Most College Students Say Pandemic Will Still Be a Concern in Fall 2021 Term

Most College Students Say Pandemic Will Still Be a Concern in Fall 2021 Term

Survey shows students remain cautious, especially in U.S.
College students in a classroom

Although the COVID-19 vaccine rollout is picking up pace across much of the world, many people still worry about their safety while in public. And according to a new survey, students don’t see the pandemic’s effects disappearing anytime soon.

In its Back to School for Marketers report, identity marketing platform SheerID found that eight in 10 college students are concerned that the health crisis will affect the upcoming Fall 2021 school term.

The survey — which covered students in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France and Germany — also found some geographical differences, with the U.S. more likely to practice behaviors that minimize their risk of exposure.

Socializing habits adapt to pandemic-era safety guidelines

It’s no secret that college students, like most other groups, are finding new ways to connect with their peers during the pandemic. The SheerID survey found that more than three in four students reported connecting with their friends virtually during the pandemic.

Students in Germany, the U.S. and the U.K. were the most likely to shift their socializing online. Meanwhile, U.S. students were less likely than those in Europe to visit public spaces, such as on-campus fitness facilities or bars, restaurants and stores near campus.

Unsurprisingly, once social restrictions lift, students in the U.S. were also the most likely to participate in the activities they missed out on, including:

  • Going to a restaurant or bar
  • Traveling on a plane
  • Going to a concert or indoor event

This mirrors findings from Coinstar, which indicated that activities like going on vacation, seeing loved ones and dining in at restaurants are some of the biggest things American adults look forward to doing after the pandemic.

Students want brands that offer deals, share similar beliefs

Trends seen in socializing matched those seen in shopping. More than five in 10 American students spent more time purchasing online (55%) than before the pandemic, the survey found. As a result, they reported spending more money online (51%) as well.

For many respondents, student discounts were the biggest way to know whether a brand was "student-friendly." U.S. students said such exclusive offers would make them more likely to:

  • Buy from a brand they have not shopped with before (54%)
  • Purchase sooner (49%)
  • Buy more items than they would have otherwise (47%)

U.S. respondents were also keen on free offerings, saying they would respond positively to:

  • Free perks like free shipping or free checked bags (83%)
  • Buy one, get one free deals (72%)
  • Free gifts (71%)

An earlier survey from Sitecore showed that Gen Z shoppers in general are more likely to support retailers they see as ethical, compared with those in other generations. Similarly, SheerID found that brands championing programs and causes that students cared about also ranked highly for respondents in all countries.

Meanwhile, social media influencers appeared to make less of an impact on student shopping habits than brands may believe. Students ranked influencer presence in a company's marketing efforts as the least effective approach a brand can take.

And while over 7 in 10 American students would be more likely to try a product if recommended to them by a family member (78%) or friend (72%), almost 40% of respondents disclosed that they would "likely not" try a brand or product if it was recommended by an influencer.

Methodology: For this survey, SheerID and Riddle & Bloom gathered data from 900 college students in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to over 400 students in France, Germany and the U.K.

Feli Oliveros is a finance and business writer with experience covering personal finance, small business finance, and payment processing. In 2015 she graduated from UCLA, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and minored in Anthropology.