First-Year Student Engagement in Campus Activities Programs During COVID-19

First-Year Student Engagement in Campus Activities Programs During COVID-19



Jairad Strait Hydrick



Existing research highlights the relationship between student engagement and student success and persistence; however, this relationship is predicated on the ability of students to freely engage with one another, which has not been the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. Colleges and universities and their campus activities programs have transitioned to offering virtual, hybrid, and in-person programs that limit peer-to-peer and peer-to-staff interaction, so as mitigate health and safety risks. These restrictions contradict what has been long understood to be “best practice.” In response, this study sought to understand (1) how first-year students are engaging, or not engaging, with campus activities programs; (2) how COVID-19 impacted students’ decision to engage and not engage; and (3) the impact on desired student engagement outcomes. Using a survey design, first-year students at private, Catholic institution in the Midwest were surveyed regarding their attitudes and experiences with COVID-19, engagement with campus activities programs, and achievement of desired outcomes. Results demonstrate that while students continued to engage in various campus activities programs, and felt safe doing so, COVID-19 impacted students’ decision how to engage. Additionally, most participants felt disconnected from their peers, more concerned for their mental health, and a decreased sense of belonging. This study has implications for understanding the needs of the first-year students, who are most vulnerable to attrition, whose transition has been significantly disrupted by COVID-19, as well as emerging scholarship on engaging students across multiple modalities.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Graham F. Hunter

Primary Advisor's Department

Counselor Education


Stander Symposium project, student affairs, School of Education and Health Sciences

First-Year Student Engagement in Campus Activities Programs During COVID-19