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Editors’ Note: The Pew
Internet and American Life Project released The Internet Goes to
College on September 15, 2002. This is the most current and thoroughly
researched information available on the use of the Internet by college
students, how it impacts their educational experiences, and how it changes
their social life. We are grateful for permission to reproduce the Summary
of Findings, and strongly recommend the entire report at http://www.pewtrusts.com/pdf/vf_pew_internet_college.pdf.
The Internet Goes to College
How students are living in the future with today’s technology
Summary of Findings
College students are early adopters and heavy users of the Internet
College students are heavy users of the Internet compared to the general population.
Use of the Internet is a part of college students' daily routine, in part because
they have grown up with computers. It is integrated into their daily communication
habits and has become a technology as ordinary as the telephone or television.
- One-fifth (20%) of
today's college students began using computers between the ages of 5 and 8.
By the time they were 16 to 18 years old all of today's current college students
had begun using computers - and the Internet was a commonplace in the world
in which they lived.
- Eighty-six percent
of college students have gone online, compared with 59% of the general population.
- College students are
frequently looking for email, with 72% checking email at least once a day.
- About half (49%) first
began using the Internet in college; half (47%) first began using it at home
before they arrived at college.
- The great majority
(85%) of college students own their own computer, and two thirds (66%) use
at least two email addresses.
- Seventy-eight percent
of college Internet users say that at one time or another they have gone online
just to browse for fun, compared to 64% of all Internet users.
- College Internet users
are twice as likely to have ever downloaded music files when compared to all
Internet users: 60% of college Internet users have done so compared to 28%
of the overall population.
- College Internet users
are twice as likely to use instant messaging on any given day compared to
the average Internet user. On a typical day, 26% of college students use IM;
12% of other Internet users are using IM on an average day.
College students say the Internet has enhanced their education
Internet use is a staple of college students' educational experience. They use
the Internet to communicate with professors and classmates, to do research,
and to access library materials. For most college students the Internet is a
functional tool, one that has greatly changed the way they interact with others
and with information as they go about their studies.
- Nearly four-fifths
of college students (79%) agree that Internet use has had a positive impact
on their college academic experience.
- Almost half (46%) of
college students agree that email enables them to express ideas to a professor
that they would not have expressed in class, but, some interactions are still
primarily face-to-face: Only 19% of students said they communicate more with
their professors via email than they do face-to-face.
- Nearly three-quarters
(73%) of college students say they use the Internet more than the library,
while only 9% said they use the library more than the Internet for information
- About half of all college
students (48%) are required to use the Internet to contact other students
in at least some of their classes.
- Two-thirds (68%)
of college students reported subscribing to one or more academic-oriented
mailing lists that relate to their studies. They use these lists to carry
on email discussions about topics covered in their classes.
- More than half (58%)
of college students have used email to discuss or find out a grade from an
- Nearly two-thirds (65%)
of college students who email professors say they report absences via email.
College social life has been changed by the Internet
The college experience is not only about learning in the classroom, it is also
about encountering new social situations and gaining new social skills. College
students use the Internet nearly as much for social communication as they do
for their education. But just as they use the Internet to supplement the formal
parts of their education, they go online to enhance their social lives.
- 42% of college students
say they use the Internet primarily to communicate socially.
- Only 10% of college
students use the Internet primarily for entertainment.
- Nearly three-fourths
(72%) of college students say most of their online communication is with friends.
- Over two-thirds (69%)
of college students said they are more likely to use the phone than the Internet
to communicate socially.
- But 85% of college students consider the Internet to be
an easy and convenient choice for communicating with friends.
- The most popular online social activity is forwarding
messages to friends or family, with 37% of college students reporting doing
- A significant number of college students use publicly
accessible computers on campus for social purposes even when they have their
own computer at their disposal: 33% find that the majority of their computer
use occurs at school and outside their homes or dorm rooms.
About the Authors
The principal author is Steve Jones, Senior Research Fellow, assisted by Pew
Internet Project Survey Analyst, Mary Madden, Research Specialist.
Research assistants include:
Lisa N. Clarke, Sabryna Cornish, Margaret Gonzales, Camille Johnson, Jessica
N. Lawson, Smret Smith, Sarah Hendrica Bickerton, Megan Hansen, Guenther Lengauer,
Luciana Oliveria, Wendy Prindle, James Pyfer.
Pew Internet & American Life Project: Lee Rainie, Director
1100 Connecticut Avenue,
NW - Suite 710
Washington, D.C. 20036