The Covid Class, Part 1: How the 2023 Inquiry Pool Has Built Through 3 Pandemic-Influenced Years

The pandemic itself may be waning, but its influence is still immediately apparent in enrollment cycles.

In this blog series, we will use MARKETview’s insights and data to share high-level trends about the “Covid Class” – the students whose college search journey has been heavily influenced and dictated by the pandemic.

We’ll start at the top of the funnel – inquiries. Read on to see how inquiries have changed among the Covid Class.

1) Fewer inquiries originate from traditional College Search

While Search is still an important piece of the inquiry generation process, its influence appears to be waning. The pandemic introduced this decline – schools going test-optional, fewer test takers in general – and while the number of test-takers has bounced back, the volume of students who inquire via test-based list sources continues to drop.

2022 saw modest gains in first source search inquiries to make up for its loss in 2021, but not enough to make up the full difference – and point-in-time 2023 numbers suggest an even steeper decline.

Year-Over-Year Change in Proportion of Inquiries from Search
2021 vs. 20209.3%
2022 vs. 20211.6%
2023 vs. 2022-2.2%

An important note: Despite the reduction in inquiry volume, Searched names are performing increasingly well further down the funnel (enrolls and deposits). Given this performance, it’s even more important to make smart decisions with the smaller inquiry numbers from this group.

2) Students raise their hands later in the process

Pandemic-affected students are more often waiting until their senior year in high school to inquire about college. Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen a consistent trend every year: a 6 percentage-point drop in the proportion of pre-senior inquiries (that is, students inquiring to colleges before their senior year in high school).

This has ramifications on yield, too. Senior inquiries are typically less engaged and tend to yield at lower rates … but more detail on that in a future post.

3) First-source visits steeply declined, but might be bouncing back

We could be seeing the “return of the visit!” Due to pandemic restrictions, 2021 saw an expected decline in inquiries originating from students visiting campus – a trend that continued into 2022. But as restrictions continually lift, 2023 is experiencing the first positive growth in visits since the pandemic began.

Point-in-time data shows a 3.3% increase in inquiries originating from visits since last year. Whether this growth continues through the cycle remains undetermined; we’ll keep a close eye on the trend.

It’s clear that the pandemic changed students’ inquiry behaviors. Similar trends affect applications, admits, and ultimate enrollment, as well. We’ll cover these trends and more in future blog posts, so stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you’d like to discuss any of these trends in further detail or get a sneak peek at how your institution compares to national trends or your peers’ performance, please schedule some time to chat with us here.