National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Spring 2021


Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2021), pp. 169-181.


Copyright © 2021 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


While the coronavirus crisis altered all facets of life across the globe, its impact on American higher education posed immediate challenges to students and faculty alike. Disruptions in normal, in-person instruction affected all students’ abilities to connect and create, but first-year students and their professors were particularly restricted in areas relating to classroom engagement, interpersonal exchange, and academic support. This pilot study presents first-year experiences of honors students during this time. Using reflective writing exercises, authors examine and assess a range of student responses (n = 98) to this extraordinary circumstance. Qualitative content analyses and coding reveal eight major themes: 1) shift in perspective resulting in personal growth, 2) changes in family dynamics and interpersonal connections, 3) focus on economic concerns, 4) focus on mental health and coping strategies, 5) changes in impressions of others and society, 6) understanding a “new normal,” 7) lack of trust, and 8) increase in social isolation. Results indicate that COVID’s multifaceted effect on honors students range in consequence from health to professional outlook. Authors suggest that understanding the nature of the first-year experience during this time can facilitate multi-level approaches and inclusive strategies for honors practitioners to help students effectively move forward on their educational path.