).
Students in the 12th grade reported experiencing anxiety concerning college applications. One surprising finding from the study is the issue of uncertainty with college admissions that has been amplified due to the ongoing pandemic. Over 70% of grade 12 students feel that the cancellation of exams due to the pandemic will affect their college application. Out of that, around 57.9 % of them say this is indeed making them anxious.
“I’m just stressed that I won’t get into the university I want to go to”, “stressed out about getting into good universities”, “scared that there is going to be more competition to get into college”, are among the typical responses from the grade 12 students.
While it is important to note that some students said they felt normal, the majority of students expressed feelings of anxiety. High school academics as well as the college admissions process is already stressful. With the unprecedented disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, high school students are facing higher levels of academic anxiety than they are used to.
Families and friends need to come together and support each other so that we can get through these trying and uncertain times.