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How Gen Z feels about returning to campus (and why)

by UNiDAYS
    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

    Surprising facts about Gen Z's back-to-campus spending habits

    £22bn ($26.88bn USD). That’s the spending power of the Gen Z student population in the US. For the UK student population, it's £4.17bn ($5bn USD).

    But what...

    Gen Z students have plenty to look forward to ahead of the new academic year, like meeting fresh faces, expanding their knowledge and, of course, partying until sundown.

    They’ve got things to be anxious about too. Will they succeed in their studies? Make new friends? It’s a nerve-wracking time, that’s for sure.

    The question we want to answer is: do Gen Z students feel differently about returning to campus this year compared to 2021 and 2020?

    A decrease in negative emotions

    We conduct annual research into student sentiment and spending plans ahead of the new academic year. This includes asking Gen Z students how they’re feeling about returning to campus. 

    In 2020, 50% of UK students* were feeling anxious, 37% were feeling apprehensive, and 52% were feeling nervous. For the 2022 academic year, this decreased to:

    • 39% are feeling anxious 
    • 22% are feeling apprehensive
    • 42% are feeling nervous 

    What about US students? It’s a similarly positive picture.

    For example, in 2020, 58% of students were feeling anxious about returning to campus. This has dropped to 45% for 2022

    63% of US members also felt overwhelmed in 2020, which decreased to 30% in 2022. 

    Is there a clear cause? 

    Decreasing COVID-19 anxiety might be positively impacting how students feel ahead of the new academic year. 

    The World Health Organisation highlighted how the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25% in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    But now there’s more knowledge about the virus and more confidence in vaccines.  In 2021, almost nine in 10 people in the UK (87%) said they trusted the vaccines, and a huge swathe of the UK and US population are vaccinated - 73% of the UK general population and 78% of the US general population.

    Students facing the new academic year might also be feeling more positive and excited with lockdown restrictions (hopefully) behind them. 

    It’s perhaps why half of the UK students say they’re feeling excited about the new academic year, jumping to 69% for first-years.

    31% of UK students (and 43% of first-years) are also feeling happy.

    Meanwhile, 57% of US students say they’re feeling excited about returning to campus. This increases to 72% for freshmen. For feeling happy, this stands at 33% for US students and 42% for freshmen.

    Anxiety is still prevalent among students

    The stats are promising. But we can’t ignore that many students still feel anxious, nervous and overwhelmed. 

    Is there anything brands can do to help?

    It doesn’t matter whether you’re a tech giant or a sustainable fashion brand. You can still empathise with common concerns related to your target audience and help by:

    • Providing resources on improving mental health and wellbeing
    • Partnering with mental health charities and organisations 
    • Building an empathetic and relatable tone of voice 
    • Encouraging responsible spending through education 
    • Helping to improve the world by supporting important causes  

    That last suggestion in particular will resonate with Gen Zs. You can learn exactly why in our Back to Campus report, which also features exclusive insight into Gen Zs projected spending for the 2022 academic year >>>

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