Starting university during COVID-19

Written by Calvin Bowers

Going to university can be a daunting transition at the best of times, but students set to start university this autumn face challenges that nobody could have predicted. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many lectures and seminars online. As well as limiting socialising to bubbles formed within your university halls or households.

If you are starting university and feel anxious or confused about the future, you are not alone. While things will be different, and essential changes have been made to the university experience, institutions are doing all they can to offer you a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

We have split our advice into two main sections, covering two essential aspects of attending university during COVID-19. They are Online Learning and Self-isolating in halls of residence.

Online learning

While it might have been a disappointment to hear that your classes will take place online rather than in person, there are many benefits to online learning. With the right attitude and support, they can feel just like it would face to face.

Online lectures and seminars are much more inclusive to students with disabilities. Furthermore, students who are now shielding due to a compromised immune system can still access their classes. They offer the chance to work and study wherever suits you best; some people feel much more confident and comfortable in their own environment. Here are some tips for online learning:

  • Try to join the video call before the class starts, even if it’s just for five minutes. This time will allow for social conversation and friendly interactions with your peers in an informal way. This will have a significant impact on the chemistry between the students when the class begins. And it might encourage more people to feel confident enough to share their ideas.
  • Keep your webcam on. Even though it can be tempting to stay in bed with the camera off, it’s much easier to interact with people when you can see their face. This will also help you to learn who the other people in your class are and build relationships with your peers.
  • When somebody makes a point that you want to respond to, do it directly to them and not through the tutor. Use their name if you can see it and speak as if you are talking to that person. This will help the discussion to flow and may encourage others to speak.


Self-isolating in halls of residence

Many students who have already returned to university have found that they have quickly been asked to self-isolate to minimise the spread of the virus. This can sound extremely scary, and we understand that you may be feeling isolated and anxious. Try to remember that this period of isolation will pass, and there are things you can do in the meantime to make life easier.

  • Find out what resources are available to you. Many universities are providing emergency services to students who are isolating in halls, such as food, essential cleaning equipment and PPE. You may be offered food vouchers or food parcels containing everything you need. You are not alone, and the university community is there to support you.
  • Access your universities mental health and wellbeing service. If you feel that the self-isolation is having a damaging effect on your mental health, do not struggle alone. Most universities have a dedicated team of trained counsellors and therapists who can offer telephone or video call appointment to support you.
  • Make an effort to socialise and be friendly with those you are isolating with. Living with new flatmates is always a bit uncomfortable at first, but if you make an effort and break the ice, you can all support each other together. Friendly interactions and somebody to talk to will make the experience of self-isolating much easier. If you are isolating alone in your room, consider suggesting some virtual socialising such as online quizzes or games.


For more help regarding universities, visit our guide to undergraduate study.

Last Updated: Wednesday November 4 2020
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