In a complete reversal from 2020, college students in the U.S. are returning en masse to campus. However, that's not the only change taking place.
In a new report from Fort Worth, Texas-based TimelyMD, the telehealth company reveals that the majority of students attending college this semester plan to wear masks and follow other pandemic-related guidelines on campus — whether the school requires them or not.
Specifically, 69% of students at institutions without mask mandates in place say they’ll wear one on campus anyway. Of that group, 35% plan to always wear masks in indoor public spaces, while 21% plan to do so in class and academic buildings. Meanwhile, only 10% of them say they’ll never wear a mask on campus.
College students see sweeping changes on campus due to COVID-19 crisis
A recent SheerID survey found that 80% of global college students predicted the coronavirus pandemic would still impact the fall 2021 semester — and they were right. While the incoming freshman class witnessed a major shift in the majors its students chose, others saw the implementation of mask mandates, vaccine mandates or both across campus.
The TimelyMD survey shows that the majority of students at institutions with mask mandates (87%) or vaccine mandates (85%) approve of them, and that 55% of students at colleges without mandates wish they had them.
Of course, these mandates mean little if students don't follow them. However, the report indicates widespread compliance with these rules:
- 94% of students with mask mandates say they'll comply with them
- 82% with vaccine mandates are already vaccinated or are planning to do so
- 5% with vaccine mandates sought an exemption
- 1% with vaccine mandates submitted a fake vaccination card
Students report increased stress, anxiety this year
According to the TimelyMD survey, more than three-fourths of students (77%) feel more emotional distress and anxiety due to the pandemic and new coronavirus variants. Another 60% report more stress and anxiety than a year ago.
Students report that much of this stress comes from:
- Lack of a social life (64%)
- The pandemic's impact on their physical health (61%)
- The decrease in the quality of education (54%)
- Their finances (45%)
- The pandemic's impact on their family life (41%)
- Lack of a normal campus life (40%)
With the health crisis affecting the finances of millions of college students in the U.S., it's little wonder that half of them sought work over the summer. And for this school year, TimelyMD notes that students will take a more proactive approach to managing their needs. In fact, 72% of respondents say they'll seek emotional support from their friends, family members, campus counselors or professional health specialists to better manage their stress and anxiety.
Still, students likely won't be able to tackle these challenges alone. The survey finds that respondents want their institutions to support them during this time by offering resources such as:
- More telehealth and well-being services (48%)
- Added remote social support and sense of belonging (45%)
- Increased remote academic support (41%)
- Extra remote education on coping and resilience (30%)
Methodology: TimelyMD conducted a nationwide online survey of more than 1,000 college students enrolled in two- or four-year colleges, fielded the week of Aug. 16, 2021.