Admissions and University Life During Pandemics: Experiences and Advice from Teachers and Students

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At the American International School of Vilnius (AISV), the Class of 2020 faced several challenges as the pandemic unfolded in March 2020. IB exams were cancelled, travel restrictions were put in place, the universities had to make adjustments and the students had to rethink their projects, writes the School in a press release.

Graduating from high school and entering college is an important milestone for students; they celebrate their accomplishments and look to the future. For many, the pandemic has hampered their progress: some started their studies virtually while travel restrictions were put in place, others started their studies but had to follow strict regulations, and some changed their plans completely. .

Students have had to learn to be flexible and to live with the uncertainties that Covid has brought to their lives. We have learned that you have to know how to adapt and be open to change and opportunities”, comments Claire Ruz, AISV university advisor.

She adds that the pandemic has impacted admissions and universities in different ways, depending on country regulations, university policies and the challenges the pandemic has brought.

For example, some universities received an increase in applications as standardized tests became optional, while others saw a decrease in applications as travel restrictions were enforced. At AISV, where students often apply from 3 or 4 countries, students have become more concerned with distance and travel restrictions and are looking to stay closer to home, wherever that may be.

Looking for creative ways to celebrate

For seniors, graduation is meant to be a time of celebration, a rite of passage and, for some, a turning point as they move to a new country.

“Of course, they are disappointed and sometimes saddened or even angry at the inability to celebrate, but they understand the seriousness of the situation. Still, students will be receiving their diplomas and we are finding creative ways to celebrate their achievements virtually while staying safe,” says Claire Ruz.

New skills acquired only by students, but also by teachers

AISV students have been learning virtually since November. As Claire Ruz notes, the administration and teachers are very aware of the challenges this can bring, but are also dedicated to the well-being of the students. In high school, most lessons run synchronously and students should have their cameras on so they can continue to engage and stay connected to each other and the AISV community, and create some form of routine and normalcy, in these times of uncertainty and restrictions.

American International School in Vilnius (nuotr. R. Damkevičiaus)

“For example, we have maintained our daily meetings in the main classroom so students can stay informed, share concerns, and celebrate accomplishments together as a class. Teachers developed strategies and familiarized themselves with new technologies, apps, and programs to keep students engaged during virtual lessons and encourage learning. Virtual teaching and learning has also proven beneficial as teachers have had to find new approaches to teaching and students have developed organizational skills and become more independent. We have continued to offer extracurricular activities, provide individual support to students and continue to adapt to meet the needs of students,” notes the AISV College Advisor.

What is student life abroad like in the presence of COVID-19? Experiences and advice from Alumni AISV

Meghan McMorrow, 19, Global Challenges student at Leiden University College in The Hague:

“After graduating from high school, I faced many challenges due to the impact of COVID-19. I had to learn to adapt to a completely online program. It was difficult as it was something I’m not used to. I’m a very social person so the lack of interaction between me and the other students as well as the teachers was difficult. I advise those who will be graduating to accept the fact that university life will be different from what they expected, at least for a while. It is important that, despite the situation, we take care of ourselves and our mental health. Therefore, I would say “to try to get into a rhythm and stay there. Balance your studies, but also your social life as much as you can. Be strong and remember that it will soon be over.”

Mantas, 19, studying biochemistry at the University of Edinburgh:

“Not a chance you’ll have graduated yet during the ongoing pandemic, but there’s a very, very small chance that by the time you go to college, everything will start to go back to normal… Whatever Anyway, here are some tips:

1. Before enrolling in college, you might have questions about your course progress, homework, practical activities, etc. (especially in these difficult times). Instead of using a general inquiry email, you should instead send an email to your teachers, course organizers. Although it can be intimidating to talk to your professors for the first time, chances are they will answer your question much more quickly and accurately.

2. Once your classes have started, don’t be overconfident. After doing the IB, the first month or so can be very easy, but then it becomes quite difficult very quickly.

3. If you have the option of going straight into second year, don’t take it. I was given such an option because I did the IB, but there’s an ungodly amount of stuff you learn in first year that will be crucial to your second and third year courses, things that the ‘IB does not teach you’.

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