I’m a university student during lockdown – what next?

Illustration shows a young person sitting on a huge pile of books reading

Hi! Edward here, a journalism graduate and writer from Sheffield. Working for UniHomes, I write about everything ‘student;’ the challenges, the tips and any kind of advice I can give on university life! Always wanting to support young people, I’m a huge fan of The Mix and what they do!

With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to affect almost every aspect of normal life across the country, 2020 has come to somewhat of a standstill. If you’re a university student, just like everyone else, it’s only natural to think about how it impacts you.

With so much uncertainty surrounding people’s current studies (not to mention when and how students could return to university), we’ve put together a little guide to try and give you some reassurance.

There’s so much fake news, which information can I trust?

It’s not just in the student community; fake news surrounding the outbreak is everywhere. Knowing which reliable places you can get your information from is crucial for staying up to date and knowing what to do.

Gov.uk is the most accurate and up to date source. This will change regularly as the pandemic develops, but it’s your most reliable source. You can also follow recommendations here on several different issues facing students, such as how your student loan could be affected, as well as the correct ways to get in touch with the Student Loans Company, who provide for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Most importantly you can find NHS tips on how to stay safe.

Government advice for students – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/guidance-for-current-students

At the moment, each university is taking their own approach to teaching, exams and assessments, and there’s been no definitive answer given by the government on marks or exams. Each university and degree will be different, so it’s vital you stay regularly up to date with news solely from your university and tutors regarding exams, dissertations and next year.

I’m missing the structure of university and struggling to cope

School’s out, and so is the basic structure of university life. This doesn’t necessarily boil down to time spent on campus – university life is as much about having your own freedom, space and independence. If you’ve made the decision to move ‘back home,’ a lot of that may have been taken away again.

Staying in touch with your friends is one of the best ways to regain some realm of normality. Zoom, Houseparty and Skype are brilliant apps for doing video calls and can give you a chance to do some of the things you would normally do at university. Universities have a duty of care to their students as well, and each uni will have a dedicated set of services to help you through this difficult time.

Continuing with your studies in the best way you can, will give you a chance at replicating university life. When you’re looking for your own freedom and space, it’s important to remember everyone is in the same boat and at some point, we will come out of this.

Read The Mix’s article on how to cope with corona anxiety.

I don’t have access to all my learning material – How do I stay focused at home?

If you’re not someone who usually stays at home to study, regulating your own time and utilising online lectures and seminars to their full potential can be a challenge. Here are some basic tips that might give you a few ideas on how to be more productive.

Create a study schedule

A schedule will be the backbone to a successful period of prolonged studying from home. Try and stick to the same amount of time you’d spend studying at uni, and mimic lecture and seminar hours.

Have a dedicated workspace

If you’re used to studying at the library, making the transition to home can be difficult. Identify an area at home where you have space for everything you need – laptop, notes, books. If you can, try to get a space which doesn’t have too much footfall in the house.

Engage your learning

Just in the same way you may take notes whilst studying, sit in a comfortable place, listen or watch your lecture, have a notebook handy and treat it as you would for any normal learning time.

Go on regular breaks

Although common advice, when you’re in the same space every day for weeks on end it becomes all the more important. Regular breaks will ensure that your mind stays fresh and you don’t burn out. Stepping away from your laptop and reading your book, playing a game or even going for a walk will pay off and help you clear your head.

Stay in touch with your tutor and classmates

Firstly, if you feel like you’re struggling, speak to your tutor tell them how you’re feeling and ask for help. Otherwise, staying in touch with your classmates or even study groups will be a great opportunity to discuss ideas, analyse texts and maintain the collaborative aspect of university.

Dissertations, exams and assignments are stressful enough for the student community at the best of times. COVID-19 has only added an extra layer of uncertainty and stress, to an already difficult time. Although staying at home might suit some people, the library, or a coffee shop is where some study best and only being able to go out once a day reduces the opportunity to get a much-needed release. It’s important to allow yourself a break and not put too much pressure on yourself (as no one can be on top of things all the time), but if you can find ways to be productive this will be one of the best ways to keep upbeat and remain on top of your studies.

What are my rights as a student?

Each individual circumstance is different, but student rights are very similar to everyone else’s. Students still have to pay their bills, rent and insurance just the same as anyone who isn’t a student. If you’re struggling to get through this because of COVID-19, make sure you regularly check the government’s website for updates on their emergency legislation.

You will still receive your maintenance loan and you can still apply for the next academic years’ worth of finance. If you’re having trouble repaying your student loan because of the virus then don’t worry, you will only be required to pay your money back when you’re earning over the set threshold.

UCAS Student Loans Advice: https://www.ucas.com/undergraduate/after-you-apply/coronavirus-covid-19/student-finance-during-coronavirus-outbreak

What If I’ve already paid my rent but I’ve moved out?

Unfortunately, students still come into the category of private renters. So regardless as to whether or not you’re living in your student accommodation, it still has to be paid. Look at it this way, if you’d decided to move home early after the academic year had finished, you would still have been expected to pay your rent. If the pandemic has caused you to be unable to pay your rent due to a job loss or a reduction in salary, don’t worry as the government have announced legislation to protect renters and ensure that no landlord can start the proceedings to evict tenants for three months. Along with this process, landlords have been protected with a three-month mortgage holiday, for those with tenants who are struggling.

If you have any questions about your tenancy and want to try and negotiate a release from your contract, get in touch with your landlord and you may be able to come to some form of agreement, however, the basis is that you have to pay your rent.

For all the official info look here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/complete-ban-on-evictions-and-additional-protection-for-renters

Read The Mix’s article on understanding your tenancy rights.

What if I’ve already paid for a holding deposit for the next academic year?

If you’ve already signed up for accommodation next year and put down a holding deposit, don’t worry too much and hold your horses before you make any decisions. Although the situation looks a bit bleak, at the moment we don’t know how things are going to restart and some or all restrictions could be lifted come the start of the 2020/2021 academic year.

At the moment, there has been no update from the government regarding holding deposits. If you’ve already made a decision about next year and you’ve decided you no longer want the accommodation, your best bet will be to get in touch with your landlord and see what you can negotiate. If we are still in lockdown, over the next few months, it will be a case of waiting to see what happens; the longer things go on, the more scenarios and situations the government will have to consider for people.

Remember, this isn’t forever

Going from several lectures and seminars a week, seeing your housemates and classmates regularly, and having the freedom of your university campus to roam, to then being in lockdown is bound to have a knock-on effect for any student. Keep reminding yourself that this will eventually pass, and there are experts around the world working to make sure everyone gets through this pandemic. Take advantage of the many support options out there if you’re finding things hard.

If you’re struggling and need someone to talk to, The Mix are always there to listen and to talk. Head here to speak to their team of experts and trained volunteers. All their services are free and confidential and you can talk about absolutely anything that’s on your mind.

Next Steps

  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Citizens Advice offer free help with housing, money and legal problems. Find your local centre.
  • Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity. Search their website for information, research, and to see how you could get involved.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Turner

Updated on 05-May-2020