Individual differences can shape the way major life events are experienced. In this study, we explored the unique and interactive effects of depressive symptoms and sense of purpose on downstream appraisals of a COVID-19 college campus shutdown. Data were from a sample of U.S. college students (n = 152) surveyed prior to widespread COVID-19 transmission (Time 1; early fall 2019), and again just after their university closed as a protective measure (Time 2; mid-spring 2020). Depressive symptoms were positively associated, whereas sense of purpose was negatively associated, with cross-sectional reports of social status change due to shutdown. Depressive symptoms at Time 1 positively predicted perceived external control of the situation at Time 2, and sense of purpose at Time 1 positively predicted changes to worldview at Time 2. Purpose and depressive symptoms evidenced high rank-order stability from Time 1 to Time 2. This study represents a rare documentation of college students' feelings and experiences before, and during, a historical moment. The implications of these findings for future research are discussed.
- College students
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