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Latest Gen Z Mood: All Things Back-to-School

VSCO – If you think Gen Z isn’t into school, you’re wrong. According to our latest study with JUV Consulting, that could not be farther from the truth. VSCO partnered with JUV to get the pulse on Gen Z’s back to school vibes — From how they plan to use this school year to reinvent or rebrand themselves and center themselves socially to making up for lost time in quarantine. Here’s what we found out.

Fashion has changed a lot this past year–but it’s still among the top things that gets people excited about going back to school. Expect some never-before-seen drip from Gen Z in the school yard this fall, as streetwear and loungewear reign supreme.  

Almost all student respondents believe their peers would be dipped in comfort gear this year. 39% of students said loungewear will overtake their classrooms, 30% said elevated (stylish) loungewear will be heavily worn, and 29% predicted athleisure. 

For book bags, they’re going for a classic, sporty vibe as well. 24% of students say their go-to school bag is Jansport, 21% said Nike and 21% said Adidas. 22% of students still have not decided. 

But don’t get it twisted, Gen Z will pop out if they have to. 35% of respondents expect to see streetwear return to the schoolyard, and 19% said Y2K is a trend that will debut as well.

As Gen Z was oftentimes bored during quarantine, a lot of them found new music to vibe to.* Expect them to share all of those new-found sounds with each other this fall.

More than a quarter of students (26%) plan to listen to Pop for their entrance music this fall. 24% said Rap and/or Hip-Hop, 12% said Indie Rock, and 11% listed R&B as their back-to-school theme music.

The emotions that young people have in relation to going back to school shows that the belief that Gen Z hates school is false. 

When we asked what aspects of returning to in-person school and fall events they’re most excited about, almost half of students (46%) said classes/academics and just over half (49%) said extracurriculars.  

75% said they’re excited for the opportunity to be social, and 28% said they’re excited for dating opportunities. (read: Zoom-school could only take things so far!)

43% said they’re excited for fall’s clothing/outfits, perhaps a nod to the thinking that “if you look good, you feel good and you play good.”

Gen Z gained a newfound sense of motivation last year, with an uptick in entrepreneurial pursuits.  

Gen Z plans to focus on areas that will further their future goals such as excelling in academics, setting up goals that transcend their high school and collegiate careers, and starting up or enhancing their side hustle.

Half of the respondents (50%) said academics are what they want to do bigger, brighter and bolder this fall. One-quarter (25%) of respondents said they wanted to side-hustle, taking a page out of the millennial handbook to always have multiple streams of income, and more than one-fifth (24%) said goal-setting.

Excited and anxious — Things are never just one thing…

“Social life” and “classes/academics” topped the list (61% and 48%, respectively) of aspects of going back to school in-person that excite Gen Zers the most. But things are never just one thing: they are also what is making them most anxious — although their rankings flipped (48% said social life and 61% said classes/academics). Rounding out the list of anxiety-inducers were getting back into school routine (45%), money/finances (47%) and Covid safety (31%). 

Gen Z knows the journey towards a sense of normalcy will be paved with apprehension–but they plan on depending on a sense of togetherness to get them through it.

57% of respondents said that talking to friends and family is the top way they will curb their anxiety about going back to school; 43% of respondents said they will exercise and 36% said they will get more sleep. One-in-five Gen Zers say they will seek therapy and or meditate or practice yoga. 

So much has changed for Gen Z because of the pandemic, but we hope that returning to school will be a bright spot for new beginnings. We’ll be keeping a close eye on how our community evolves on their creative journeys this fall.

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* This study was done in partnership with JUV Consulting, a marketing consultancy founded by a collective of students, and staffed entirely by a team aged 14 to 23. The survey was conducted among a sample of 500 people in the U.S., aged 14-25, from July 31, 2021 to August 6, 2021 and August 19, 2021 to August 23, 2021.

JUV Media is a collection of JUV press features — from our staff to our campaigns.