Awhile back we spoke with Generation Z expert and Wright State University professor Corey Seemiller about what college admission professionals need to know about this growing student population. Since then, Seemiller co-wrote Generation Z Goes to College with Meghan Grace, a book that digs even deeper into the generation’s likes and dislikes.
Recently, we caught up with Seemiller for more insights into what schools need to keep in mind as Gen Z goes to college.
1. They Crave Face-to-Face Communication
Generation Z was raised on digital communication. For them, it’s always existed. But this doesn’t mean schools should focus only on email and social media to grab their attention.
“The No. 1 preferred form of communication was face-to-face,” Seemiller said. “I think in a world where we envision Generation Z being digital natives, we also envision them only being digitally competent and only preferring digital methods of communication. But in many communications they still like a personal touch. So, as [admission professionals] think about recruitment, remember that the face-to-face thing is still very important to them—probably, more important than people are giving it credit for.”
2. Email Just Isn’t for Them
Of course, for many—if not most—schools, it’s not feasible to meet face-to-face with each prospect. Digital communication methods can still be useful to reach Generation Z, if admissions professional understand these students’ preferences.
One of the digital communication strategies that might not have the same effect on Generation Z as previous generations is email.
“Students, for the most part, aren’t using email,” Seemiller said. “They think email is for grown ups. They really have no interest in email.”
So, what does Generation Z prefer?
“They text,” Seemiller said.
3. They Aren’t On Facebook
When it comes to social media, not all platforms are the same. This is especially true for Facebook. When Generation Z’s parents, bosses, and other older adults started using the platform, they left.
“They don’t use it; they don’t post on it regularly; that’s not where they are,” Seemiller said. “They are in places like Instagram and Snapchat. They love pictures. They love photos.”
“We are coming out of a generation of Millennials who were willing to share everything about themselves…Generation Z is not sharing about themselves,” Seemiller said. “They like following and watching other people. It’s really a private generation.”
4. They Want to Change the World
Another significant characteristic of Generation Z is that they don’t separate their work from their philanthropic efforts. This is a major shift from Millennials.
“Our experience with Millennials has been that they have a job that they work from 8 to 5, and then they go volunteer on the weekends,” Seemiller said.
For Generation Z, there isn’t a divide.
“A lot of them see that their ability to change the world is part and parcel of their career,” Seemiller said. “So, they are coming to college with the expectation that they are going to be trained on how to change the world, not just make money.”
Because of this, Generation Z students want more classes on entrepreneurship, especially social entrepreneurship, Seemiller said.
“I would say it might behoove admissions folks to find out what on their campus is offered in terms of social entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and innovation labs—any of those types of things,” she said.
With this information, admissions professionals can reframe their messaging to vividly show Generation Z why their college or university will help them change the world.
5. They Love Videos
Generation Z loves videos and YouTube, especially short pieces of content that run from a minute to 90 seconds. Schools can take advantage of this by creating short video content on a frequent basis, Seemiller said.
“They love those things; they are eating them up,” Seemiller said. “They don’t want to read anything. Schools should think about doing video-based marketing on top of everything else they do.”
6. Their Parents Are Different Too
When picking a college or university to attend, a student’s parents have influence. But just like Millennials are different from Generation Z, so are these generations’ parents. Admissions professionals can use this knowledge to craft messaging that better aligns with Gen Z’s parents.
For the most part, Millennials have Baby Boomer parents, while Generation Z’s parents are from Generation X. This is a massive difference.
“They have a very, very different mentality,” Seemiller said. “You have to think about that when messaging Generation Z’s parents.”
She added: “Baby Boomers wanted to provide everything that they never had as a child to their kids, which is why Millennials were sort of oversaturated with trophies,” Seemiller said. “Generation X parents are more cynical; they are telling their kids, ‘If you want a trophy, you have to work for it.’”
In other words, because Generation X is cynical, admissions professional should consider creating messaging that highlights the tangible benefits of their school. For example, schools can get specific about the the percentage of students who secure jobs in their field after graduation.
To learn more about “Generation Z Goes to College,” visit Seemiller and Grace’s website.