This article is published in the January 2023 issue.

Freshman Experienced the Highest Decline in Frequency of Interactions with Classmates Outside of Class During COVID Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted many facets of our lives collectively. One of the changes that took place was the sudden switch to fully virtual education at all levels. This switch brought many challenges with it. Included in those challenges were those related to the social aspects of attending school. This graphic, based on the annual CRA Data Buddies Survey (DBS), provides a snapshot of the level of interaction undergraduate students in computing fields reported having with their classmates in the years 2019, 2020, and 2021. The results indicate that students interacted with their classmates less frequently after the pandemic, and the change was more drastic for students who were earlier on in their academic program.

Specifically, it shows the percentage of students who reported having interactions with their classmates outside of lectures at least once a week. Data are presented by academic class standing since it is possible that students who were already in an academic program prior to the pandemic would have formed connections with their classmates making it easier for them to adapt to the virtual context and continue those interactions with their peers. DBS 2019 started in November 2019 and closed in February 2020 shortly before the nationwide pandemic shutdowns started in the United States.

The analysis shows that, on average, 68 – 71% of undergraduate students at levels of academic class standing reported interacting with their classmates outside of lectures at least once a week pre-pandemic. Unsurprisingly, this percentage declined for all students with larger drops observed for students who were earlier on in their academic program. Only 56% of freshman reported once a week or more frequent interactions with their classmates in 2020, and this number remained about the same in 2021 (58%). For seniors, the percentage decreases from 71% in 2019 to 66% in 2020, and 63% in 2021.


  • Data presented here is for undergraduate students who responded to the question “How often do you interact with your classmates outside of lectures?” Percentages indicate the percentage of students who indicated they interact with their classmates outside of lectures “1-3 per week” or “More than 3 times per week”.
  • The number of students in the sample:
    • DBS 2019: 8,963 (Freshman: 2,006; Sophomore: 2,377; Junior: 2,489; Senior: 2,091); DBS 2020: 12,600 (Freshman: 2,708; Sophomore: 3,324; Junior: 3,746; Senior: 2,822); DBS 2021: 10,966 (Freshman: 2,905; Sophomore: 2,849; Junior: 3,019; Senior: 2,193)
  • Surveys are administered during November – February. The year indicated is the year the survey started.
  • Two-proportion comparisons between the years within each academic class indicate that all changes except the slight increase for freshmen in 2021 and slight decrease for juniors in 2021 were statistically significant at the 95% confidence level.

horizontal CERP logoThis analysis is brought to you by the CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP). CERP provides social science research and comparative evaluation for the computing community. Subscribe to the CERP newsletter here. Check out CERP’s activities and find out how to engage on CERP’s website.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number (DUE 1821136). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.