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Only Half of High School Students Feel a Sense of Belonging at Their School, Qualtrics Research Shows

Last updated:  August 2, 2022

26% of high school students say they have been the target of bullying


PROVO, Utah and SEATTLE, August 2, 2022 — Only half of U.S. high school students (51%) say they feel a sense of belonging at their school, according to new research from Qualtrics (Nasdaq: XM). Many teenage students say the events of the pandemic over the past two years have made them feel less connected to peers, teachers and staff. However, students who report feeling like they belong are more likely to say they plan to graduate from their current school (by 9 percentage points). More results from the study can be found here.


With mental health issues on the rise for young people and increasing concern about the risk of self-harm and violence as a result, educators are focusing more of their attention on teaching social-emotional skills like social awareness and relationship-building, as well as creating a network of support for students to rely on when facing personal challenges.


However, a large percentage of teenagers do not currently feel like they are part of their school community, and more than a quarter (26%) have been the target of bullying. Although a majority of high school students (56%) are confident they can call or text a classmate if they have a question about an assignment, just 40% are confident they can go to another student for emotional support, and only 38% are confident they can rely on other students to help them make friends.


When it comes to teachers, 66% of students say they would be comfortable discussing an academic problem, while only 32% say they would be comfortable discussing a personal problem.


In contrast, in college — where students exercise greater choice in whether to attend school and where — 81% of students feel like they belong at their school and 86% of students are glad they attend their school. College students also report higher levels of confidence in their ability to rely on classmates and faculty for both academic help and emotional support.


“These findings emphasize how important it is for school leaders to understand how their students are feeling, identify those who may be struggling and take urgent action to help them feel like school is a place where they belong,” said Katie Johnson, principal research analyst for education at Qualtrics. “Belonging is a critical component of a school culture that supports social and emotional learning, which is important for both academic success and student well-being.”


How One School District is Building Trust and Promoting Inclusion for Students


Bullying is prevalent in high schools and can lead to a lack of a sense of belonging. According to the Qualtrics study, 51% of high school students say they have witnessed bullying at their school. When it comes to reporting, just under half (49%) say they would be comfortable talking to a teacher about bullying they witnessed, while just 34% would be comfortable if they were the ones being bullied.


Iowa City Community School District, which serves over 14,000 students in grades K-12, uses Qualtrics to make it easier for students to communicate their concerns about bullying, sexual assault or harassment, discrimination and school safety to administrators. Students can scan QR codes on posters prominently displayed in bathrooms, cafeterias and hallways to report what they have witnessed or experienced, anonymously or not. Students can even upload videos, pictures or screenshots to help identify the problem.


The “Say Something” campaign has resulted in more than 300 reports, triggering automatic emails to principals and select administrators, who have then taken quick action to protect students in cases of bullying, sexual harassment, hazing and more.


“Before we had this campaign in place, the process to submit a concern or report an incident was very formal, and students were not always comfortable,” said Kristin Pedersen, director of Community Relations at Iowa City Community School District. “Qualtrics has given us a tool that utilizes something students already have in their hands — their phones. In these sensitive situations, it can make the difference between a student feeling helpless and a student getting the support that they need.”


Ultimately, taking action based on the reports submitted increases trust between students and administrators and makes the schools across the district a safer, more inclusive community for everyone, Pedersen added.




This study was fielded between May 20, 2022 and June 1, 2022. Respondents were identified through a panel and considered eligible if they were a 14-19 year old high school student living in the United States and enrolled at a traditional public, public charter, or private or religious school. Respondents who did not pass quality standards were removed. The total number of respondents is 1,039.


About Qualtrics XM for Education


With over 20 years of experience in education, Qualtrics now serves education institutions across K-12 and Higher Education around the world—including 99 of the top 100 business schools and over half of the top 50 U.S. school districts—helping them understand and improve the experiences they deliver. Qualtrics solutions are purpose-built to help leaders in education understand experiences across departments, take the right actions to attract and retain students and staff, and increase engagement and success. Qualtrics XM for Education uncovers unique insights into the student and faculty journeys and empowers school leaders to close experience gaps—driving increases in enrollment, retention and graduation.


To learn more about XM for Education please visit


About Qualtrics


Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the experience management category, is changing the way organizations manage and improve the four core experiences of business—customer, employee, product and brand. Over 16,750 organizations around the world use Qualtrics to listen, understand and take action on experience data (X-data™)—the beliefs, emotions and intentions that tell you why things are happening, and what to do about it. The Qualtrics XM Platform™ is a system of action that helps businesses attract customers who stay longer and buy more, engage employees who build a positive culture, develop breakthrough products people love and build a brand people are passionate about. To learn more, please visit