College Insights · Article

Pulse Check: What’s the State of Student Mental Health?

So many students embracing each other
December 15, 2021

In November, as students finished up their first in-person term back on campus since the pandemic shook up college campuses in 2020 and 2021, Barnes & Noble College Insights™ wanted to get a pulse check on the state of student mental health and understand how the return to in-person classes may have made an impact. We deployed a Student Mental Health Pulse Survey.

BNC surveyed 1,116 college students aged 18-24 years old, across the U.S. in the first two weeks of November 2021. An overview of the results published in the College Insights Report: The State of Student Mental Health. You can also read Barnes & Noble Education CEO Mike Huseby’s INSIDER op-ed, 3 Ways Colleges Can Help the Nation’s Student Mental-Health Crisis.


  • 8 in 10 students (83 percent) reported experiencing feelings of significant stress or anxiety since the fall 2021 semester started
  • Nearly 70 percent of students indicated that their campuses provided mental health resources
  • Over half of those students (54 percent) said they felt those resources would be helpful to them
  • However, 80 percent of students who acknowledged their campus provided support said they rarely or never take advantage of the resources available to them


  • 29 percent of students said they thought about taking a year off college this year


  • 42 percent of students said they were comfortable discussing their mental health with friends and family, while almost half of students (45 percent) said they were not


When students were asked to rank what caused the most stress for them academically, the survey found:

  • Over half of students (57 percent) ranked getting good grades as the number one stressor
  • Only 1/4 of students (25 percent) said accumulating debt/paying for tuition caused the most stress
  • Just over 1/10 of students (12 percent) ranked finding a job post grad as the factor stressing them out the most
  • Just 3 percent of students said lack of academic resources caused the most stress and another 3 percent listed lack of mental health resources as the biggest stressor

When asked about non-academic stressors, the survey found:

  • 38 percent of students listed the COVID pandemic and if it will end as the number one stressor
  • 20 percent of students said the health of the environment/future of the planet was causing the most stress
  • Another 20 percent of students said it was the political division within the country
  • Just over 1/10 of students (12 percent) said racial injustice and equality was the number one stressor
  • Just 9 percent of students claimed gun violence as their number one non-academic stressor


  • 75 percent of students who are attending in-person or hybrid classes feel happy now that they are back on campus and participating in in-person learning and on-campus activities
  • 73 percent of students said that being on campus in-person helped them feel a sense of community

Survey Methodology

Barnes & Noble College Insights™ conducted online quantitative survey of 1,116 college students aged 18-24 years, across the U.S. in November 2021 to better understand the state of student mental health.

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