It’s true that April showers bring May flowers, but along with all of our favorite flora, May also brings the end of the academic year for college students, graduation for seniors, and the beginnings of Summer internships, travels, and activities.
The Summer of 2020 was turned upside down as COVID-19 safety concerns and economic considerations forced the cancellation of millions of internships, disappointing students, and forcing them to quickly find a Plan B. For some students, Summer 2020 became a long and uneventful few months, with travel limited, internships in low supply, and other normal summertime activities canceled.
This year, every American 16+ will be eligible to receive a vaccine by April 19th, and as the enthusiasm for a Summer of learning, travel, and excitement grows, we have a few predictions for Summer 2021.
Local Travel & (Some) International Travel for Vaccinated Individuals: Over the next few months, even with vaccinations, we predict a continued focus on road trips and time spent enjoying travel with friends and loved ones around the U.S. After quarantining exclusively at home for many, to quarantining and socially distancing on campus, this Summer bodes well for opportunities to reunite with old friends far and wide.
While the CDC continues to advise against large gatherings, even after receiving a vaccine, Spring Break demonstrated that college students have reached their breaking points, flocking to beaches in large groups and traveling out of state by plane.
What does this mean for brands? Supporting local, outdoor events that provide a safe space for college students to gather (or anyone, really), and tapping into opportunities for nationwide brand awareness are a strong way to go.
Study Abroad Opportunities: Junior year has traditionally been the most common time for students to go abroad, and Juniors that were unable to do so in 2020 may look to this Summer to get a study abroad experience before entering their Senior year. Universities have already begun to decide which countries they will allow students to travel to for educational purposes this Summer (the University of North Carolina, for example, https://tinyurl.com/w534kwkf)
The study abroad options this Summer might be limited compared to the options a student might encounter in a normal year, but present at least some opportunities for interested students.
For travel-related brands, the return of study abroad is certainly positive news, as it grows more and more apparent that groups of students will be traveling overseas in some capacity, if not for fun, then for education!
Unprecedented Demand for Internships: With a lack of opportunities for internships last Summer and on-campus opportunities still sparse this past school year, many students feel extra pressure to gain relevant work or internship experience
So…what does this mean? Well, it means a few things: the good news is that students are likely more open to different experiences, even unpaid work. The bad news is that this likely increase in unpaid internships to meet the heightened demand calls into question ethics issues, specifically the fact that unpaid roles create a divide between students that can and cannot afford to give up time without pay. Contributing to that sort of disparity would also directly detract from many of the equity initiatives companies have been working towards this past year.
If brands can afford to pay their interns, they definitely should. If a brand can’t afford to pay their interns, they might want to consider hiring students that are eligible to receive Summer internship funding offered by their universities.
Returning to Campus In Fall: Those are our predictions for Summer, but what about next Fall?
Based on vaccination roll-out and university responses this past Spring, we believe universities will likely return to operations closer to normal, with more in-person classes and activities.
Our other important prediction is that most universities are likely to include the COVID-19 vaccine and any booster shots that may follow to their lists of already mandatory vaccines for attendance (with the usual religious or medical exemptions). With 1 in 4 Americans currently claiming they will not accept a vaccine (NPR/Marist Poll: The Biden Administration), a statistic on par with what we found in our research of college students, how universities in different areas of the country will approach this in the Fall and who returns to class remains to be seen. Here at NMG, we are currently working with Ad Council to help educate students on COVID vaccines.
Of all these predictions, two things are certain: One, students will continue to be students. The drive to learn never goes away and neither does the drive to connect, grow, and share in moments together as a campus community. Two, we here at NMG are always ready to help you break into the college market, whatever that market looks like this Summer and Fall.