With all the buzz recently around workers “quiet quitting,” some educators have pointed out that their students appear to be quietly quitting school as well. We wanted to find out if this is also the case with college students and how they are feeling about their schoolwork this fall semester.

Intelligent.com surveyed 1,000 community, public, and private college students and found that:

  • More than one-third of college students put only some or little effort into their schoolwork
  • 1 in 5 say their school-life balance is unhealthy
  • 6 in 10 say they agree with the statement, “C’s get degrees”

One-Third of College Students Put Only “Some” or “Little” Effort Into Schoolwork

When survey respondents were asked to give an approximation of how much effort they put into their schoolwork, 34% admitted that they do not go above and beyond. 30% of college students say they put “some” effort into their schoolwork while 4% report putting “little” effort into school. A few respondents even said they put “no” effort into schoolwork.

When asked why they don’t put their full effort into school, the most common reason given by far was that it would compromise their mental and/or physical health. Respondents also provided a variety of write-in answers to explain their reasons for not giving full effort in classes. These included sentiments such as:

  • “Mental health and being too comfortable with low expectations”
  • “Since there’s a lot of readings, I read the most important ones and ignore the others. This way I have more time to work on other things”
  • “I’ve already done enough above and beyond work, I’m ready to be done”
  • “Too much effort for not much reward, at least on grades”
  • “Procrastination”

Additionally, the format of the class may have a notable effect on students’ motivation and effort given. 64% of college students somewhat (40%) or strongly (24%) agree that they put less effort into their online classes than in-person classes.

1 in 5 College Students Say Their School-Life Balance is Unhealthy

When asked to describe their school-life balance, 17% of respondents said their school-life balance is somewhat unhealthy while 3% said it was very unhealthy. Additionally, on average college students ranked their mental health as being a more important priority to them than their schoolwork.

“After being forced to adjust often to remote learning during their college years where non-educational activities and student interaction which are often the activities supporting mental health and engagement, it is not surprising that this group has put this at the forefront of their needs, whether still at school or looking for their first position after school,” commented career expert Stacie Haller.

When we asked students to choose one emotion that describes the way they are feeling about their classes this semester, the top answers included stressful (21%), happy (17%), indifference (14%), and boredom (11%).

“This group has also been watching their parents now prioritizing a work/life balance and their own mental health on the job and the media is a constant reminder, so of course, students will start to consider their own school/life balance,” continued Haller. “As in the workforce, educational institutions are needing to address different and more significant challenges of their respective populations and their changing needs.”

6 in 10 College Students Agree That “C’s Get Degrees”

A common saying on college campuses is “C’s get degrees,” meaning that students don’t need to go above and beyond in their classes to simply earn their degrees and graduate without distinction. 59% of college students we surveyed said they somewhat (45%) or strongly (14%) agree with this statement.

“For most positions outside of professional services, GPA is not relevant for most employers as much as having achieved the degree,” said Haller. “So the fact is, ‘C’s get degrees’ has some truth, but it hides the fact that is more about disengagement and the need for more mental health support services especially coming out of the height of the pandemic where they were remote and more isolated. Just getting by, whether at work or at school, is never a way to fulfillment or achieving your goals in life,” she finished.

Majority Believe GPA Will Affect Job Prospects

Despite evidence to the contrary, the majority of college students also somewhat (49%) or strongly (26%) agree that getting a lower GPA will make it more difficult to get a job after graduation.

It would appear that many are willing to take their chances, however. Only 44% of total students think they will get at least a 3.5 GPA this semester. 50% of students who put “a lot” of effort into their schoolwork plan to get at least a 3.5 GPA for the fall semester, while just 34% of those who put in some or little effort plan to get at least a 3.5 this semester.

It seems that a notable percentage of college students are indeed “quiet quitting” in order to preserve their mental health this fall semester. And despite a belief that GPA will affect their job prospects after graduating, many students are reporting low effort and lack of enthusiasm when it comes to their classes.

Methodology

This survey was commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish from September 2 to September 7, 2022. In total, 1,000 participants in the U.S. were surveyed. All participants had to pass through demographic filters to ensure they were between the ages of 18 and 24 and current college students. 78% of respondents were full-time students, while 22% were part-time. Please contact [email protected] for full survey data.