Messaging to Generation Z for Colleges and Universities

5 Things You Need To Know

The old saying “out with the old and in with the new” couldn’t be truer for higher education admissions and marketing professionals. That’s right! It’s time to ditch that old Hall & Oates tape and play the fresh beats of Ariana Grande from your Bluetooth speaker. I’m mostly joking, but if you still have a device that plays a tape, kudos to you. What I really mean is, it’s time to refocus, engage our minds, and pay close attention to the next generation entering college.

Any well-rounded, communication professional will tell you if you want to hit the mark with messaging in your marketing materials, you must understand your audience. For most higher education professionals, that audience is Generation Z. Gen Zers made their way into the world around 1995, though it wasn’t until recent years that we saw an uptick in the use of the term Gen Z. While researchers are still learning about this diverse and technologically savvy bunch, we have a good sense of their character traits and what that means for higher education.

When it comes to messaging, an audience-centered focus is crucial. That means using the words “you” and “your” (referring to the student) more and “we” and “our” (the institution) much less. It also means considering the unique traits of your audience members. To help you navigate the world of Generation Z, we’ve put together a list of 5 traits to keep in mind when you develop messaging for prospective Gen Z students.

Financially Focused

Unlike Millennials, Gen Zers are less likely to take on insurmountable debt to attend college. While millennials often focused on the college experience, Gen Zers are a bit more practical. They want to know what your school can offer and how they can afford it. Remember, many Gen Zers were teenagers or pre-teens when the market crashed in 2008 – searing in their brains the potential instability of their family’s finances.

What this means for your school: Don’t keep finances hidden. Talk about scholarship offerings, FAFSA, and most importantly, financial literacy

Culturally and Socially Aware

Many Gen Z students value diversity of thought and people. While they may not always agree with another person’s viewpoint, they allow room in their lives for differing opinions. Gen Zers are the most diverse group of young people to date. For them, diversity includes differences in culture, race, religion, gender, and so on.

What this means for your school: Refresh your school’s photography and content. Make sure both messaging and images represent the diversity that exists on your campus and in the classrooms.

Globally Minded

Not only is Generation Z diverse, but they are also globally minded. Having never lived in a time without the internet, Gen Zers have experienced a much bigger world than the generations before them. Typically, that means they care about people and issues that are beyond themselves and their community.

What this means for your school: Showcase programs, majors, and events where students can make a global impact.

Entrepreneur Spirit

Have you ever looked at a Gen Zer’s Instagram account and thought, “Wow! They really have unique content and photos”? Their polished Instagram accounts are more than just edited photos and spliced videos – it’s their brand. You heard me – their brand. Gen Zers have been branding themselves since they grabbed their first smartphone. Not only are Gen Zers branding themselves, they’re often taking hobbies and turning them into revenue streams. Unlike Millennials, Gen Z embraces a true entrepreneur spirit – turning hobbies into careers.

What this means for your school: Highlight majors and organizations that foster and nurture young entrepreneurs.

Social Media Savvy

Gen Zers spend over 10 hours a day on their mobile device. Most of that time is spent on social media platforms – including perusing their prospective colleges’ social media accounts. We’ve heard time and time again that Gen Zers are stalking their prospective colleges on social media. Remember how we said Gen Zers have a brand that is on point? Well, they expect yours to be just as good. If you aren’t playing their game, they aren’t paying attention to you.

What this means for your school: Have a plan. Social media cannot be secondary in your recruitment and marketing efforts.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of Generation Z character traits. In fact, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface. Use this list as conversation starters with your marketing and admissions teams. Evaluate your current messaging and brainstorm ways to revamp your marketing materials. If you need more insight on Gen Z and messaging, let us help. We tackle messaging and design daily and complete thorough audits of an institution’s marketing communication.