You've had your nose to the grindstone for months now, plugging away at the A-level revision - and then the exams are cancelled. That's the experience of thousands of sixth-form pupils across Northern Ireland who suddenly find themselves in limbo, wondering whether they will get into the courses they have applied for. And even if they do get onto their chosen courses, student life in the near future is likely to look very different from what they had imagined.
Gone will be the packed lecture theatres and thronged students' unions. Instead, freshers may find themselves, rather disappointingly, still perched in front of the laptop in their bedrooms at home, wondering just when independent life is going to start for them.
While Russell Group universities have promised their campuses will be open this autumn, more than half say their teaching has already moved online or they're preparing for a hybrid of online and face-to-face teaching in the next university year.
Cambridge University has just announced it will move all its lectures online until summer 2021, while Oxford says its face-to-face tutorials will be complemented by high-quality remote learning.
Meanwhile, Bolton is promising "uni as it should be", outlining a range of measures for opening up its campuses, including loaning bicycles to students, installing airport-style temperature scanners and dividing screens on coffee tables, as well as introducing a scheduling system that limits the number of students on campus at any time.
Of course, there is more to student life than simply absorbing learning, and pupils who had been looking forward to their first real taste of independence may now be feeling very deflated.
‘The first year is supposed to be about adapting to a new lifestyle of living'
Paddi Fitzpatrick (18) from Hilltown, Co Down, is in a world of uncertainty as she waits to find out what will happen about the repeats of A-levels she had applied for. She wants to repeat some of the modules that she had done in Lower Sixth - the philosophy part of her religion A-level, paper two in geography and her sociology modules. But she admits deferment could be a possibility even if she does get into the Criminology and Criminal Justice degree she wants at Ulster University in Jordanstown.
A pupil at Sacred Heart Grammar School in Newry, she is worried that her grades so far may not be enough to get onto the degree course.
But even if she does get in, Paddi may consider deferring for a year if the alternative is remote learning instead of face-to-face teaching.
"If that's the case, I'd rather take a year out to get the full university experience. First year is supposed to be about adapting to a new lifestyle of independent living, making new friends from different areas and getting used to college life," she says.
"If that is all online, you're just going to be thrown into the deep end in second year, so if that's the case I'd just rather take a year out.
"The thought of moving into a house with your friends or student accommodation with your friends and being able to make friends from different areas, that is what is appealing. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and playing sports with girls from all over Northern Ireland and England as well."
Paddi attended an open day at Jordanstown with her mum just before lockdown and was impressed with what she saw.
"We met the lecturers at the open day for all the courses, but that is the last time we will be able to visit the university for maybe a year. Nobody knows how long it's going to be until we are back to the actual campus again," she says. "If it was normal times I might have taken a gap year, maybe repeated my exams and worked to make a bit of money for going to university if my grades were not good enough.
"But if it is still in lockdown, I don't think it'd feel comfortable paying £4,000 to be taught online - I'd prefer to be in a learning environment, such as a lecture room or classroom.
"Online teaching may cover all the course content but it really feels like skimming over it."
As it is, she is considering going full-time at Dunnes Stores, where she currently works part-time, next year to save up for university and to travel if that is allowed.
But she is also worried that by next year two cohorts of current A-level students could be competing for the same university course, pushing up the required entrance grades.
"There could be far more demand for places on the course, and that is preying on the back of my mind," Paddi says. "I'm really missing school these days. I was meant to have my first test on May 11. It just came into my head while I was at work - I should be doing my test at 1pm."
‘I’m keeping an eye on what the government is saying about what we can do’
Larne Grammar School head boy Matthew Clenaghan (18) is hoping to go to Queen's University to study medicine, but says that he isn't considering deferring taking up a university place.
"It was really off-putting, the amount of work we've gone through to get to the point where exams were the only thing I have to worry about, and then they were cancelled," he says.
"I was really looking forward to getting to know other people outside of my school and my town.
"Larne is not that big and you get to know everybody really quickly, so I was looking forward to getting to meet people from other parts of Northern Ireland and the world, and also getting new experiences that you don't get offered in secondary school, like extracurricular activities and independent life as well."
Matthew says he hasn't heard anything officially about how courses will actually be delivered in the university this autumn, but he is determined to not to put off his studies. "I was really dead set on going to university this year with all the effort I had put into it, and it's not something I really want to have to do all over again, possibly," he says.
"At the minute I'm just keeping an eye on what the government is saying about what we can do.
