Every US college’s key dates and COVID restrictions verified and in one place: PredictHQ’s Academic Events category

Published on September 28, 2020
Richard Bray
Chief Operating Officer

Most years, more than 20 million students turn up to study at American universities or colleges. With a combined discretionary spending power of $212 billion and usually involving a substantial relocation, tracking this demand catalyst has long been a dream of demand forecasters at any company targeting young people.

Like so many other parts of life, the pandemic has changed how colleges will operate this semester and potentially for years to come. More than 75% of the country's 5,000 colleges are partially or fully online this fall, according to a count by the Chronicle of Higher Education. This means it’s more important than ever for any business targeting university students to know the key dates and exact quantity of expected students at the colleges relevant to their operations.

Tracking college dates was already daunting, as each college has its own dates as well as different ways of communicating these. Now, you would also need to factor in the college’s COVID response and how it will impact on-campus population. For example, Harvard University has almost 23,000 students but only freshmen will be attending on-campus classes this fall.

Key Dates and student enrolment totals for every US College in one source

PredictHQ is the only centralized source of data for every college of more than 5,000 students in the USA. Launched earlier this year with a handful of states, we have now extended our coverage to every state. Our coverage includes two years of historical data and all key events up to the middle of 2021. Verified, historical data is crucial to understand how academic events impact your demand.


Our coverage provides the start and end dates as well as on-campus student population for the following:

  • Sessions: regular sessions such as the fall and spring semesters

  • Intensive session such as summer school

  • Exam periods

  • Holidays such as thanksgiving or spring break, as these vary by college

  • Graduation dates

  • Key social events such as homecoming

Whether you are focusing on targeting returning students or recalibrating your forecasts to the decrease in demand caused by students staying home, companies targeting young people need to update their strategies. Some example impacts of academic event's impact on demand are:

  • Sessions beginning will mean an influx of students to a site and will drive incremental demand for stores and businesses around campuses. 

  • Whereas session ends means many of these students will leave campus to go home or on holidays, so this will often drive down demand for businesses near campuses.

  • Graduation events tend to drive a substantial increase around campus for businesses such as hotels and accommodation providers, as families arrive to attend ceremonies. 


Using Academic Events in Demand Forecasting

Pre-pandemic, academic events would mostly drive an increase in demand for businesses such as coffee chains, restaurants, retail and entertainment venues near college campuses. Due to COVID-19, there are two ways businesses need to use our Academic Events data:

  • Incremental demand: Even if 75% are going fully remote, that’s still 5 million college students with $53 billion in spending power this year that are impacting their respective college towns. Businesses that depend on college students as part of their yearly revenue need to know college and university dates and what proportion of students will be returning to campus.

  • Decremental demand: Factoring in the students who will not be returning to college so you can know how much to reduce staff and stock at businesses that rely on student trade.

Either way, if young people are a target market for you, you need verified dates and undergraduate full time student predicted attendance for key colleges to inform your demand forecasting models so you can adjust your plans to the demand you will experience.

Case study: Saving at least $15 million with more accurate labor forecasts

For example, one of our customers is a major quick service restaurant that students love an patronize in great numbers. So this chain has stores – often multiple stores – around large colleges and student accommodation areas.

This fall semester and into the future, they need to consider:

  • With 75% of colleges being fully or partly online, these stores will not receive their usual level of demand.

  • Failing to update their staffing strategies will waste hundreds of millions of dollars.

  • Reducing staffing in stores around college campuses by just one shift per day will save each store around $9,000 per store this fall semester.

  • Reducing one shift in per day per store around 70% of US colleges would save this company at least $15 million.

And that’s before factoring in the millions saved by updating inventory and supply chain plans. PredictHQ customers can refer to the detailed handbook on our Academic Events data for more information on how to use it.

Verified and standardized data updated frequently

Academic Events is an event category unique to PredictHQ. Each college has their own calendars, served in a range of ways, posing many challenges to tracking this information accurately and at scale. We know this because many of our large food retail and retail customers have been requesting PredictHQ provide this category for them after they lost many months of team time trying to track it internally.

We have built machine learning systems to aggregate, standardize and verify Academic Events, as well as to reliably predict full time student attendance. We have also built new models to calculate the impact of COVID-19 on events, which we update regularly. Our Academic Events predicted attendance coverage will be updated frequently to ensure each college has accurate data. We will also use all of these models to inform our predicted attendance for events such as sports, performing arts and community events that are popular among students also.

If your business targets college campuses specifically or young people in general in the USA, make sure you get in touch with our team to get access to this world-first demand intelligence. We will be expanding our Academic Events coverage into Europe in 2021.