student sitting at rooftop and looking at campus

What Do Students Want? Key Insights on Learner Expectations in 2022 and Beyond

“Is college worth my time, money and effort?”   

That’s what 53% of high school students are asking, according to the latest study developed by Modern Campus and based on research conducted in partnership with Ruffalo Noel Levitz (RNL).  

The study, Serving the Virtual Consumer: Exceeding High School Student Expectations in 2022, explores the expectations, questions and doubts high school students across the United States face when preparing for college—and explores how these factors influence their decision to choose a college. 

Broadly speaking, Gen Z is more practical and skeptical than Millennials were as high schoolers. Having seen Millennials buried under $1.75 trillion of student loan debt, Gen Z evaluates their postsecondary options by analyzing their investment on higher education (courses, cost, financial aid) and the return on it (employability and employment opportunities).  

In short, they prioritize return on their investment when exploring college or university pathways. Two-thirds of survey respondents said they expect to be ready for the job market upon graduation, and almost half expect to have a job offer as soon as they graduate.  

The report also explores how early high school students start thinking about college, and how far they’re willing to travel for higher education. The study found that college and university websites are students’ primary sources for research. 

Having received their first mobile device in 7th grade, high school students start looking for information and planning for college as early as 9th grade. Willing to travel far and extremely price conscious, high school students visit websites, look for digital catalogs, and take virtual college tours long before they reach senior year. 

The research unearthed an array of interesting findings on student preferences, expectations and behaviors. Here are a few highlights: 

  • 61% of respondents say they started college planning before they start 10th grade.  
  • Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening is when students are most actively looking for information to plan their postsecondary journey. 
  • 63% of high school students are considering out-of-state institutions.   
  • High-ability students with GPAs over 3.6 are very likely to consider out-of-state institutions. 
  • 46% of high school students confirm that they have participated in virtual college tours.  
  • 66% reported having signed up for the virtual tour via the college website and 71% expressed satisfaction with the virtual tour. 
  • The top three important topics for high school students when looking for college or university are academics, cost and financial aid.  
  • While academics and cost remain the most important priorities regardless of age, 9th graders are particularly interested in community life, activities and athletics. Similarly, 10th graders are more interested in college rankings than any other age group. 

This study not only provides insight into what high school students expect from colleges, but also sheds light on how colleges and universities can help prospective students see the value of enrolling at their institutions. 

To view all the insightful findings and learn how you can leverage the insights to tailor your marketing and communications mix to be responsive to learner and parent expectations, download the report here! 


Serving the Virtual Consumer

Exceeding High School Student Expectations in 2022

Download the report

preview of the first page of the report as view o mobile tablet

Website Personalization Student Experience

Last updated: August 4, 2022


We use cookies on this website to enhance your experience and improve our services and our website’s functionality. By continuing to use our website, which includes remaining on this landing page, you consent to the use of cookies and agree to our Privacy Policy.