Academic Stress: Quarantine Edition

By Amy Park

With the recent pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns, the effects of quarantine have taken a toll on learning in school in all households, albeit with some positives. While the freedom granted by online learning gave students more time to complete assignments and study, it also allowed for increased procrastination, especially as the use of devices like laptops and phones became mandated.

The absence of proctoring or monitoring of homework or tests allowed many students to utilize other methods in order to receive better grades, and while the consistently higher percentages may have been a benefit in the short term, the lack of authentic studying ultimately leads to the failure to apply and retain any knowledge. While many students may disregard their school’s curriculum and education as a tiresome routine in their lives, they fail to acknowledge the importance of having both necessary and extensive knowledge that may be applied to life beyond elementary, middle, or high school. As in-person school becomes a reality again this coming year, tasks that previously seemed simple, such as studying for a test, may seem unfamiliar, while habits like procrastinating may last longer than desired. In the face of these challenges, it becomes increasingly significant to strengthen our adaptability to differing environments, especially for our mental health.

As we move closer to the arrival of physical school, I know many students, myself included, are dreading the upcoming school year, academically speaking. While learning in-person does have its benefits –– through a more comprehensive curriculum that may be difficult to understand through a screen –– the recent drought of motivation to actively partake in school (which might’ve been provided previously through a teacher’s close monitoring or a fellow peer’s similar participation) has greatly affected the performance of students. This absence of contact could well be the cause of a decrease in engagement, but nevertheless, the fact remains that less students are focusing on learning for the sake of learning and instead are looking solely towards the end results.

This kind of thinking will eventually lead to failed grades once any outside resources used in the place of one’s own knowledge during the pandemic are cut off; by becoming dependent on external sources of information such as web browsers or classmates, the sudden self-sufficiency caused by “normal” school can be harmful to many people’s academic records. This abrupt transition will no doubt be stressful for many students, with a poll conducted by Common Sense Media reporting that 41% of teenagers have not attended a single virtual class –– this lack of engagement is detrimental once school starts again. Back-to-school anxiety may start to come up as children and teenagers alike are thrust into a new social environment after a highly isolated one, and feeling apprehensive over maintaining good grades after nearly 2 years of being inactive school-wise isn’t exactly a benefiting factor.

In addition, the CDC found that mental health-related visits to emergency rooms increased 31% for ages 12 to 17 compared to 2019, many of which were attributed to the lessened interaction with teachers and other classmates. The lack of school-based intervention in identifying warning signs in students also played a part in the worsening of mental health in students, and the mandatory isolation caused by COVID clearly exacerbated many of the existing mental health issues present in students.