Over the years, college student wellness programs have expanded beyond supporting the physical wellbeing of students to include initiatives that address their emotional, social, and financial health as well. While each university wellness program has its nuances, the best college student wellness programs have at least five things in common.
College student wellness is shifting from reactive interventions to preventative ones. Rather than treating wellbeing issues that already exist, more attention is directed toward preventing issues before they interfere with student health, wellness, and success. College student wellness is impacted by a variety of issues, ranging from depression and anxiety to financial stress and lack of social support. Successful college student wellness programs provide resources and tools to reduce the likelihood of these issues negatively impacting their overall wellbeing.
The programs that best support college student wellness include mental health support, financial wellness resources, and academic assistance. Inside Higher Ed reported that one year into the pandemic, 65 percent of students rated their mental health as “fair” or “poor.” Similarly, a survey by Active Minds revealed that 80 percent of college students said the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. Providing support and relief from some of the stressors created by the pandemic is critical as a new school year approaches.
Equipping on-campus providers
No one expected a pandemic. The subsequent need for college student wellness to encompass the complexity of issues it created wasn’t foreseeable. Few universities were or are prepared to staff or resource the high volume of student need that exists today. As a result, prioritizing the hiring of mental health professionals and providing new development opportunities for existing staff is necessary to support the wellness initiatives that are now necessary on college campuses across the country. Treating mental health support as a campus wide initiative, not just one that’s owned by the university counseling center, will lead to better student support and outcomes.
Learn from the leaders
College student wellness programming is being done well by many universities from coast to coast. While each is unique, they provide a glimpse into what’s working well on their campuses and are leaders in the wellness arena. By offering more than just healthy food in their cafeteria, these college wellness programs pave the way for other universities to bolster college student wellness on their campuses.
Incentives provide the motivation to take action. Both extrinsic motivation and intrinsic motivation can lead to higher participation rates in college student wellness programs, so understanding this key element of human behavior is critically important in campus programming. Knowing when to rely on each kind of motivation will yield a higher ROI and more impactful college student wellness during those formative years and beyond.
College student wellness programming will continue to evolve as new challenges and issues arise in an ever-complex, changing world. Staying agile and aware will lead to better services and support for those in your care during these critical years of human development.