Signature research report uncovers student experience during COVID-19

The W2O Center for Social Commerce at the Newhouse School identifies mental wellness, lack of confidence and imbalance as byproducts of a global pandemic

More than one year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it continues to impact every aspect of our lives. As students at Syracuse University, we and our classmates have quickly learned to adapt to virtual instruction, social distancing guidelines and safety protocols to keep the campus community safe.

The W2O Center for Social Commerce (CSC), a partnership between the Newhouse School and W2O—an analytics-oriented, insight-driven healthcare marketing and communications firm, part of Real Chemistry, a global health innovation company—sponsored a research study to understand students’ attitudes and experiences during COVID-19. The study captured approximately 200 student opinions encompassing various years of study, academic programs, organizations and living arrangements.

For college students and the entire university community, the effects of the pandemic extend beyond the classroom. It has impacted students’ confidence, made it challenging to participate in extracurricular activities and forced a “pause” on many social activities. 

The good news is that students are resilient. Each day they are finding new approaches to stay engaged in their studies, maintain connections with peers and work with faculty to share ideas and get support. 

View plain text summary

Key findings from the COVID-19 report:

1.  Social distancing guidelines impact mental wellness

Students are experiencing screen time fatigue and a decrease in mental wellness. Some students also report they feel less eager to attend class to log on to club meetings because of the challenging circumstances.

2.  Uncertainty exists around adherence to safety protocols

While many students are doing their part to slow the spread, they felt it was unlikely they could stay completely safe from others who did not take the same precautions.

3.  Utilizing in-person resources feels risky for campus community

While many resources moved to virtual settings, students struggle with the lack of in-person resources, resulting in a majority feeling disconnected.

4.  Finding professional opportunities in an unstable job market adds pressure

Many discussed how COVID-19 has impacted their post-graduate plans and caused a pivot in their expectations of entering the workforce, especially upperclassmen anticipating graduation.

5. “Silver linings” exist despite challenging circumstances

Many students have found ways to make the best of a disappointing situation. For example, some students shared that the need to maintain small social “bubbles” brought them closer to friends and roommates. Others shared that more downtime and less pressure to participate in social events allowed them to gain new perspective on their priorities and enabled them to grow on a personal level.

We are grateful to Syracuse University, the Newhouse School and the W2O Center for Social Commerce for enabling us to explore this important topic.  We believe it will be relevant for other universities looking to ensure progress in addressing current challenges and be better prepared in the future.