‘Zoom University’ Takes ‘Drastic’ Toll on Students’ Mental Health

‘Zoom University’ Takes ‘Drastic’ Toll on Students’ Mental Health (Illustration: askmenow/Getty Images)

As the spring semester is in full swing, some students continue to hopelessly struggle with another term now affectionately known as “Zoom University.” 

Nearly a year ago, college students, along with the rest of the world, were forced to go virtual to slow down the increase of COVID-19 cases. However, they couldn’t have imagined their college years being spent through a computer screen isolated in their dorm rooms, taking a drastic toll on one’s mental health.

Although vaccines are now available, students remain wary of the future and if the pandemic will continuously impact their studies and, most importantly, their mental health.

A sophomore at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) couldn’t manage both virtual classes and a healthy mental state, which resulted in her not enrolling for the spring semester. 

“I didn’t enroll for the spring semester because of everything I went through in fall and last spring. My grades were great last semester, probably my best semester grades wise, but I was stressed,” said Ashley Hester. “Now I’m back home, so I had to work on top of taking my classes. And I’m out of state, so my tuition is really expensive. Even with the pandemic ‘help/financial assistance’ and working, I still didn’t have my balance under $500.” 

Photo courtesy of Ashley Hester
Photo courtesy of MyAhna Alston

MyAhna Alston, a freshman at Howard University, also shares how college has been challenging for her to adjust due to online learning.

“Overall, I feel that my mental [state] has been a little more overwhelmed and cluttered with school being online,” said Alston, a journalism major. Finishing up freshman year and trying to schedule classes that have somehow been ‘filled up’ though we’re online or trying to reach out to advisors virtually through email has been difficult.”

As various universities like FAMU and Clark Atlanta University have eased back into in-person learning, staying six-feet apart wearing now-in-style masks still isn’t the exciting college experience students want to have. Most also didn’t expect colleges to cancel the arguably best part of the spring — Spring Break — due to the pandemic, resulting in no breaks during this term. 

Several surveys said that college students’ mental health has been drained due to the pandemic’s social and economic repercussions. This can cause a lack of motivation for students’ studies, grades, and future aspirations, resulting in flunking or grade failure. The surveys also indicate their mental well-being has ‘plummeted’ due to the continued skepticism about their college education and post-college life. 

Noella Williams, a senior at FAMU, expressed her uncertainty and what she’s doing to secure her post-college career amidst the pandemic.

Photo courtesy
of Noella Williams

“I’m only taking two classes due to my nearly full-time internship and part-time job. The classes are related to my minor, so I can focus on freelancing for my journalism portfolio this semester,” said Williams, a broadcast journalism major. “I’ve been happier this semester compared to last semester, but I can see myself continuing to spiral down the same path that led me to be depressed in the fall. My goal is to attend at least two therapy sessions each month.” 

While several college students believe it will be harder to access those services due to understaffing or an extended wait time, many are still planning to utilize the counseling services provided at their respective universities.

Jordan Hines, a junior at FAMU, utilized her school’s counseling services last semester, and she intends to use them again as her mental well-being has been ‘rocky.’ 

“I was never the person who went out a lot but now, since quarantine, I can say that I do miss being able to go to parties and socials. In addition to this, I have lost some family members to the virus, which has also taken a toll on my mental health,” said Hines, a cardiopulmonary science major. “I have decided to pray more and do activities that I enjoy to keep a good attitude. The past seven months have been hard, and I’ve lost myself. I’m in the middle of trying to change that.”

Photo courtesy of Jordan Hines
Photo courtesy of Kayla Fantz-Sands

Graduate student Kayla Fantz-Sands said her mental health has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, and has difficulty trying to stay motivated.

“My mental health has not been great. I graduated my undergraduate year at the end of 2019, and three months after that, COVID happened. I would say COVID-19 affects my everyday life in that my anxieties have become more than what they were,” says Fantz-Sands of Grand Canyon University. “For example, I feel that I can’t go out like all my other friends in fear of if I do, someone I know will die, another is I have two moms who are both in the healthcare system, and so my everyday anxieties are for them and their safety.”

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