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Mental Health In College Students is Spiking -Learn How They are Struggling Amidst the Coronavirus Outbreak

Alyssa Klier

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Mental health in college students is something that has always been of utmost concern. College students are very susceptible to many pressures, and changes. They move out of their homes into dorms where they have freedom and independence. But also a new copious amount of responsibilities ranging from managing academics, being involved on campus, and so on.

The rampant lifestyle change oftentimes translates into feelings of being overwhelmed, anxious, and even depressed. These feelings tend to be onsets of experiencing mental health issues. And they heighten underlying mental health conditions that were either known or unknown.

One in two college students have reported struggling with mental health or claim their own as average or poor. Further, about 80% of students report feelings of being overwhelmed. 

With the increase of mental health issues in college students, colleges tend to provide many resources on campus to address these issues. Offices like counseling centers and safe offices are provided to students free of charge.

Additionally, these resources are accessible to any student with any experience ranging from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, academic stress, etc.

Despite the mental health in college students being a national concern, these issues have allowed for a prolific amount of awareness. Offices and student leaders are able to address these concerns and acknowledge warning signs.

On a more national scale, there has been a guideline book released on how to address, navigate, and start conversations around mental health in this age demographic.

It is important to note that many students experiencing issues might turn to peers for support. College is a community where everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is experiencing the stress of academics and balancing other aspects of life with that.

Students tend to turn to one another and serve as each other’s support systems in times of need. They also gain a sense of agency and autonomy in college that they would not have at home. This independence can also serve as mentally beneficial to students.

With the recent Coronavirus outbreak, there have been many implications for the mental health of college students. The CDC has called for social distancing and staying at home in quarantine unless for the acquiring of essentials to help stop the spread of the virus. Colleges have created emergency plans that have sent students home for the remainder of their spring semester. 

Many students do not have their belongings with them or have even had the chance to say goodbye to their friends due to the rapidly changing nature of this unpredictable virus. The Coronavirus outbreak has caused many changes to the everyday lives of college students that they are used to by now. 

Classes have been put online and are now taught in a remote learning style. Graduations nationally have been postponed or turned virtual as CDC guidelines call for the canceling of mass gatherings. Abroad programs have been cancelled. Students on campus jobs have been cancelled. 

Remote campus resources like counseling centers or career offices are now very limited in online availability. Most importantly, students are now either living in their family homes or are unable to go home. 

Students that are unable to go home might live in a different country and are now stuck on a deserted campus with limited resources. Additionally, college students at home might not be used to living at home. It also might not be a positive experience for every college student.

 Every student has different circumstances with their family, financially, and mentally. Due to the closing of large events, in place dinings, gyms, sports, etc., college students are now forced to stay where they are with no escape or outlet of mental release.

Students have switched to e-learning due to the coronavirus outbreak

On-campus, college students have the freedom to do what makes them feel happy. But quarantine and shelter in place disallow this privilege. 

Despite this, college students are still expected to perform academically to their best ability even under distracting circumstances.

College students no longer have access to campus resources and friends as support systems to the same degree that they did on campus. 

Students might not be in the right headspace to perform to the best of their ability academically. Besides online tutoring resources, students do not have study spaces, office hours, or in person tutoring at home. Distractions at home like family members working remotely or bad wifi can make learning a burden.

 Students also are forced to continually face the severity of the Coronavirus outbreak and cope mentally with life changes on their own. This complete alteration of life can serve as overwhelming and unsettling. Especially since the mental health of college students is already fragile and a major concern.

As a college student, I have been able to talk to my college friends about how they are coping mentally with the Coronavirus outbreak and being at home. Amongst the six college students I talked to, three of them see this situation in a negative light.

Female Junior from Boston who is living at home says: “I’d say for me, I am struggling a lot more than I would be on campus. It’s really hard not being around my usual support system and also just with people who are dealing with the same kind of problems as I am.

Overall, I don’t feel the same kind of encouragement and desire to succeed, which I feel at school. It is a lot harder to dedicate myself to my schoolwork.”

Female Junior from China who is living on campus says: “The fact that I can’t socialize with people is making me depressed. Recent coping methods have been sleeping.”

Male Sophomore from Tennessee living at home says: “This is among the more painful experiences of my life. Not because of the virus, but because I’m not allowed to leave my house for literal months and I can’t see my friends until the fall, at earliest. 

The fact that we could be held at home for any amount of the fall semester scares me greatly. Closing college campuses might be the right thing to do now, but as crazy as this may seem, opening them in the fall is the right thing to do.  It has to happen.”