"I've come to the acceptance that I'll probably not get things like Freshers Week, but I'm worried about even some of the simple things like moving into accommodation - I'd love for that to happen.
"I think it's one of the stages, moving in and having a place to yourself surrounded by friends.
"You will feel like nothing has really changed if you're staying at home and learning online.
"It's not much different from secondary school."
‘Online lectures are great but it’s not the same as being in the classroom’
Rebecca Sloan (21), from Lisburn, has just completed a three-year Politics degree at Jordanstown and has received a conditional offer for Law Senior Status at Queen's University Belfast.
She has loved her time as a student, saying: "University was amazing, but it was really sad not to have those last couple of months with friends and really experiencing everything - I'm sad to miss out on graduation."
Rebecca feels it will be very difficult to replicate the university experience with remote learning.
"I rely on the library a lot to study and I think a lot of people who can't study at home will experience this as well - a lot of people don't really have a place to study so the library will be a big thing, as well as that general experience of going off to university, making new friends and getting settled in. It won't be the same," she says.
"The experience is going to be completely different from what it has been, if students are not going to lectures. I understand tutorials and seminars may take place as you've only 15 people in them but lectures with 300 students wouldn't go ahead.
"Online lectures are great but it's just not the same experience as being in the classroom and interacting with people and speaking to your lecturer."
But she isn't considering taking time out ahead of the law conversion course.
"I suppose being a postgraduate, I've had my university experience and I am almost just starting my career now. Maybe people who are going into an undergraduate degree would want to defer," Rebecca says.
"At the moment I am trying to get a house with my friends for next year and I'm not really sure at the moment how that's working.
"You can't go to house viewings - no one really knows what is going on. It's a bit all over the show at the minute, really.
"It's sad that we've missed graduation, but I hope it's postponed to later on this year - that would be good."
‘Nothing is certain as we don’t know when normal conditions will return’
Anna Finlay (19), from Lisburn, who is studying Geography at Queen's, says lockdown at the university happened very quickly.
"The student area was quite busy up until St Patrick's Day and then it just emptied out - it was like a ghost town. Lectures have been online which has been quite strange - it's been like FaceTiming your teachers," she says.
She says it has been difficult academically to learn in lockdown. "For a lot of my friends, they definitely miss the library, although with Geography, we only have about eight hours a week contact teaching anyway. We were supposed to be going on a field trip to Malta but I had to do a virtual tour of Malta.
"You're walking round the streets on Google Maps and it isn't quite the same."
She says she expects quite a lot of students will choose to take a year out, rather than learning remotely this autumn.
"We would get alternative assessments, and if you feel like you don't want to complete the alternative assessment you're allowed to resit when more normal conditions return.
"But nothing is really certain because we don't really know when normal conditions will return."
She says her landlord reduced their rent because they weren't occupying the house.
"I would say international students are feeling hard done by in that respect, not that any of this could be predicted," she says.
‘I’m working around the finances, working out if it is worth that kind of debt'
West Belfast student Tiernan Fitzlarkin (21), who finished a two-year foundation degree course in planning at Ulster University on Wednesday, now faces a tough choice - to accept a place at university in Scotland, switch to a course at home in Northern Ireland, or to take a gap year from university and reapply in 2021.
Tiernan has asthma. He currently lives at home in Andersonstown with his mum and has been supporting himself while he is a student through a part-time job working in a local coffee shop.
"I did the last semester online, which was odd," said Tiernan.
"Thankfully I was living at home so that was handy and I didn't have the upheaval a lot of others had with their student accommodation."
Tieran has the offer of a place at Heriot-Watt University, just outside Edinburgh, to study planning, for which he has to confirm his acceptance next month.
"It's a three-year course with an optional placement year," he said.
"I'm still keen to go over but I'm wondering how it works financially.
"I have asthma so it would be difficult for me to get a job in these circumstances when I go over.
"Also, we don't know the economy is going to be after this; there could be no jobs going in Edinburgh and then it would be trying to support yourself while living in student accommodation.
"But then your classes would be online and it would be paying £6,000 just to sit in student accommodation for a year.
"I'm working around the finances, trying to work out if it's worth that kind of debt. Thankfully the tuition fees would be covered and I would get a loan to cover some of the student accommodation.
"Heriot-Watt also has a bursary of £2-3K for students from the rest of the UK, which helps cover living costs but even with that included I would still need a job to be able to support myself."
Alternatively, Tiernan said he could switch to his "insurance choice" course at Ulster University or consider deferring.
• Additional reporting by Claire McNeilly