“Trying to be positive in the face of the storm”: The experiences of independent college students during the COVID-19 pandemic

Beth Sapiro, Svetlana Shpiegel, Marissa Ventola, Silvia Ramirez Quiroz, Oomi Helen Nwankwo, Tariro Munyereyi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic created multiple stressors for college students, particularly for young adults experiencing multiple forms of disadvantage. Little is known about the pandemic experiences of independent college students, many of whom are emancipated minors, former wards of the state, and other students who lack familial financial and practical support as they pursue higher education. Twenty-three independent students, ages 18–23, from one northeastern university were interviewed to understand how independent students were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, and their needs for support from the university during this time. Most participants were identified as Black or Latinx, and two thirds were first-generation college students. Participants reported an overall lack of support from their families prior to the pandemic. During the pandemic, they experienced compounding academic, economic, and mental health-related stressors. Students responded to these stressors in resilient and resourceful ways, by adapting to their new realities, expressing gratitude, and finding opportunities for self-growth. Participants recommend that institutions of higher education support independent students during periods of emergency through providing financial assistance, offering opportunities for connection with both adults and peers, and demonstrating administrative flexibility and understanding of their unique needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-548
Number of pages12
JournalChild and Family Social Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • COVID-19
  • college students
  • foster care alumni
  • independent students
  • pandemic
  • postsecondary education

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