The College Post
The College Post -- Covering Higher Education in America

Less Freshmen Will Attend College This Year: Survey

Close to 40 percent of freshmen who aspired to attend a four-year residential college say they are unlikely to attend any college this fall. Another 30 percent of students already registered are less likely to go back to college even if they can.

Following the news that 20 percent of Harvard freshmen have chosen to defer this year, a new survey suggests that colleges and universities may be in for a rude awakening due to COVID-19.

The latest National Student Survey – Higher Ed and COVID-19 edition by SimpsonScarborough, a higher education data research firm, presents some startling data. 

Effects on Higher Education 

More than 40 percent of freshmen intend to change their plans if colleges and universities are able to provide only online instruction. Students do not seem to be in favor of the online-only mode of instruction, even while colleges are adapting the forced move. 

Gap years are gaining popularity as close to 12 percent of high school seniors prefer taking one. This means institutions will face an ocean of deferral requests instead of student enrollments.

Three-quarters of the students are “very worried” they will contract the virus on campus. Nearly 66 percent of returning sophomores say they don’t feel safe in residence halls. COVID-19 on campus is a big deterrent for students to head back to college.

Almost half of the incoming Latino freshmen would prefer online classes from home. Being the hardest hit by coronavirus on the job spectrum, the chances of going back to college to incur health costs seem bleak.

Close to 50 percent of Black students’ families have been financially impacted by COVID-19 and only 20 percent of them want to go back to college. 

Action Required by College and University Leaders 

The survey also recommends the course of action to swiftly move forward towards survival and thriving. Improving the quality of communications through social media, particularly Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok, can help students. 

Inviting students for a virtual open house will be a great way to connect and discuss concerns, the survey suggests. Instead of pushing for enrollment, microsites can be created to identify and mitigate factors that keep students away. 

Remind students of what they love about your campus, says the survey. It suggests universities reinforce reasons why students need to be on the campus, for example through their beloved mascot or faculty member.

Planning for how to handle the flood of deferred enrollment due to gap year is also necessary, according to the survey. Sharing these options with students will help them prepare better for the next year. 

Communication with parents is essential this semester especially, as per the survey. Calling parents the “x-factor” for the fall semester, the survey suggests keeping them informed with all the latest campus information.

The survey recorded responses from 927 incoming college freshmen and 905 returning students in the US.