Sophomores have particular challenges in their learning process. They entered college as freshman and had their freshman year cut short due to the pandemic. Many will be back in person as juniors this fall after a-year-and-a half of online learning.

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This is Stanford University sophomore Daryn Rockett trying to learn online at home, but being distracted by her sister Sydney — me.

In the middle of her freshman year, the pandemic forced Daryn to move back home and do her schooling online... Just like thousands of others. It was a hard pull back after just getting started on campus..

“I might have to hold back some tears because it’s it is very traumatic to just, like, build this community and then suddenly be ripped away from it. Like that was just really hard, especially because none of us we’re anticipating anything ever happening like this.”

Most college students have hopes and dreams of finding new friends, learning more of what they are into and getting the overall “college experience.” Covid-19 shifted the reality for many students like Daryn. It felt like going backwards…

Daryn felt like she was pushed back into an upgraded version of high school. She did not have the same freedom that she had on campus. At home, she felt like she couldn’t be her true self.

Things got so bad for Daryn, she hardly left her room. I had to coerce her to get dressed and go for a walk outside.

Our Mom, Jeanne Rockett noticed it too and started getting concerned.

I watched her slowly change. And it was a very sad thing to watch. She didn’t want to get up a lot of days. She always wanted to do her work.

She stayed on her schoolwork game, don’t get me wrong. But she didn’t want to come out of her room or she would get her food and go back in the room, did her work in her bed. She was just like some way that I never really seen her before.

I asked my sister about it directly…she fidgeted with a water bottle cap when she answered.

“How was your mental stability when you’re at home rather than at school?”

“I was mentally unstable, and I had to seek therapy as a result of like pandemic related stress.”

For some people … mental health issues and online learning can go hand in hand.

Scarlett Jackson is an expert in student learning and performance. She is also a school psychologist for several high schools in Southern California. She describes a recent Texas A&M study on college students’ mental health involving nearly 200 sophmores ...

“Out of those, 71% showed higher anxiety and depression. Due to the uncertainty of, ‘Am I going to go back to school? Am I not? Having to go back home, the uncertainty of their health, their safety, the safety of their parents, grandparents.”

Jackson says all the confusion adds to the anxiety.

Students, when they already planned ‘this is what my college is going to be,’ now that’s off the table. So now all their plans are in the air. So that’s got to give you an uncertain feeling. You know, you’re not comfortable.

Jackson says even before covid people lacked social skills because they were stuck behind their smartphones. And now things are worse.

“That concentration has gone down. There’s stress and anxiety that get in the way of your concentration, sitting in front of a laptop when you’re not interacting...you get bored. And it’s very easy to just kind of like if you’re not interacting, you just kind of think about other things. So just the attention span has gone down, the learning has gone down and teachers are stressed out. Learning how to teach through a screen is different.”

Luckily, Daryn was allowed back on campus at Stanford in January due to her mental health circumstances. She needed to be around her peers and surround herself in a healthy environment that will promote her learning.

“It helps because now I’m with my friends, so we’ve just been spending a lot of time together and it just feels really good to be around other people, like in the same circumstance who, like, understand how hard it is.”

Our mom has seen notable changes in my sister’s behaviour now that she is back on Stanford’s campus.

“She’s having a great time. She’s with a few of her closest dorm mates. They’re having a good time. There’s always some highs and lows. But I’m watching her. She’s making the best of it. She recently pledged a sorority in which she’s enjoying that. She’s involved in a lot of things on campus and now she’s a runner. So she’s up and running around the campus and she’s having a great time.”

Stanford plans to re-open its campus for in-person-instruction in the fall, provided there is no spike in public health concerns. And like a lot of campuses around the country students are required to be fully vaccinated.

Current college sophomores will soon be juniors and have to deal with the loss of over a year and a half of their in-person college experience. Daryn says that she can’t wait until the atmosphere of her campus is restored again.

For Annenberg Media, I’m Sydney Rockett.