A-Level results day is always a challenging time of year for prospective students. As
the rush of anticipation, excitement and sometimes disappointment makes its mark
on young people across the country, we know that this is just the start of their
journey into academic life and independence. A journey that, this year, will be like no
With some students dealing with the pressure and uncertainty of clearing, results day
itself can feel incredibly intense. But once the dust settles, there’s a whole lot more
that students prepare for with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. These
experiences are, mostly, unique to higher education students.
University life simply isn’t the same as it was last year
Evidence suggests that life’s transition points are often when people can be most
likely to develop mental health difficulties. Even before the coronavirus pandemic
struck, many young people would be transitioning from one phase of life to the next
every September – an experience that might involve leaving friends and family
behind, moving in with strangers and managing your own home – and your finances
– for the first time. It’s fun, certainly, but it can also be incredibly daunting. However,
in the context of coronavirus, students are even more uncertain about what to
expect. This is the same for returning students as well as new students – university
life simply isn’t the same as it was last year.
The complications posed by social distancing only add to this pressure. Students
may be feeling isolated, being unable to socialise in the ways in which they are used
to. This is already causing some students to feel lonely – and we can only imagine
that new friendships will take a little longer to develop if they’re taking place in a
socially distanced manner.
It’s fair to say that everyone goes through ups and downs in terms of their wellbeing
– we all have mental health after all. But for around a quarter of us, these
fluctuations in mood can develop into symptoms of an ongoing mental health
difficulty. We also know that Generation Z are more likely to shoulder the impact of
today’s economic problems as they are likely to be living in rented accommodation
and reliant on regular income – often from the hospitality industry – in order to
support their studies.
Mental health difficulties are rarely the result of one single cause. Often, as
mentioned above, our mental health is shaped by a combination of our environment
and how safe and inclusive it may be, our genes, lived experiences, and learning
opportunities. Additionally, when students first head to university, there’s a whole
new way of learning to contend with. Student life is such a step change from school,
with study being fairly independent and self-driven. So in addition to the content and
level of the work itself, the way students learn is another big change.