With orientation week underway at Ottawa universities, some students say they're nervous three years of online school hasn't prepared them academically for the transition.
Like most of her new classmates, Sarari Zafer spent the majority of her high school years making the switch from online to in-person learning depending on provincial lockdowns or COVID-19 cases in school.
Grade 9 was the only full academic year Zafer completed before the pandemic.
"It was very difficult because we didn't get to experience a lot of things, especially in our last years of high school."
Now, she's worried about whether her mainly online education prepared her for being a pharmacy student at Carleton University.
I do think that not having exams did set us back. - Olga Przulj, a first-year student
Zafer, who went to a private high school in Ottawa, said she took exams online every semester, but she said the experience didn't measure up to her limited experience with in-person exams in Grade 9.
"It didn't even feel like we're taking exams. It just felt like we're just doing a regular quiz because teachers knew that all students would take it easy."
Although her teachers tried their hardest to support students, Zafer said she still feels slightly under-prepared for university.
"I feel like it's not going to be the same workload," she said.
She's also worried that the leniency and laid back attitude her high school teachers had at the height of the pandemic won't be continued at the university level.
Despite that, Zafer said she's looking forward to being on campus and in a lab.
'A big jump'
Olga Przulj says she feels similarly.
She's entering her first year of health sciences at the University of Ottawa with a mix of nervousness and excitement — anxious about maintaining high grades with a university workload.
"It's definitely going to be a big jump," she said.
For most of her high school years, Przulj didn't have to worry about exams oryear end projects.
Przulj described most of her schooling as "pretty rushed," especially with modified semester systems like quadmesters, where students would take two courses at a time for around nine weeks before switching to new subjects.
"We didn't really go into detail with all of our courses. We sort of just learned the basics, which I feel sort of compromises the education."
Although she credits her teachers for supporting students by giving out extra notes and resources, she isn't sure it will be enough to fill in the gaps of a lack of in-person evaluations.
"I do think that not having exams did set us back."
Przulj said she's not alone in fearing harder courses and grading, with many of her other friends also expressing similar concerns.
"They're just not really feeling prepared and they're also quite nervous for the whole experience and how hard classes will be."