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The COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the higher education system. This mixed-methods study aimed to assess COVID-19 fear, anxiety, and stress among Shenandoah Valley college students.


An online survey was fielded and completed by n=680 students. Qualitative semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 students.


The mean participant age was 22.14±5.48 years, and primarily White (81.9%), women (80.4%), and undergraduate (78.0%) students. Approximately 41% were enrolled in health-related majors (41.4%). Women students had significantly higher anxiety, depression, and fear of contracting COVID-19 than men. Undergraduate students had significantly higher depression than graduate students. Qualitative analysis revealed several major themes: psychological stress during the pandemic, disruption in academic life, family support, support from the university, and recommendations for the university.


Students’ perceptions of university support were related to anxiety, depression, and fear of COVID-19. Students reported a lot of stress in their lives, mitigated by support from their families. Although the university attempted to provide support, students noted that the efforts were inadequate.


While the acute impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has receded, higher education system leaders and policymakers should work together to identify areas to improve student support and develop better communication strategies. These efforts will help manage future disasters.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.