FROSTBURG — When Frostburg State University shut down its campus in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the college experience dramatically changed for most students with the onset of online learning.

With many students taking a blend of online and in-person classes and 25% of them studying entirely remotely, mental health has become a significant concern for college students. One in five college students say the effects of the pandemic have worsened their mental health, according to a 2020 survey from the nonprofit Active Minds.

Recent FSU graduate Jetun Reeves found her final semester to be challenging.

“My final semester at Frostburg was very trying because I was fully remote and it was more difficult to communicate with teachers this way,” Reeves said. “I was worrying about my final grades and I was worrying about catching the coronavirus, but I had to keep doing well with my academics, though it was challenging. I was confused about my virtual graduation ceremony, which felt a bit impersonal.”

FSU senior Fakhri Aditya said having more time to complete assignments increased his grades during the fall semester.

“However, I felt more distant with my teachers,” Aditya said. “I tried to practice being safe and mentally healthy by playing games with my friends. I recommend that people spend their time in quarantine learning a new skill or hobby.”

Frostburg State’s Counseling & Psychological Services office has been busy implementing new services with its telehealth model to keep mental health at the forefront.

“Students continue to have access to our full range of services and meet with their counselor over a HIPAA-compliant program, which ensures their information remains confidential and protected,” said Counseling & Psychological Services office Clinical Director Susan Mandell. “We saw an increase in the number of students who utilized our services over the summer in comparison to past years, but as the school year progressed, less students accessed our office than in previous years. This is a trend that has been seen in college counseling centers across the state and the reason is unclear.”

Frostburg State professors have also felt the effects of the pandemic when teaching formats suddenly became drastically different.

“Keeping the attention of the students is especially difficult,” political science professor Timothy Magrath said. “Online teaching seems to give some students an avenue to check out and not engage themselves.”

Magrath said online teaching provides for a unique learning experience, but isn’t nearly as flexible.

“The online teaching has the potential of creating a lot more opportunities to teach much larger classes, though,” he said. “You’re not just limited to thirty students, but a much larger classroom. It also seems a lot more convenient for our students to balance their personal lives with their schoolwork.”

“It definitely changed the classroom environment, having to juggle an online and in-person curriculum,” FSU senior Holden DeMartino said. “I sometimes wear two masks and make sure to clean my books and supplies when I come home. I try to remain optimistic and know that difficult times help us become stronger people.”

Mandell’s best advice for students who are struggling with their mental health is to reach out for support. “You do not have to handle this on your own. CAPS is available for support.”

The Counseling & Psychological Services office is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday and can be reached at 301-687-4234.

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