The impact of COVID-19: Graduate students’ emotional and psychological experiences

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment

Publication Date



The global lockdown of higher education institutions due to COVID-19 has led to major modifications in the way education is delivered. While students were enrolled in traditional learning environments before the pandemic, delivery modes changed quickly into online or remote learning environments mid-semester at the onset of the coronavirus. Many students experienced different emotions and challenges in response to the disruption. This study explored those experiences from the graduate students’ perspective. Qualitative methods were used to analyze graduate student reflections across the Spring 2020 semester during the COVID-19 pandemic (n = 7). The reflection papers captured the students’ fears, frustrations, anxieties, and concerns over six weeks. The outcome of the study identified five key themes—accepting virtual learning and teaching; managing disappointment; experiencing loss of power and control; feeling anxious and fearful; and incorporating coping strategies and finding relief. Most study participants expressed concern over the effectiveness of the online learning environment, while others struggled with the possibility of not seeing their colleagues physically in class. There was a general feeling that students did not have control over what they did and the uncertainty over the coronavirus proved difficult to manage. The study participants proposed a few coping strategies, including finding enough space to work and connecting with others for emotional support. This work contributes to the growing body of studies on COVID-19 and its impact on students.