September 15, 2002

College students say the Internet helps them

73% of online college students use the Internet for research more than the library
Nearly half email ideas to professors that they wouldn’t dare say in class

CHICAGO (September 15, 2002) – The generation that grew up with the personal computer now is heavily wired on campus and relies on the Internet in every dimension of college life. Fully 86% of college students use the Internet, compared to 59% of the overall U.S. population, and the students say the Internet is essential to their academic and social lives.

Among the key findings in a report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project titled, “The Internet Goes to College”:

  • 79% of college Internet users say the Internet has had a positive impact on their college academic experience.
  • 73% use the Internet more than the library for research.
  • 72% check their email every day.
  • 60% think the Internet has improved their relationships with classmates.
  • 56% believe that email has enhanced their relationship with professors.
  • 46% say email enables them to express ideas to a professor that they would not have expressed in class.

    The report notes that surveys by the Pew Internet Project show college students are much more likely than other online Americans to use instant messaging, download music files, share music files from their hard drive, and browse the online world just for fun. They also use the Web and email to get assignments from professors, form virtual study groups, plan term projects, discuss their grades with their teachers, and even to see if the materials they want at the college library are available.

    “Today’s college students were born around the time the first PCs were introduced to the public and they have grown up with these technologies,” said Prof. Steve Jones, lead author of the study and head of the department of communication at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “To them, the Internet and email are as commonplace as telephones and television – and equally as indispensable.”

    Other findings of the report include these:

  • 42% of online students say they use the Internet most often to keep in touch with their friends; 38% say they use it most often for academics.
  • As for email, 72% correspond mostly with friends; 10% mostly with family; 7% mostly with professors.
  • College Internet users are twice as likely as other Internet users 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.

    “The students made clear that the Internet is the information cornerstone of their lives – not just on school projects but on every subject that matters to them,” said Jones. “The reason we care is that these students will be taking their online habits and expectations into their lives after college and that will likely lead to significant changes in work and leisure.”

    Professor Jones is a senior research fellow at the Pew Internet & American Life Project and a co-founder of the Association of Internet Researchers.

    The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a non-profit, non-partisan research organization fully funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to examine how Internet use affects families, communities, health care, education, civic/political life, and the work place.