For people like us, not being able to go to college hurts us beyond anything. It’s going to get to the point where the fear of not being able to return to school is greater than any fear of contracting the virus, if it hasn’t gotten to that point already. 

I understand the reason for social distancing, but at the same time, we have lives to live. And, there just comes a time when we have to return to them.  Whether it’s us college kids or people working in any industry, we have to resume our lives at some point in the next few months. Never forget that’s a part of our well being and affects our health.”

While many college students have been having a hard time coping during the Coronavirus outbreak, many college college students have also remained positive during this time.

The three students I talked to focused on what exactly they are doing to cope with this situation in order to remain relaxed and mentally well. 

These students talked about keeping busy in whatever way they desire. This includes staying connected to others, and maintaining a routine involving self care.

Female Junior from New Jersey living at home says: “I think that this quarantine/ virus outbreak has really emphasized the importance of taking care of myself and my mental health.

 I have been more aware of the down time. I need from doing work or fulfilling other responsibilities, and the importance of exercising daily and getting good sleep.

I think that right now we have no break from the workday and no separation of spaces like we normally would. Whether it be an office or library we would normally inhabit to work, our homes have now constantly made us available to overwork ourselves. And, we all need to remember to take a minute for relaxation sometimes and enjoy this time together.”

Female Senior from Florida living at home says: “During quarantine, I have had to brainstorm ways to keep good mental health. I try to get outside every day whether it is for a walk or swimming in my pool because I know that getting fresh air and sunshine is important.”

My friends are also a good source of mental support during this time. I try to check in with them every few days over text or zoom so I feel connected to others. 

Not every day is a good mental health day, but I try to keep a normal schedule to remind myself to not spend every day in my room/house.”

Female Sophomore from Ohio living at home says: “I would say that mentally it is challenging to not be discouraged by the situation. But maintaining a routine, keeping in touch with friends, and spending some time outside to walk my dogs really helps me feel better.”

It is important to note that everyone has their own unique experience in dealing and coping with this issue. Everyone is struggling and everyone is trying to just keep pushing through in whatever way possible. No one experience downplays someone else’s experience. There is no right or wrong way to feel or respond. 

The coronavirus outbreak has put all college students in a difficult situation. College students have a lot of pressure on them academically. But the mental health of college students is something that should not be ignored. 

Adapting to a new routine at home can serve as quite challenging. It is imperative to pay attention to signs of stress. It is also necessary to manage stress by supporting others and finding healthy ways to unwind yourself as well.

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Is Rate My Professors Worth the Hassle? 6 Reasons You Should Avoid It

Emily Bevacqua

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When it comes to choosing classes, students often turn to Rate My Professors to learn more about which professors and courses to take. However, with lack of accurate information and biased opinions, Rate My Professors isn’t as helpful as students think. 

Class schedules are the bane of a college student’s existence. Creating a perfect one is impossible and picking professors is a gamble. Unless students can see the future, they won’t know if a class is going to be interesting or if the teaching style is going to be boring.

Students have to create backup schedules and sometimes even backups to the backup schedule. It’s unpredictable. The only way to get some insight into the process is by doing research.

There are a couple of ways students can guess at how a class will be. First, universities provide descriptions of courses, and departments post more specific information on their own websites. This usually helps students decide if the material will be interesting and something they want to learn.

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The other way to gain perspective on a class is through other students. Turning to friends who have had the professor or taken the specific course before can be useful. However, with large universities, a friend may not have even heard of the one in question. So, students then turn to the “trusty” old site, Rate My Professors

Rate My Professors is a website where anonymous users post reviews on professors and their courses so that others can gain insight. People have been using this site for over a decade, ranking quality and difficulty of the class on a scale of five with a brief explanation. 

The problem with this site is that it’s really inaccurate. Relying solely on this information is a mistake. Students shouldn’t trust Rate My Professors, and here’s why:

1. Posts are outdated.

Sometimes, users haven’t posted about a professor in years. Julia Keefer from New York University has 6 ratings, the newest from 2010. Similarly, Michael Himes from Boston College hasn’t been rated since 2011.

These professors still teach at the universities yet they are being judged by opinions from ten years ago. Teaching styles, material, and people change over the years. It is inaccurate to trust opinions that are so old.

2.Opinions are the extremes.

