You are here: American University Student Affairs 2020 Census

2020 Census: What College Students Need to Know

Virginia Hyer from the U.S. Census Bureau's Public Information Office explains that college students that normally live at school should be counted at school, even if they are temporarily living somewhere else due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Respond to the 2020 Census

American University

April 2, 2020

Dear Students,

The current public health crisis provides a vivid example of the crucial importance of accurate data to all of us. I’m writing today about one of the most important ways that data is collected - the US Census, which is now underway – and what it means for you as AU students who live for much of the year, under ordinary circumstances, in the Washington, DC region.

Every 10 years, a national census is conducted to provide an understanding of the population in the United States. According to census guidelines for college and university students, you should respond with your address as it was before you left for Spring Break, as if the school year had continued without the disruption caused by COVID-19. 

Your response matters. Data will be used to inform planning and policymaking, determine resource allocations, and much more. It will have enormous significance for all of us in the years ahead.

How do you ensure you’re counted appropriately? That will differ depending on whether you typically live on-campus or off-campus.

On-Campus Students

You don’t need to fill out the Census yourself. It’s AU’s legal responsibility to do this on your behalf. Whether you’ve been living in an on-campus residence hall or the university-operated Frequency Apartments, you fall into the category of those who live in what the Census Bureau calls “Group Quarters,” which in brief means that the university provides your information.

Please know that we will only share with the Census Bureau your “directory information” – in this case, name and campus and home addresses – in compliance with policies on student privacy and the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Be assured, too, that identifying you as living in Washington, DC for census purposes will not impact your state residency, where you vote, or have other residency implications.

Off-Campus Students

You must fill this out yourself, using your pre-Spring Break address. If you live off-campus in private housing that is not university-owned or operated, you will receive a letter in the mail from the US Census Bureau explaining how you can participate in the census. You can also go directly to the questionnaire online. 

You can begin filling out the census today   

  • Click “Start Questionnaire” 
  • If you do not have the letter, click on the link under the “Login” button that says, “If you do not have a Census ID, click here” 

Questions and More Information

Students who have any questions or concerns about the census can email the university at 

Thank you for your participation in this important effort. I hope you are doing well, and I wish you the absolute best in your studies and adjustment to these challenging circumstances.

Fanta Aw
Vice President of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence
American University

Census Questions?

If you are unsure about how to complete the census or any concerns please email us at