The COVID-19 pandemic served college students a year like no other--here's how they're struggling with academics and mental health

4 key ways COVID has impacted college students

The COVID-19 pandemic served college students a year like no other--here's how they're struggling with academics and mental health

For nearly a year, college students across the nation have navigated a roller coaster of unexpected changes and shifts in learning and living situations as COVID-19 continues.

New research from Hobsons and Hanover Research notes that “it’s more important than ever for higher education leaders to deepen their understanding of the challenges college students face so they can step in to help when needed.”

While many college students feel supported to some extent, others have pointed to ways their instructors and institutions can improve.

In addition to presenting key findings about the reality of college life today and challenges students face now and in the future, the report also demonstrates how the results have long-term implications for higher-ed leaders, faculty, and anyone with a role in student success.

Four ways COVID has impacted college students

1. The pandemic is negatively impacting college academic success. Students report decreased focus, engagement, and impact on their overall learning experience. Seventy-one percent say they struggle to stay focused on school work and 52 percent say they struggle to complete coursework. What’s more, 40 percent struggle to even attend class.

Recommendation: Offer proactive support for students’ academic success. Look for early signs a student is struggling academically and take action before the problem becomes a crisis. Track attendance and participation and make sure students are aware of academic support resources.

2. Students’ wellbeing is suffering. Two-thirds of all surveyed students say COVID-19 has somewhat negatively or very negatively impacted their mental health. Students are facing new stressors and mental health challenges, and one-third of students have trouble paying for food, housing, and school.

Recommendation: Pay special attention to students’ well-being and check in regularly to keep tabs on their concerns. Let them know support is available–and make it easy for students to request that support.

3. Students are more concerned about their future than before COVID-19. They are more concerned about their future academic and career success. Nineteen percent of surveyed students said they were “seriously considering” not attending college next semester, and 78 percent of those students cited COVID-19 as the primary driver. Two-thirds of students are worried about finding a job after they graduate, and 49 percent are more worried about their job prospects than before COVID.

Recommendation: Students should have access to career assessments and data on careers in different industries and geographies to best plan for their future and meet their goals.

4. Students aren’t getting the support they need. Students aren’t taking advantage of resources from their institutions, but they’re most likely to turn to faculty and advisors for help. Almost all surveyed students know how to access academic resources, but a markedly smaller number know how to access mental health and career services.

Recommendation: Build a support ecosystem surrounding each student. Faculty aren’t trained as advisors, but they might be the first onesto notice when a student is struggling. Faculty need ready access to a list of campus programs and resources to help connect students with support.

Laura Ascione