We get it. When you’re recruiting prospective students, it’s difficult to break out of your comfort zone. Your college or university has a system, a protocol, or a communications cycle that’s been used for years. But it’s a new era in higher education, at least if you’re trying to understand students from Generation Z. Here are a few tips from our proprietary Student Union research to help you reach and retain the right students for you.
1. Recruit by mindset, not demographic.
Gen Z is significantly different from other generations, and there are big differences among students, too. Reach them by thinking about individual attitudes and behaviors, rather than gender, race, or community. Yes, technology is an extension of their identity, but they crave real-life experiences too. So don’t text them (they hate that). Rather, give them a taste of life at your campus on your website and through mailings.
2. Double down on your message.
Communicate what’s distinctive about your offer and appeal to their interests. And don’t forget to connect your attributes to the “why,” because it makes all the difference. Remember, a solid messaging strategy will turn off as many students as it attracts—and that’s actually a good thing for you.
3. Show that variety reigns supreme.
Prospective students want to know what their daily life might look like: where they will eat, sleep, learn, and socialize. Whether your school is urban or rural, Gen Z-ers can get on board as long as it provides variety for their lifestyle.
4. Follow brands they love, and borrow inspiration.
Take a closer look at brands that have zeroed in on this generation and started building strong affinity. Most of the time, brands win with this generation by showcasing their true culture and values. So reveal your institution’s true culture: show how your campus environment is inclusive, creative, and fun—but use language that’s authentic to your school.
5. Lean on visual and verbal cues.
Every college or university has a unique story to tell. But each institution’s underlying offer is basically the same: a degree. That’s why higher education brands often get lost in a sea of sameness. To stand out and ensure that your distinct story is heard, you’ll have to lean on your brand’s design elements, copy devices, tone of voice, and the like.
6. Don’t put them in a box.
With Gen Z, one size does not fit all. These students defy conventional labels and celebrate differences in others. So the best way to win with them is to never, ever assume. Take advantage of their desire for transparent, genuine experiences and connections by highlighting what makes your institution authentic and unique.