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Your questions answered: How the pandemic affects US college students

Isolation: a student peeks out of her blinds.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, our clients and friends throughout the student marketing industry have been coming to us with questions about how the crisis was impacting students’ education, social lives, and spending habits. And who better to answer these questions than our student users themselves? We conducted a survey of college and high school students aged 16-24 across the US and asked them your burning questions. Here’s what we found out…

How has the pandemic affected where college students are currently living?

88% of students are now in their family home, 11% in private accommodation and only 1% in student accommodation managed by their college. Of those who were previously staying in student accommodation, 96% have now moved to their family home, and 54% of those who were in private accommodation have done the same.

How has the pandemic affected students’ education?

94% of students have had their classes moved online, 16% have had exams cancelled, and 5% have had classes cancelled as they couldn’t be moved online. Only 5% said their education hadn’t been affected in any of these ways.

A student stays connected during the pandemic with his smartphone.

How will the pandemic affect the number of new students starting college in fall 2020?

Of the high school students who were originally planning to start college this fall, 96% are still intending to do so.

Will there be less international students at colleges in the new school year?

This will depend on travel restrictions, so we can’t give a definitive answer at this stage. However, of the international students who were planning to continue their studies in the US in fall 2020, 84% are still planning to do so.

What are students looking forward to post-lockdown?

The things students are most looking forward to are seeing friends/family (85%), going to events such as music, theatre and sports (74%), continuing with their education (69%) and going out shopping (66%). Meanwhile, 60% are looking forward to returning to work/getting a job, 60% taking part in sports/going to the gym, and 57% going on vacation.

Students on tour: friends jump for a group photo on the beach.

How has the pandemic affected their online shopping habits?

44% of students are shopping online more than usual, 33% the same amount as usual, and only 21% are shopping online less. 82% have looked for a discount on an online purchase, 73% have researched things they want to buy in the future, 51% have bought something online that they normally would have bought in-store, and 50% have bought from an online store they hadn’t bought from before.

How do students feel about brands sending marketing emails during the pandemic?

Overall they are very positive, with only 18% saying this is inappropriate. 52% are sympathetic to the brands, as they understand the economic impact of the crisis. 36% say they are happy to receive emails as they want to support the brands they like, while 24% say the emails help to keep them entertained during lockdown.

How do students feel about brands doing good for the community during the crisis?

Their view of this is overwhelmingly positive, with only 1% saying they shouldn’t get involved. 62% say it makes them think more highly of the brand, and 34% say it makes them want to buy from them. However, it’s important to ensure any community actions are truly impactful and meaningful, as 45% say they’re only impressed if they feel it’s sincere.

Isolation: a student peeks out of her blinds.

How are students coping with the crisis emotionally?

Students are very conscious of the impact of the pandemic on their mental health. 68% say it has made them anxious or depressed. When asked how they were feeling during lockdown, 68% said stressed, 58% bored, and 50% isolated. Therefore, it’s vital for brands who have a Gen Z audience to be sensitive and supportive during this time.

Make sure to bookmark this page as we’ll be keeping it updated with new insights from our student community as the situation progresses. Want to find out more about how your brand can support and engage student consumers during the crisis? Get in touch with us today to discuss your specific student research needs.

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