Earlier this year we sat down with ten high school students from across the United States in an intimate focus group to discuss various topics related to COVID-19 and higher education. At this point, we were beginning to see the implementation of unprecedented safety measures and the early fall-out from what has become one of the most impactful events in the lives of Gen-Zs.
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The Early Impact
We highlighted the early impacts of COVID-19 on the personal, professional and academic lives of high school students and discussed how they were adjusting to a world without non-essential businesses, public events and in-school activities. While the stress of uncertainty surrounding post-secondary applications, financial planning/stability and online learning were prevalent, most participants were able to keep an optimistic outlook as they adapted to these new realities.
Following a summer that should have been spent working/saving money, completing post-secondary planning and participating in extra-curricular activities, we were able to circle back with some of our High School Influencers. We discussed how the development of new protocols has impacted them as the pandemic has progressed and our ‘new reality’ has become more familiar.
At the end of last school year there was optimism that the situation would be sorted by the fall and that the class of 2021 would be unaffected. Unfortunately, students and school boards still lack the clarity and certainty needed to formulate a firm plan. This has also resulted in the indefinite cancellation of extra-curricular activities.
The 'College Experience'
COVID has also made it difficult for students who are focussed on receiving the full ‘College Experience’. The prospect of building new relationships and participating in large-scale college events is something they hope not to sacrifice, but does not overshadow their commitment to receiving a proper education on time. This also plays into the comfort level of returning to campuses right now. Those who are looking to build relationships and take-in all that college has to offer are pushing for campuses to open back up, while students who are focussed on completing their degree are more accepting of the changes and will do what they have to.
Despite the eagerness of most high school students to start post-secondary and further their education, safety remains top of mind. The dangers of a pandemic coupled with the uncertainty about class restrictions and online learning are enough to make most students reconsider their timeline.
It is also important to take into account the things that institutions must do to create a safe, productive environment for its students. Finding a way to maintain the social engagement in post-secondary has been identified as vital feature to students, but also in a safe manner. Providing the students with the tools and guidance to be safe and responsible will make a positive impression.
To learn more on how today’s pandemic is impacting the way high school students interact with postsecondary marketing initiatives, check our High School Roundtable Report.