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Supporting Student Well-Being in the New Campus Norm

Posted on Aug 11, 2020 10:15:00 AM | By Tasha McDaniel, Attigo Senior Trainer AFC® and Certified Health Coach
Supporting student well-being in the new norm

Incoming freshman and returning students are anxiously waiting to begin their college aspirations. The transition to college is typically filled with varied emotions, from excitement to nervousness. Will they have enough money, fit in, find their classes, find a community to join? To top it off, this school year is an extremely different and challenging one.


Incoming and returning students will have a host of new safety rules and guidelines to follow. Masks, sanitizer, and antibacterial soap will be packed with their personal items. Social distancing will replace large social gatherings. Study halls will be done in the privacy of their rooms. And many campus traditions like tailgating, homecoming, and rivalry week simply won’t happen. Even as most schools are reopening this fall, many students will be attending remotely while others will take a hybrid. Residential students may be looking forward to getting away from home but they’ll need to learn how to navigate the new campus norm.

New Campus Norm—Student Impacts

Fear and isolation coupled with lifestyle changes are taking a toll on many students’ well-being. According to a telehealth study outlined in Campus Safety, 85% of college students reported experiencing increased stress and/or anxiety due to COVID-19. The main causes were:

  • Uncertainty about the future of their education (72%)
  • Fear of falling behind in school coursework (61%)
  • Struggles with remote learning (60%)
  • Worries about future career and job prospects (50%)
  • Fear about their own health and/or the health of loved ones (49%)*

Priorities: Safety and Well-Being

Social distancing in schoolsDetermining how to educate students while keeping everyone safe is the top priority of every school. Ensuring they’re mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially well is essential too. Experts have been ringing the alarm about the rise in mental health issues of college students long before the pandemic. According to the American College Health Association’s (ACHA) 2019 survey, over the past year 87% of students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do, 66% felt overwhelming anxiety, and 56% felt things were hopeless. Contributing factors that have increased these mental health symptoms include:

  • Academic challenges
  • Loneliness and isolation
  • Financial worries
  • Constant streams of negative information
  • Fear of missing out and peer pressure
  • Gun and other types of violence
  • Cyberbullying
  • Dependence on social media that can lower self-esteem

The ACHA recommend that campuses should make every effort to support tele-mental healthcare for enrolled students. Virtual workshops, institutions’ social media channels such as YouTube and Instagram, and classroom lessons are other ways to meet the needs of their student body. Most schools already provide resources on drug and alcohol abuse, sexual violence prevention, and gambling addiction. These are some additional methods to address mental health:

  • Increase virtual social connections to reduce isolation
  • Provide stress management resources such as mindfulness and meditation
  • Launch wellness campaigns with rewards to encourage participation
  • Empower students to recognize when they need help and where to find it
  • Provide podcasts to improve coping skills, decision-making, social and emotional competency, and emotional intelligence
  • Reduce the stigma of mental health with real-life stories and testimonials
  • Offer financial wellness education to help students budget, manage credit, and minimize debt

Don’t Forget Physical and Nutritional Wellness

Wellness in the new normPhysical wellness has a positive impact on mental health. Cardiovascular and aerobic exercises release endorphins, which play a part in regulating a person’s mood. Yoga, tai chi, and other mind-body exercises can strengthen the body and help it to relax. New capacity restrictions for on- and off-campus weight room facilities shouldn’t deter students from working out. There are many “no-equipment-required” exercises that can be done outside or in their rooms such push-ups, sit-ups, and squats.

The new “grab-and-go” rules may create more challenges to find healthy meals. Processed, high-sugar, sodium-filled foods are often more convenient for students when navigating between classes. Poor food choices are likely to increase in the new norm. Schools should ensure grab-and-go selections include healthy options and provide additional education to improve dietary habits.

This life-threatening pandemic has created unique and unprecedented challenges for higher education personnel. Curriculums and the methods of teaching are being revamped and the overall collegiate experience is being transformed. These changes will also impact students’ emotional, mental, physical, and financial well-being.

Need Help Providing Support to Students?

Here's a sample resource you can use: Tips to Overcome Test Anxiety.

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Sources: Campus Safety* and American College Health Association

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