When someone posts a review on a restaurant, they either loved it or had the worst dinner of their life. The same goes for Rate My Professors. Alan Fridlund from the University of California Santa Barbara is, as one student puts it, “a divisive professor. Some people love his humor and passion for the subject while others hate his politics.”

His ratings are all over the place. Some give him a 4.0 to 5.0 quality rating while others give him 3.0 or even a 1.0. They say he is a “Very funny guy, [and] makes what he talks about seem very interesting.”

However, a student also said, “I found many things he said to be quite inaccurate in his lectures. His Republican viewpoints often collided with his teachings, and he misinformed so many students.” With drastic viewpoints, Fridlund seems questionable. Which review should potential students for his classes trust?

3.Few ratings give good (or bad) overall reviews.

With any collection of data, the more input, the better the conclusion. Professors can have hundreds of ratings, which provides a more accurate judgment, but they can also have as few as three or less.

Cameron Myler from New York University has one rating, which happens to be a good one. This gives Myler an overall quality of 5.0. However her fellow colleague Jing Yang, also has one rating that gives her an overall quality of 3.0.

4.Professors have no reviews or a page.

Some professors don’t have any reviews at all, as is the case for Lisa Samuel from New York University. There are also times where they do not even have a page on the site, like Elena Kalodner-Martin from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This can make students jump to the conclusion that the professor is new to the school and lacks experience, which can deter them from taking the class.

5.The course isn’t reviewed.

Specific courses oftentimes don’t have any reviews, but the professor is rated on others. Judging them based on a different class is jumping to conclusions. They may teach a 100 level course in a completely different way than an upper-level one.

6.Users don’t provide details.

Students can be lazy. They want to help other college kids, but they don’t want to put in too much effort. Descriptions on Rate My Professors can be very short. For Harold Peterson from Boston College, his three reviews say, “Best professor ever,” one is blank, and, “Very easy. Don’t take anyone else for Principles of Economics.” Judging Peterson based on those few words is unfair.

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If students are going to use Rate My Professors, they have to look beyond the site. They shouldn’t trust these anonymous opinions alone. University websites provide professors’ profiles through faculty directories. This gives more information on their qualifications, accomplishments, and personality.

Students can also ask classmates that they’ve worked with before. Asking others within a major, increases the likelihood that they have taken the course or had the professor. Alternatively, students can post in Facebook groups to see what other peers who’ve recently taken classes with the professor have to say. 

In the end, picking a professor is still a guessing game. Thankfully, the Add/Drop period at the beginning of the semester allows students to change their mind after attending the class a few times. It’s okay to change a schedule once the semester begins. Students have to be happy with their courses in order to gain the most from them and keep a healthy mind.

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Are Ethical Fashion Brands the Solution for a Better World?

Anna Anderson

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A close-up view of a rack filled with several pieces of clothing on white hangers at a thrift store.
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Fast fashion brands have grown in popularity for their low-cost clothing and convenient accessibility online. However, these brands bring about major consequences in the world. From maltreatment of workers to heavy environmental damage. 

First, the workers in the fast fashion industry are often underpaid and overworked. Some are abused and must work in poor conditions, such as overseas. Human beings should not have to undergo this brutal treatment or face such exploitation. Instead, they should be paid fair labor wages for their hard work, time, and efforts.

In addition to this, fast fashion heavily contributes to the pollution of our water. After fast fashion brands manufacture clothes made of synthetic fabrics, consumers buy them and wash them. Every time someone washes these materials, it leads to polyester pollution.

Since the water inside washing machines, which is now contaminated with microfibers from these synthetic fabrics, streams into fresh bodies of water, a large portion of wildlife actually ingest these unhealthy and inorganic fabrics.

Another impact on the environment is excessive waste. These fast fashion companies produce clothing in bulk, leading to more than what is necessary.

If people don’t buy all of the excess inventory, then it goes to waste. The clothing made of synthetic fabrics is incinerated or goes to landfills and never decomposes. 

Lastly, the fashion industry is responsible for 1.2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Fast fashion also uses up 79 billion cubic meters of fresh water every year. All of these factors are destroying the Earth’s ecosystem.

These effects make it important for all of us to do our part in decreasing our consumption of the industry. Thankfully, there are many ways to address the problems above.

First, you can do research on different brands with the help of the internet. You can find out if your go-to stores are actually the perpetrators of workplace abuse and stop shopping there, and research brands that are kind and caring towards their employees. 

With more research, you can also look for organic and vegan brands. Their fabrics, which most likely consist of organic cotton, won’t do as much damage to the Earth. There are hundreds of these stores out there, and with online shopping, it’s easy to buy from them. 

