Purpose: Social isolation, anxiety, and depression have significantly increased during the COVID-19 pandemic among college students. We examine a key protective factor—students’ sense of belonging with their college—to understand (1) how belongingness varies overall and for key sociodemographic groups (first-generation, underrepresented racial/ethnic minority students, first-year students) amidst COVID-19 and (2) if feelings of belonging buffer students from adverse mental health in college. Methods: Longitudinal models and regression analysis was assessed using data from a longitudinal study of college students (N = 1,004) spanning (T1; Fall 2019) and amidst COVID-19 (T2; Spring 2020). Results: Despite reporting high levels of belonging pre- and post-COVID, consistent with past research, underrepresented racial/ethnic minority/first-generation students reported relatively lower sense of belonging compared to peers. Feelings of belonging buffered depressive symptoms and to a lesser extent anxiety amidst COVID among all students. Conclusions: College students’ sense of belonging continues to be an important predictor of mental health even amidst the pandemic, conveying the importance of an inclusive climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-233
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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