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Freshers 2023: three key trend predictions

Whatever the year, Freshers always brings a sense of renewal to unis across the UK. This goes for new and returning students – but of course, new arrivals bring their own trends to campus. Here’s what’s in store for Freshers 2023.

Financial literacy

native research shows that students landing on campus in 2023 will be more financially literate – although this isn’t necessarily a conscious choice on their part. 91% of students surveyed by native say they have been affected by the cost of living crisis. As a result of this, they will have a greater sense of what they have in their bank accounts – and what they’re willing to spend.

One byproduct of reaching adulthood in a financially turbulent time is a willingness to talk about money openly. Over half of students discuss money with family and friends, and one in three would like to learn more about how to approach conversations around money. Brands relevant to this space do have a place in these conversations – see Lloyds Bank’s “The M-Word” campaign – so it’s certainly worth weighing in if you can offer tangible guidance to your student consumers.

In spite of wider financial difficulties at the moment, students are more likely than not to have additional sources of income – 52% have a job, 28% receive money from their families, and 9% have a side hustle. Students quickly become experts in maximising their financial products and making their termly student loan drops go further – this gives them the means to splash out on the luxuries and experiences that take their fancy.


We know that employability is a strong consideration when students pick their university. But given that most undergraduates have at least three years of study to get through before grad life comes for them, it’s surprising how early they start actively pursuing their future job. Around one in three (32%) first-year students kick off their job search in their first year of university.

As digital natives, Gen Z students can switch seamlessly between online and offline spaces, which means a lot of their career development starts online. In 2021, LinkedIn reported that 10% of its global users belonged to Gen Z. Two years later, and they’re not only using LinkedIn – they’re owning it. More and more Gen Zs are creating career-building content and platforming issues of their own. Caroline McMurray’s Gen Z Copywriting Community and Sophie Miller’s Pretty Little Marketer are two that are doing it best.

As career-building initiatives go from strength-to-strength online (most students kick off their job search digitally) graduate employers can mirror this IRL from the moment students arrive on campus. Employability workshops, mentoring schemes and employer presence will be vital in helping career-hungry Gen Z students to connect the dots online and offline.

Community building

Although it was first coined way back in 2020, the term “social recession” started to circulate towards the midpoint of 2022. As the world teetered at the edge of more financial unrest, sociologists and journalists were looking inwards to examine why – after two years of a global pandemic – we were still so reluctant to go outside and socialise.

The incoming undergraduates for Freshers 2023 were as young as 15 when Covid hit. They completed their GCSEs in lockdown, attended their school proms virtually, and watched their older peers spend their first few weeks of university in quarantined halls. They were likely part of the cohort who, as reported by the Financial Times, experienced higher levels of loneliness at school even before Covid-19. To them in particular, university is more than just an education – it’s a chance to make up for lost time and build a long-lasting community.

This cohort of first-years might require more support when it comes to connecting with each other – but they will also be more adaptable, more resilient, and more honest about their wellbeing and their needs. After some difficult years, we predict that tangible in-person experiences will be a celebrated cornerstone of Freshers 2023 – but this cohort will need multiple options spanning digital and IRL.

Set your brand up to go viral on campus for Freshers 2023. Learn more about advertising via native.