I pity the young people. Right on the cusp of adulthood, just as they are about to take flight into the world, their wings have been severely clipped by the coronavirus crisis. All their plans are thrown into disarray.
School cancelled. Exams cancelled. Leaving parties cancelled. Summer travels cancelled. And now many universities are planning to put their classes online.
So, instead of beginning an exciting new life of independence, challenge, and social and intellectual exploration, prospective students could be stuck at home in their mum's front room in Lurgan, staring dismally at a laptop screen.
Cambridge University led the way when it announced there would be no face-to-face lectures until the summer of 2021.
Here in Northern Ireland, Ulster University is preparing to deliver all lectures and other teaching online for the first term, with limited on-campus activities.
Meanwhile, students due to start English degrees at Queen's University in September have been warned that they may be taught "entirely online", at least initially.
QUB released a statement saying it plans to provide "online delivery complementing face-to-face teaching as necessary to follow the latest public health advice".
The most bitter irony of all is that the overwhelming majority of school-leavers are at infinitesimal risk of being seriously affected by Covid-19.
According to recent figures from the Lancet, the respected medical journal, youngsters aged 10 to 19 have a 0.00695% chance of dying from coronavirus.
For those in the 20 to 29 age bracket, the risk is also negligible: 0.0309%.
The future of these young adults is being compromised by a disease that is of extremely limited threat to them, so how can such disproportionate measures be justified?
Instead of shifting to online, why not let lectures go ahead but implement social distancing and hygiene rules as required, with particular protection for vulnerable students and staff?
Make no mistake, virtual university is not real university.
While those in favour of maintaining the strictest health regulations enthuse about the flexibility and accessibility of online learning, digital lessons cannot be compared to the rich, holistic and life-changing experience of going to university.
It's the difference between looking at a picture of a hamburger and the intense sensation of sinking your teeth into a real burger, hot and juicy, with tomato ketchup running down your chin.
Two-dimensional versus gloriously three-dimensional.
Students need to be able to see and hear their teachers in person, as well as to debate and read and speak and laugh with one another.
They need to have their prejudices challenged and their minds expanded. They need to learn how to cook and clean for themselves and pay their bills and balance their budgets.
University is where young people learn to be adults, in other words.
And that cannot be replicated by sitting in front of a screen, on their own, watching a recorded lecture about computational models or Renaissance literature. They will miss out on so much.
Even before the pandemic struck, student mental health was a serious concern. In 2019, a poll of almost 38,000 UK students showed "alarmingly high" levels of anxiety, loneliness and substance misuse.
If there's one thing we've all learned from being cooped up indoors, it's that self-isolation is very bad for our heads.
The reason why we're all so sick of those stilted, sterile Zoom calls is because we're social animals: we don't do well if we can't connect with others in person.
Attending lectures and small-group tutorials at university, going to the gym with class-mates, meeting friends for coffee or drinks: these simple things provide the necessary structure for students' lives, helping them cope with the more challenging aspects of being at university.
Without that social safety-net, students will be cut off from one another, almost certainly increasing feelings of loneliness, anxiety and isolation.
And then there's the fact that higher education, as everyone knows, does not come cheap. So, it's no wonder that some prospective undergraduates are currently weighing up whether it's worthwhile going to university at all.
A survey by the University and College Union showed that more than 20% are willing to defer their courses if universities do not resume as normal following the pandemic.
If this actually happened, it would knock a multimillion-pound hole in university funding.
In recent years, certain students have been parodied as 'snowflakes', for demanding protection from anything they consider offensive.
Using their own bedroom as a virtual lecture hall may provide students with the ultimate safe space, in which they can hide themselves away from an uncertain, scary world.
But at what cost to their lives and their freedom?