With a semi-return to “normal,” the fall semester at higher education institutions has been both a sigh of relief to fewer hours learning on Zoom, interacting with fellow students, and engaging the campus traditions one can only do in person.
Yet, across the country many students on campuses are struggling with mental health and academic challenges from the lingering impacts of the pandemic. Administered by Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research, its annual Beginning College Survey of Student Engagement found that more than half (53 percent) of 35,000 students surveyed had substantial increases in mental and emotional exhaustion. Students have also struggled with issues outside of the pandemic with the U.S confronting societal challenges in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, a contentious presidential election, xenophobia negatively impacting many in the Asian and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and financial impacts with many individuals losing their jobs and needing to apply for unemployment. Additionally, each student has experienced the pandemic differently—whether it is financial stress, constant state of anxiety over the pandemic, loss of loved ones, or others who didn’t experience any of the hardships of the pandemic interacting with others and the social dynamics of those two groups interacting.
The ongoing stresses of the last year and a half have made mental health support a critical component to how universities approach the fall semester, according to an Inside Higher Ed survey of 433 college and university presidents found 64 percent of university presidents surveyed placed student mental health as a concern for their students and a top priority. To address this, universities have increasing mental health services and programming from offering more virtual counseling appointments, being proactive about following up with students of concern, and incorporating more online tools to better address ongoing trends on their campus.
Institutions nationwide can best serve their students during this time with Symplicity Advocate. University students deserve a campus dedicated to their wellbeing and a simple, user-friendly way to report any issue they fear may threaten their ability to thrive. Advocate’s capabilities lessen some of the stress students might already be facing and enable them to easily voice and manage their concerns through cross-campus collaboration among faculty and staff.
This includes seeing which staff member is working with which student, setting up virtual counseling sessions, managing workflow, and providing students with proactive tools to help them cope through this time and into 2021. During a time when the world is slowly returning to a “new normal,” students will need to have the support to effectively manage all that they’ve had to endure during this challenging time. Providing student wellbeing must be a top priority for all higher education institutions to ensure student success during and after the pandemic.