COVID-19 college closures: how can brands support students?

Since students went back to school, COVID-19 cases have been on the rise – which means that colleges are rethinking the delivery of their programs. How can you help students to navigate this curveball?

2020’s Back to School season has been like no other. For the students starting college in the midst of a global pandemic, it was never going to be a straightforward start to the year. And as COVID-19 cases rise, many colleges across the country have made a difficult decision: suspend in-person teaching in favor of online, virtual classes.

There’s currently no standard for how colleges are dealing with the rise in COVID-19 cases – those with a relatively low number of cases are continuing to operate as normal, providing in-person teaching and facilitating a socially-distant college experience. Other parts of the country – particularly colleges within highly-populated cities – have introduced isolation space for students with symptoms, canceled large-scale gatherings, and moved some or all teaching online. It’s important to note that the experience of a student at a campus with a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases is going to be vastly different from that of someone who started at a college with more cases.

Rising COVID-19 cases forces US colleges to consider off-campus course delivery.

Students may have started this year with a clear picture of what dorm life will look like – that picture has now changed considerably. They might be starting college – a hugely daunting time of their lives anyway – within the family home, in a socially-distanced dorm setup, or with two weeks of quarantine in a new city or state.

When asked back in summer if COVID-19 would change their college plans, 95% of young people said they still intended to take up their place. Now that they’ve been met with widespread disruption, Gen -Z- focused brands can play a part in enhancing students’ college experience – however it may now look.

Virtual meetups remain the norm.

One thing that students will be craving more than anything is connection. If you’re a tech or mobile brand, this might mean providing what they need to socialize with their peers: stronger WiFi, affordable smartphones and discounted laptops. Student Beans has connected a number of tech and mobile brands to students – and we believe that now, more than ever, the student demographic is looking for tech that will bridge the gaps between friends as they study at home.

Socializing at university is likely to look very different as time goes on. Psychologists writing for the Atlantic suggested a range of activities that young people could take part in safely – “: Think movies, yoga classes, and concerts—all outdoors with social distancing encouraged and school-branded masks provided” – and it might be up to traditional events and experience brands to take up this gauntlet.

The changing face of entertainment: socially distanced meetups.

As students adapt to smaller-scale or virtual social events, food and entertainment brands have a unique role to play – whether you pioneer a food delivery discount unique to students, or you give young people reduced-price access to your movie streaming platform, you’re giving them the tools they need to create small-scale social events at home.

There’s also the issue of what newly-remote college students will get up to in their down-time. Their priorities are likely to change: with so much time spent at home, they’ll likely care more than ever before about enhancing their environment, and home-based activities like at-home fitness and gaming are likely to become ever more popular among this already-tech-focused generation. We’ve seen how Gymshark has dominated campuses across the country – and athleisure and fitness can easily be adapted to fit into at-home settings.

There’s no easy way to sugar coat it – attending college in this time is likely not what anyone expected. But Gen Z are adaptable – they will no doubt create new traditions and establish their own college routines.

Back in March, Student Beans was on hand to help brands to adapt their marketing strategies in the wake of COVID-19. Find out what you need to do to connect with students in spite of the pandemic by reading our guide.