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5 tips for engaging Gen Z in Higher Education

Generation Z, born after the mid-1990s, represent a whole new era of digital natives who grew up alongside the internet. They are different from Millennials, and require a different approach to attract their attention and get your college noticed.

Keeping up with the preferences and trends for your target demographic is tricky for any organization, but when it comes to creating a robust enrollment funnel for your higher education institution it can be even trickier; you are trying to resonate with the youngest, most technologically astute group on the planet.

There are many, many studies and reports available online detailing the preferences and practices of Gen Z.  We’ve harnessed data from a few here to provide five top tips to help higher education admissions teams engage with the Gen Z demographic.

1. Technology has no wow factor

Technology isn’t new to Gen Z; it’s been around their whole lives. Technology and connectivity is taken in stride, expected and routine in daily life, so making a big splash about the use of cutting edge technology may generate a laugh, rather than an engagement.

Data derived from a UniDays and AdAge survey indicates that Gen Z’ers, regardless of where they live, take digital for granted, rather than as new or exciting.  For colleges, this means that utilising technology to engage with prospective students is imperative, but shouldn’t be used as a selling point in enrollment marketing.


2. Digital marketing is not a no-brainer

The same UniDays/AdAge report has uncovered some interesting stats around the online activities of Gen Z’ers that showcase an ability to ignore digital noise unless it’s relevant.  With this in mind, we can’t assume that these digital natives will be highly susceptible to digital messaging as the sole form of awareness and communication.

For example, 56% of the Gen Z’ers surveyed stated that they don’t click on ads when browsing websites and 64% don’t listen to podcasts.  However, 84% will pay attention to out of home advertising such as ads running on trains, in malls, airports or taxis.  So, mix it up.  Get your message out across various channels that resonate with Gen Z and don’t discount traditional marketing methods.


3. Face to face marketing has its place

While you might think that Generation Z are glued to their smart phones and rarely engage on a human to human level, you’d be wrong.  When engaging with brands, phones are used for research purposes and actual transactions follow more traditional and conversational methods.

In the context of student admissions, using technology to automate routine tasks such as booking prospects for campus visits, sending course information, directing to financial aid information or allowing self-serve seminar booking will free up staff time for that all important face to face or voice to voice activity aimed at locking the student in to attendance at your school.  And with all engagements, personalization is key to harnessing the attention of this information overloaded generation.


4. Video marketing should not be underestimated

A 2018 report from Pearson highlights an upward trend in Gen Z’s use of YouTube, with an increase of 15% on their Millennial predecessors and a corresponding 20% reduction in those that use Facebook.  With 82% of all respondents answering in the affirmative to YouTube use, the highest percentage across all social media networks, video is a clear favorite of Generation Z.

And it’s not just personal interests that take Gen Z to YouTube, there’s an academic angle too.  The Pearson study reports that 59% of Gen Z’ers prefer learning via YouTube to apps, textbooks or group activities, with 55% stating that YouTube has contributed to their education.

So, how can higher education leverage this knowledge of Generation Z to raise awareness and boost admissions?  Aside from the addition of video tutorials for existing students, colleges can create branded content aimed specifically at generating interest in the school.  Just be sure that it’s entertaining or valuable; a feel good story or funny episode will keep your school front of mind when decision day rolls around.


5. Instant gratification is definitely a thing

Having never experienced a time without mobile technology and connectivity, Generation Z are accustomed to instant gratification.  Wherever they are, whatever they are doing they can quickly find the information needed and then get on with their day.

Generation Z don’t like waiting and this can create problems for busy admissions teams managing hundreds or thousands of different inquiries at any one time.  Delay your response to a simple question and a prospective student may abandon your school and head for one that gives them what they need immediately.

To get around this problem? Automate, automate, automate.  Deploy technology such as a multi-channel chatbot to funnel routine questions or info requests to keep your prospects engaged until a more complex, human to human conversation is needed.  Use campus event management software to set up critical workflows that continually update the student, as well as point them to the correct information and allow them to self-serve their own event agenda.  These two enhancements can revolutionize your enrollment process and maximize success.

The key thing to bear in mind when thinking of Generation Z is that they are not Millennials; and your strategies and tactics for attracting Millennials need an overhaul to entice this new generation to enrol at your school.