Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

College students overwhelmingly plan to return to campus this fall if their schools are open — and they claim they'll sit out the fun even if it's available, according to a new College Reaction/Axios poll.

Why it matters: For many, even an experience devoid of the trappings of college life is still a lot better than the alternative.

76% of college students say they will return to campus if they have the option. 66% say they would attend in-person classes.

  • A striking majority say they're planning to forgo the fun on campus: 79% say they wouldn't attend parties and 71% say they wouldn't attend sports games if they happen.

Reality check: Avoiding these temptations is a lot easier said than done. Peer pressure, boredom and a gradual relaxation of strictness could all change the calculus when restless students find themselves in their dorms on a Friday night.

The big picture: College students have few options and going to school may be the best choice available.

  • Traditional gap year options, including travel, are out of the picture.
  • Waiting out the pandemic means being directionless for the foreseeable future and delays post-grad earning potential.
  • Even getting a job at home means putting off the higher earnings of post-grad work.
  • Others who can't live with parents would be dependent on student loans and work study agreements to get by — and they couldn't get those without returning to campus.

The bottom line: For most students, returning to a much tamer campus with far more restrictions sounds a lot better than not going back at all.

Methodology: The poll was conducted July 13-14 from a representative sample of 800 college students with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.

College Reaction’s polling is conducted using a demographically representative panel of college students from around the country. The surveys are administered digitally and use college e-mail addresses as an authentication tool to ensure current enrollment in a four-year institution. The target for the general population sample was students currently enrolled in accredited 4-year institutions in the United States.

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