The alleged student lives in a lie

Published: June 14, 2022 • Reading time: 6 minutes and 56 seconds • News

Some young people go through life as students, when in reality they do not earn a single credit and sometimes have not seen college or university for years or are not even registered anymore. Out of shame, they lie about it in their surroundings. The daughter of HR employee Liesbeth did the same.

‘That was where the lie started’

Cat in the hill, you could say, because law did not turn out to be a very difficult study for her daughter, who loved to read and could handle the few hours of teaching. ‘So she also had enough time for student life, to host a room, always have fun, join a year club, attend all the parties,’ says Liesbeth. “A real case of FOMO, as her brother called it.”

Her ‘P’ still went well until she failed one of the last subjects. She was ashamed that she did not pass and came out with a statement that she got the A version of the test, but accidentally put a ‘B’ on her sheet and then she got everything wrong. That was where the lie actually started ‘, Liesbeth concludes afterwards.

‘I want to look back’

In the second year – she had enough points to continue – her daughter would start rowing. The parties continued and she did not really have time to go to college anymore. Even then – long before the corona – lectures were recorded in Leiden. ‘She thought,’ I want to look it up again ‘. The lectures were actually the only commitment in her life that she could easily escape from, ”says Liesbeth. ‘She filled her days with other things, and in the study there was little bonding or control, no one asked for anything.’

Skipping school had an impact on her performance. She passed the exam and then dared not admit it. Because she also told her roommates and friends that she had passed certain subjects, she could not repeat them. Some of them were also fellow students, so how did she explain that she was going to re-enter the relevant college? “She kept getting more and more stuck in lies. When she was with us, she started talking faster and faster, about everything except her studies’, says Liesbeth.

Another year on the board

She went from one half truth to another lie. ‘When she wanted to do a board year after four years of study and we really wanted to know if she had already taken her bachelor’s, she said she needed one more year and could combine that with a board year.’ We then said that a year on the board was not a good idea and that she should finish her studies first.

Then came the corona, and it was actually a gift from God.

By that time she had been studying for four years and had gotten her P, but nothing else. Then came the corona, and it was actually a gift from God. ‘She could now take courses she had never passed without being noticed,’ Liesbeth explains. ‘She reached 55 points in one year. So it went well, but she had to catch up one more year. She then told that she had completed her bachelor’s and was in the process of pursuing a master’s degree. She had thought that she could later say that she had completed her master’s for a year.

Suddenly at the door

Meanwhile, Liesbeth and her husband insisted on arranging a dinner because of the bachelor’s degree, but vague apologies followed about the corona about the graduation ceremony. ‘Somehow you feel something is wrong,’ Liesbeth notes. What was going on first dawned on her housemates; when Liesbeth’s daughter moved, they found her registration certificate as a bachelor student among some leftovers. Then it became clear to them that she had not yet begun a master’s degree. “They said, ‘You should tell your parents about this, too.’

The whole story came out, with tears and shame. ‘She felt like a failure, she thought it was no longer useful,’ says Liesbeth. “Of course, our confidence was also betrayed, but we said ‘we are going to look ahead’.” We’ve been on top ever since. We have asked all the logins, it was of no use to her to lie about anything. She then completed her bachelor’s degree, with hanging and suffocation. ‘

Under the radar

Ellen Klatter, associate professor of study success, recently participated in an evening debate at Balie about pretend students. A phenomenon that probably occurs regularly, but for which there are no figures, due to the simple fact that these students do their very best to stay under the radar.

It is also the image that is among the deans. “For us too, these students are hardly or not at all in the picture,” says Dean Serge Feldmann. ‘I’ve only had it once in my ten years, and I know from my colleagues that they all too rarely have to deal with it.’

‘Most people seem to have no interest in standing out or drawing attention to their situation.’

That’s understandable, he explains. ‘Most people pretend that students have no interest in standing out or drawing attention to their situation. As a result, they will not quickly visit a dean of their own accord unless they might want to discuss just that situation. In addition, one pretends that the student is not the other. Some will mainly have a financial interest in their student status – think of stufi – others will have so much fear and / or guilt that for that reason it is very difficult to make themselves known. ‘

Hard to reach

‘At the same time,’ says Klatter, ‘everyone knows someone who has been in this situation. And you also understand how it happens: there is a lot of distraction, often too little connection with the training, social pressure from the environment to participate in everything. Not to mention the age at which you discover your identity, who you are, what your place is. Many young people have also not learned to “bear the discomfort” of something that “fails”, although I prefer not to use that word. You can be afraid of losing yourself completely if you do not “pass”. ‘

While reports bring up slow-moving students, those students who do not want to be found are logically difficult to reach. And: all kinds of help are available, but students in higher education often have to initiate what they are expected to be ‘adults’ in.

Strong community as a resource

It is a taboo subject, as evidenced by the students’ stories in the Balie debate. Backwardness, loss of connections to fellow students or education, and increasing shame are reasons to drop out completely at some point and not say so. A strong community is mentioned as a means to both improve students’ mental well-being and to prevent students from stopping studying and keeping it hidden.

Klatter emphasizes the importance of personal contact between teacher and student.

A dean at Leiden University points to the pressure to perform. In addition, first-generation students are a risk group because studying is a whole new world for them.

Klatter emphasizes the importance of personal contact between teacher and student. “It’s also important from a didactic point of view, and it still happens far too rarely,” she says. ‘If you want to use didactics that challenge your students to perform specific learning activities, you need to know them and know what drives them. Not only cognitively, but also personally. It also teaches you a lot about their career choices and motivation for this education. ‘

Introductory program important

Ellen Klatter mentions an introductory program – for example the one from the Rotterdam Academy of the HR – as a good way to give first-generation students, but also all other students, the opportunity to land well. Expectations for education can become clear (academic integration) and friendships can develop (social integration). The – important – relationship between teachers and students and students themselves can grow in this way.

Liesbeth’s daughter is fine now. She has picked up the thread, is in the process of a master’s degree, which she finds very interesting and is really busy studying. She will get a job from September and must follow another master’s degree. “At the beginning of her master’s education, we advised her to go on a study trip. That connection with fellow students is very important, it helps you not to drop out. And we said she should start working in a job that matches her studies, to get more structure and learn how real life works. ‘

If you think you have a good relationship with your child, it is painful that she did not dare bring her problems to the table.

The relationship is still improving. ‘It takes time. If you think you have a good relationship with your child, it is painful that she did not dare bring her problems to the table. She herself still has a sense of shame about this, even though no one else in her environment is bothered by it anymore.

Text: Edith van Gameren
Illustration: Demian Janssen

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