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A school bus and school supplies beside a pointing arrow sign reading "back to school" for Meltwater blog on back-to-school trends.

2023 Back-to-School Trending Topics

Ann-Derrick Gaillot

Aug 28, 2023

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It’s that time of year yet again. Summer is winding down, back-to-school shopping is wrapping up, and classes are going back into session. From parents to students to educators to retailers, the back-to-school season involves a wide range of audiences. We used the Meltwater Suite to learn more about what they and others were talking about most this time around. Our analysis looks at English-language back-to-school keyword mentions from June 1 through August 21, 2023.

Overall Mentions: A Steady Rise

A chart showing the rise in back-to-school keyword mentions over time, with 1.85 million total mentions and a daily average of 22,600.

Mentions of “back to school”, “return to school”, and related hashtags and keywords began picking up in early July and spiked on August 21, which was the first day of school in many districts and regions. Over the entire 83 days we analyzed, back-to-school mentions increased by 114% compared to the previous period. And while that growth is significant, it is less dramatic than the growth we saw around this time last year. 

Want to know what last year’s back-to-school season looked like? Check out our 2022 back-to-school conversation blog all about it!

Top Keywords: Mornings and Afternoons

A keyword cloud showing the top words and phrases in the 2023 back-to-school conversation with the word "kids" being the largest.

While many of the top keywords in this year’s conversation focus on school itself, two popular ones concern the times before and after the school day. “Morning” racked up more than 46,600 mentions, and “afternoon” reached almost 19,000 mentions. 

Top Content Cluster: Florida Bans AP Psychology

Meltwater’s AI-powered content clusters detection tool identified “Florida bans AP Psychology over gender identity, sexual orientation lessons” as the top story in this year’s back-to-school conversation. 

Advanced Placement, or AP, courses are a much-discussed, U.S. back-to-school topic this year due to the rise of proposed and passed anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-critical race theory legislation. In early August, The College Board, the non-profit that administers AP courses and exams, stated that its AP Psychology course was “effectively banned” in Florida, where teaching students about sexual orientation and gender identity has been illegal since 2022 under the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Looking beyond the back-to-school conversation to mentions of the AP Psych ban over the 83 days analyzed, they were overwhelmingly negative.

A ring chart shot showing nearly 75% negative sentiment.

A line chart showing sentiment over time, with a large spike of negative sentiment from August 2 to August 8.

The movement to censor books and curricula about American history, gender identity, race and racism, and LGBTQ+ communities and topics in schools will continue to be a dire issue in U.S. education. Learn more about this issue in PEN America’s report Banned in the USA: State Laws Supercharge Book Suppression in Schools.

Tip: Learn more about the Meltwater AI Spike Analysis feature!

Top Twitter Author Topics: Software

Using Meltwater’s Author Segments tool, we zoomed in on the most common topics in the back-to-school conversation for more than 5,000 top Twitter authors of posts about education. 

A bar chart of the top ten Author Segment topics from most mentions to least, showing Canva at the top with 175 mentions.

The leading topic was graphic design platform Canva, which many educators use to make presentations, posters, handouts, and other materials for their classes. Several other software platforms used in education also made the top 30 list, including Adobe Photoshop Express (5th place), Edutopia (10th place), Pear Deck (12th place), Microsoft Teams (16th place), and Kahoot! (24th place). 

Of the more than 4,000 of these authors who share their occupations, nearly half are teachers, educators, lecturers, and professors. 

A ring chart showing the top occupations of the top education Twitter authors in the back-to-school conversation. The largest proportion, 21%, are teachers.

Top Hashtags: #clearthelist

New hot topics and keywords arise online with each school year, but the top hashtags of the season have staying power. #Backtoschool, the top back-to-school hashtag of 2022, also tops the list this year. And #clearthelist, the third-most-popular hashtag last year, rose to the second spot for 2023. Its popularity suggests that online crowdfunding has remained a go-to for teachers needing support to stock their classrooms for the year.

A chart showing the top ten hashtags in the back-to-school online conversation this year.

This overview of the 2023 back-to-school conversation covered its biggest themes, but there are more insights to explore with each one. Interested in diving deeper into these and other topics as the school year progresses? Learn how the Meltwater Suite can help you break through the digital noise to understand what’s going on with a free demo.