Influence of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Students’ Social Experience: A Cross-Sectional Qualitative Study across Seven Universities in the U.S.

Iryna Sharaievska, Olivia McAnirlin, Matthew H.E.M. Browning, Lincoln R. Larson, Lauren Mullenbach, Alessandro Rigolon, Scott Cloutier, Jennifer Thomsen, Nathan Reigner, Elizabeth Covelli Metcalf, Ashley D'Antonio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic affected and continues to modify students’ social life and as a result may impact their long-term development. This study is a part of a larger research project focused on the psychological impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on university students. For this manuscript, we employed content analysis to analyze 1,327 quotes related to changes in social experiences and outcomes related to these changes from a sample of 1,099 students from seven universities across the United States. Five major themes emerged from the data, including meaningful relationships, struggling emotions, missing out, social responsibility, and stagnant autonomy. These themes suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic could impact students’ development in terms of building social competence, recognizing and managing their emotions, becoming an independent adult, building mature and meaningful relationships with others, establishing identity, developing purpose, and building integrity (Chickering’s Seven Vectors). We calculated the frequency and percentage of each theme and provided suggestions for future research and practice. Recommendations for future research include in-depth exploration of students’ experiences during and after the pandemic using qualitative and longitudinal approaches. We also suggest adjusting practices among those who work with students to focus on a multiplicity of developmental goals unmet due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords

  • College experience
  • coronavirus
  • developmental psychology
  • higher education
  • qualitative analysis
  • socializing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science

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