The higher education space is continually changing, and the incoming student population is expected to further influence industry expectations. Born in the late 1990s or after, Generation Z students are beginning to step foot into the college classroom. And while “The Sharing Generation” holds some values in common with the current class of Millennials, this group certainly has some unique, defining characteristics of its own. Qualities that influence their view of higher education and that will impact how schools meet their needs.
Here is what the higher education marketer needs to know about this next generation and how this group will shape enrollments.
Growing Up Gen Z
It’s important to keep in mind that the Gen Z audience was born into the mobile technology age. They’ve seen rapid advancements and have likely had a cellphone in hand for most of their lives. Growing up during the Great Recession, they’ve also seen firsthand what happens when growth is stalled. These competing forces have influenced how this group views the world and what they find most important.
Valuing Higher Education
This group values learning and finding opportunities for personal growth, and 89 percent agree that a college degree is key to future success. Despite “gap year” trends, the vast majority (82 percent) plan to go to college straight after high school.
Here is where Gen Z students plan to enroll:
- 77 percent are considering a four-year college or university
- 39 percent are looking at community college options
- 22 percent are interested in trade schools
Connecting Interests With Degree Programs
With knowledge at their fingertips, this class will enter school with more tech skills than ever before. It’s important for schools to be a few steps ahead and offer programs that can build upon these experiences. In fact, 42 percent of Gen Z students have already started honing their chosen craft. This is interesting considering that, at their age, this was only true for 25 percent of Millennials.
Gen Z seeks greater autonomy and has a strong entrepreneurial drive: 62 percent expect to create a business in lieu of looking for a job. They will be turning to educators to prepare them for this role. Fifty-eight percent will be looking to develop skills for starting a business, and a great majority would also like to learn graphic design, video-editing and app-building.
Communicating With Gen Z
Not surprisingly, Gen Z students go online to learn about schools. The Barnes & Noble College report showed the resources used most were third-party higher education portals and a school’s own website.
However, while technology is second nature to Gen Z, they do seek in-person communications. A recent report shows that when communicating with employers, 51 percent preferred meeting face to face, 16 percent favored email and 11 percent chose instant messaging. It’s important for schools to consider this group’s communications style. While online channels must be a part of the communications mix, opportunities to interact in person should not be overlooked.
And when it comes to the social space, Facebook should also not be overlooked. Snapchat is certainly a favorite amongst this audience; however, Facebook continues to play a significant role. In fact, 51 percent named Snapchat as their most-used channel, but 67 percent pointed to Facebook. Close to half of those using Facebook log on more than once per day. Facebook has also added new functionality to enhance the user experience – something that is important to Gen Z. From chatbots to live-streaming video, the platform offers all kinds of opportunities for admissions representatives to connect with prospective students in new and meaningful ways.
The incoming class of Gen Z has different higher education expectations and career goals. It’s important for colleges, universities and marketers to have a deep understanding of what drives this group. Because when values and goals are properly aligned, it’s easier to attract the right prospects and support students throughout their entire academic journey.