My son isn’t logging onto lectures. I worry that he’ll drop out of college

Remote learning is putting a huge strain on many students, particularly first years

Remote learning is putting a huge strain on students, particularly first years. Photograph: iStock

Remote learning is putting a huge strain on students, particularly first years. Photograph: iStock

 

My son was delighted when he got his CAO offer in September. Sadly, as the weeks have passed, his enthusiasm has waned and he is finding it hard to motivate himself to log on to lectures. He was on campus just once - but with few around, he found it a very depressing experience. I fear he may drop out.

I have received numerous such questions in recent weeks from concerned parents. It is of little help to state that everyone is in the same boat, working almost exclusively from home and having almost no opportunity to meet with fellow first-year students.

For those of us fortunate enough to receive a college education in our youth, the excitement and novelty of the vast range of extra curricular activities open to us was as formative and energising as anything we were motivated by in our academic work.

The almost total absence of this aspect of college life for 2020 students is putting a huge strain, particularly on first years.

With infection rates falling and a vaccine on the horizon, hopes are high that we may be able to allow some more face-to-face interactions on campus soon.

Given that scenario, I would advise that you sit down with your son and discuss openly his options.

I would not try to sugar-coat his present reality. It is incredibly difficult to get up each day and motivate yourself to engage with your course content without any balancing activities. It’s the equivalent of a diet of dry bread and water, essential to sustain life but totally unappetising.

The key words above are “life sustaining”. It may seem quite depressing, but as we head into the darkest days of winter, fulfilling his course requirements will bring him to his first set of semester exams in January, and onto the springtime, when an exit from the present “bedroom based” learning will hopefully emerge through an effective vaccine.

College authorities and lecturing staff are also working under extremely stressful conditions and are aware of the pressurised situation that studying remotely is causing for all their students, particularly first years.

Student support services in colleges are also fully available to support students psychologically and emotionally, through their range of instruments, including their counselling and medical supports where deemed appropriate.

Encourage your son to talk openly about his loss of energy and enthusiasm for his studies, and gently explore the consequences of dropping out.

There are no better options for our young people right now, and bad and all as he is currently feeling, ask him to consider what it would feel like if he had nothing to do for the next year while we wait for a pathway out of social isolation.

Any marathon runner will tell you that the secret is to focus solely on the 10 yards. Encourage your son to create a to do list of course tasks and tick them off as they are completed. Overcoming each challenge generates positivity.