The day that it was announced that our A-Level exams would be cancelled was a very surreal one. My college was holding its annual fancy dress day to raise money for charity. By the end of the day, everyone in my year and I were standing around a television screen in complete shock, dressed in ridiculous outfits, some crying and wiping away their face paints.
What was meant to be a happy day took a turn for the worse as some reflected on whether they would even be going to university that year, given the uncertain nature of the way that we are going to be assessed.
Since then, it has felt as if every week has revealed a new piece of information that has often left us with more questions than we had before.
First, it was a question of whether our mock results would be taken into account when calculating grades, as understandably some students had poor results that they were planning to improve on this summer. Although I feel that teachers deciding our grades based on the work we have done over the past two years, with formal exams taking place in the autumn for those who wish to do so, is the fairest way to do it under the circumstances, many of my peers criticised this system as being unfair. The results we gain in formal exams are often wildly different to what our teachers predict.
The most recent shocking piece of news is that Cambridge University is planning to hold all its lectures online until Summer 2021, although they will review this according to the changing situation. Although universities should clearly re-open only when it is safe to do so, myself and many of my friends feel that this announcement is irresponsible considering that no one can know what the circumstances will be next year.
Many students are considering taking a gap year rather than spending over £9000 to sit at home all year and watch online lectures, and announcements such as this that are subject to change only makes the decisions we have to make over the next few months a lot harder.
If masses of students choose to defer their places, this will obviously have a knock on effect for Year 12s, who will not only have to compete with their peers for places but with far more gap-year students than usual. One of my friends in Year 12, who is in care, is worried that she will not have a stable income or place to live if she does not gain a place.
Although the situation for my year is not ideal, we no longer have to deal with the stress of revising for our upcoming exams, whereas the year below, many of whom do not have sufficient resources to study at home, cannot say the same.
There is also speculation about the possibility that seminars and tutorials could still be held. This means that the vast majority of students would have to move into university accommodation, which arguably defeats the point of the decision to hold lectures online.
The situation is even more difficult for international students who have to pay fees of up to £30,000 a year; another of my friends who lives in Beijing but studies here is considering doing her degree in China, despite being offered places to some of the UK’s top universities. I myself had to pick my firm choice despite not being able to go to the open day of the university I ultimately chose; otherwise, my decision could have been very different.
It is clear that the government has regarded the wellbeing of students as somewhat of an afterthought, with university students expected to pay full fees solely for online lectures and many forced to pay rent for the accommodation they are no longer living in.
However, I am optimistic that the situation will work itself out and I am conscious that my own worries about my education are nothing compared to the suffering that so many are experiencing as they lose their jobs and homes, their family members and friends. In the meantime, students, along with the rest of the country, must wait and see how the situation changes.