Another environmentally friendly option is shopping at thrift stores. They sell gently used clothing that isn’t ready to be thrown away. If you live in a big city, there are many thrift stores you can visit. There are also online thrift stores such as ThredUP, Poshmark, and Depop.

When thrifting, you can find unique and vintage items that can’t be found elsewhere. This can upgrade your closet significantly. 

In a similar vein, you can rent or borrow clothes online. Apps like My Wardrobe Hq enables people to borrow clothes from each other. An American company called Rent the Runway allows people to use designer clothes for events. These clothing methods lead to less fast fashion consumption and less clothing waste. 

Sometimes, you won’t want an item anymore even if it is still in good quality to wear. Instead of throwing it away, you can give it to someone who wants it. Decrease waste by donating your old clothes to charity or taking them to thrift stores. 

You can decrease water waste by washing your clothes less often. This puts less fibers into the environment and keeps your clothes in better shape. Fewer washes mean less damage to your clothes. It’s also the perfect excuse for less laundry and fewer chores to do. 

All the ways above can be integrated into your lifestyle and shopping habits. The shift doesn’t have to be overnight but can happen in waves. Every action counts and leads toward a better world. We can all do something to decrease our support for fast fashion and shop more sustainably. With these ethical fashion practices, we can make a huge difference.

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How the pandemic will contribute to negative social-emotional development

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During this pandemic, students across the country have lamented their lack of social interactions, missed their friends, and developed new hobbies to fill their days. The assumption has always been that COVID-19 quarantine is temporary.

Soon, students will be back on campus and the social scene they’ve been missing for the past several months will roar back to life. But by the time life does get back to “normal,” they may have missed out on something much more permanent: growing up. 

Usually, when we think of social-emotional development, we think of babies learning to decode facial expressions or to play with other kids their age. But in actuality, we continue to grow and develop emotionally our entire lives, and one of the most pivotal moments in that development is during college.

This kind of development is another perhaps unavoidable casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone, from kindergartners to college students, has been pulled from their development and left stagnant in safe and unchallenging social isolation.

For college-age people, this is the period of your life where you are supposed to finally grow up. You might learn to live alone or make friends independent of your family. But throughout you have an institution that, if it’s doing its job right, provides you with a little safety net should you fail. 

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The social-emotional development college students gain is hard to measure but incredibly important. It helps students thrive in a non-academic setting, fostering healthy relationships and learning to independently manage themselves.

There are few other times in students’ lives where they can learn to build that network of support around themselves, knowing that they still have an institution to fall back on. 

During this pandemic, many students came back home, their fellow students scattering across the country and the world. One consequence of returning to a childhood home is the risk of reverting back to high school years and lifestyles. In college, many students develop their personalities and new responsibilities that may be stripped away upon returning home.

Social worker, Claire Lerner, wrote in Psychology Today that noticeable regression in children during times of stress is very common, particularly in the time of COVID-19 where stress seems to permeate the air. Even as someone who is technically an adult, when students aren’t in an environment that promotes growth, then it’s all the easier to backslide or at the very least, remain stagnant.

And social-emotional development isn’t just a meaningless phrase—it can have real importance both academically and professionally. One famous study in the Journal of Counseling & Development found that emotional growth was a better indicator of students persisting (not dropping out) than just academic success.

Students who are well-adjusted are able to cope with the stress of academics and social situations in college, and presumably, the real world better than students who merely get good grades and test scores. 

According to another study in the Social Innovations Journal, the real value of a college degree is not necessarily just knowledge actively gained, but in the emotional intelligence and maturity achieved.

David Castro and Cynthia Clyde, the authors of the study, wrote that college is really about learning soft skills, not just technical expertise that is often more job-specific. With school going virtual, students are missing out on the opportunity to develop many of the skills they pointed out like, “communication, negotiation, the ability to work in teams and team-building itself.”

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As long as social distancing and isolation continue, students will continue to miss out on deeply important social connections and moments of emotional growth. As more and more universities unveil their plans for fall, it looks like fall will be a new edition of “Zoom school” for students around the country.

The only way for schools to safely reopen is if this virus is stopped in its tracks, and this seems to be quite a challenge for the United States as is has so far, failed to do so. Face-to-face interactions are priceless and an essential part of the college experience. Social distancing is not just about missing your friends—it’s also about losing the chance to transition naturally into adulthood.

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