It could see those aiming to go on to university in the new academic year miss the deadline set by applications body UCAS if they are unable to complete their coursework.
Sinead McDougall, a student at West College in Clydebank, said there was panic among her classmates when the EIS-FELA union announced last week that more strikes and other action, which may mean students will not get the results of assessments, was planned for May.
The union is unhappy with a pay rise on offer – a 2 per cent consolidated rise covering three years.
Ms McDougall, a mother-of-three, said any delay in applying for university could scupper plans for mature students with other commitments.
She and her classmates have decided to speak out on the potential impact the industrial action could have on their futures.
“There was panic in our class when we heard the news,” she said. “We’re terrified for the future.
“For many of us, this is our last shot at getting into university. The oldest person in our class is 43. We can’t simply just wait another year and try again.”
The EIS told The Scotsman it remained confident a deal could still be reached and the industrial action avoided.
Pam Currie, a lecturer at Glasgow Kelvin College, and president of EIS-FELA, said the two sides were “not far away” from reaching a deal, and that the union was prepared to hold talks during the Easter break to ensure one could be reached quickly.
The Colleges Scotland Employers’ Association said it was “extremely disappointed” that some lecturers were “recklessly gambling” with students’ futures.
“By announcing three days of strikes during the exam period, the EIS-FELA has compounded its attack on students and is trying to cause maximum disruption to the students, but colleges will do everything in their powers to mitigate the impact,” said John Gribben, director of employment services.