They say college is supposed to be the best four years of your life. I had always dreamt of my college experience being somewhat like how they show it in the movies: finding my passions, pursuing my dreams, crazy parties and falling in love. Instead, I lost myself. Who I had become and what I wanted to do with my life had turned to a stranger.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, in my own head, I was Elle Woods. A strong and independent woman who held an undying dream of going to law school. Law school sounded like a dream at the time. To live in a city surrounded by motivated people pursuing the same dream, what else could I ever want? However, the universe had other plans for me.
I remember the day that campus shut down and everybody was sent home. What was supposed to be a two week break had evolved into almost a two year jail sentence. As the pandemic progressed, my fire had dimmed. The excitement and eager nature I held for going to my classes and learning had developed into me begrudgingly opening my laptop and laying in bed, while prioritizing my TikTok for-you-page over the education I once valued so much. The scariest thing about this all is that the thought of law school now felt like a nightmare.
The exhaustion and lack of motivation caused by online classes during the course of the pandemic has impacted many more aside from myself. A survey of 3,500 students by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators found that students reported having more stress over staying engaged in online classes than they did over catching COVID-19 or getting a job post graduation. Another survey of 13,606 students found that 95% thought that tuition should be lowered if classes are online, 75% reported to be unhappy with the quality of their online education and 35% had considered dropping out due to the inefficiency of online learning.
To know that I’m not alone in feeling this way is comforting yet terrifying, especially being that I’m in my senior year. However, we need to focus on the bigger picture here. We have an entire population of students who are not only dissatisfied with their education, but are uninspired and perturbed at the thought of adulthood. The future of this country has been handed one of the most significant disadvantages in our educational history, and now it’s our job to pick ourselves back up.
Prior to the pandemic, in 2015, 44% of undergraduate students were unsure of what career they want to pursue post-graduation. I can only imagine where that percentage currently stands due to the newfound popularity of online learning.
While students are slightly to blame for their lack of motivation, we need to remember that Zoom fatigue is very much a real thing. Zoom fatigue describes the tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication. The primary psychological mechanisms that describe the neuropathophysiology behind this study can scientifically prove that Zoom fatigue is very much real and increasing in popularity. Lack of movement, poor posture, lack of eye contact, social interaction and the inability to engage in reciprocal communication are just some of the detrimental impacts of online learning.
Keeping this in mind, you can’t deny that students have undergone a severe educational change that has little to no reward. Growing up surrounded by peers and motivated teachers in a traditional classroom setting to eventually taking 300 level classes from the comfort of my own bed, I can say no more except the fact that I’m severely lost.
While I know my future is bright, I continue to worry every day over what my life will become at the end of May. So please, be lenient with college students. For our educational compasses are currently lost.