Op-Ed: The COVID-19 pandemic is distancing college students from their dreams


Photo courtesy of the VCCCD photo archive.

By Leslie Mendez, Public Relations Director

Millennials and Gen Z are acknowledged for their efforts to bring change. This was the generation that was supposed to pull through for the nation and make a difference. How are we supposed to chase our dreams when they get stalled by a world pandemic?

Like many other students, I feel confused, lost and fearful.

Kelly Twitchell, a second-year Moorpark College communications student, expressed her fear of not being able to transfer from Moorpark College in the fall because of the pandemic.

“I’m not a fan of online classes and I would like to have a chance to have a college experience,” Twitchell explained. “Unfortunately, the virus might delay that for me. It’s not a tremendous concern, but it’s just more of a bummer.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are roughly 19.9 million students attending college this fall. Many of these students rely on financial aid, housing and food services. How will students receive this assistance with the COVID-19 setbacks?

College has a huge question mark stamped on it and this contributes to student’s sudden confusion. The COVID-19 pandemic is not just harming our health, it’s affecting our futures.

According to the ​American Psychological Association​, about one-third of college students in the United States have food and housing insecurities. Adding the possibility of catching a debilitating virus to the existing stress of being financially unstable, and unemployed, can push students over the edge.

Sophomore Madeleine Salvay reads an informational transfer booklet supplied by University of California Berkley, during Transfer Day on Thursday, Aug. 28. Salvay hopes to transfer to a school on the west coast after leaving Moorpark. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

In a survey performed by MentalHelp.net via Twitter, out of 1,000 college students surveyed, 24% expressed how their futures in college were their most stressful concern.

Vanessa Mendoza, second-year Moorpark College student, explained how much of an impact the pandemic could have on her academic goals.

“I think what mostly worries me is how long it’s going to take and if it will affect my future as a student,” Mendoza said. “I don’t want to delay my education because it is very important to me.”

There is no reassurance because these questions have no answers. The unknown is far more terrifying than any exam we will ever have to take.

“There’s a lot of uncertainties that worry me,” Victoria Chavez, a second-year Moorpark College student said. “For example, not being able to fully know when this will all be over and when ‘normal’ will come back is terrifying.”

According to NPR, there are 770,035 COVID-19 cases in California as of Wednesday, September 16. As the numbers continue to rise it is difficult to remain calm about the futures being crushed, especially when not everyone is being cautious.

The lockdown tested more than just people’s patience and ability to social distance, it tested their commitment to school.

Being separated from loved ones and experiencing long-term social isolation can be harmful. In the life of a college student, a support system is essential. Without one, it can be extremely damaging to one’s mental health.

During this pandemic, I ran an Instagram poll where 38% of the 50 voters claimed they still felt anxious after being six months into lockdown.

But that isn’t the only thing students fear; we are living through a pandemic with a possible recession on our hands. Schools like the University of Michigan are making financial cuts to their programs.

University of Michigan President, Mark S. Schlissel, stated in an open letter that the school could lose between $400 million to $1 billion just this year. As many schools are expected to follow, our college education will forgo a tremendous amount of change and nothing will ever be the same.

Students are starting to question their plans for the future and the idea of rewriting their journey can be very frustrating. This pause in time has slowed down the lives of many, including mine.

With schools being shut down for the remainder of the year, everything will remain virtual for the 2021 spring semester.

California State Universities (CSU) have opted to hold virtual instruction for the rest of the 2020 school year until it is safe to have face-to-face instruction.

CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White tells students that “this decision is the only responsible one available to us at this time,” in a chancellor press release.

These new worries and fears may spark anxiety, this is normal, but anxiety should never take over our lives. There are many ways to calm our anxieties at home.

I hope that one day everyone can look back to 2020 and not just be reminded of how detrimental it was, but also be reminded of the diligent work we put in to get ourselves through it.

For helpful resources and tips on coping with anxiety check out helpguide.org.