5 Tips to Recruit Gen Z College Students

November 2019
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On college campuses today, Gen Zers are starting to replace millennials. Many of these students are overwhelmed by cost, questioning the value of a college degree and weighing a myriad of offerings — like extra-curricular opportunities, internships and education abroad programs — to decide what will help them stand out from the 2.2 million-plus other students earning undergraduate degrees. 

Prospective students expect universities to communicate with them in a hyper-personalized, transparent and authentic way. Since they are looking to find the right fit, conversations should focus on the students’ individual needs and goals. As these prospective students are also leading busy lives, institutions have the challenge to respond in an efficient way that will assure them that their investment is worth it.

So how can your college set itself apart from the competition? Here are five tips to recruit Gen Z students today:

1. Avoid asking too much info.

According to the 2019 E-Expectations Trend Report, students are most willing to share their email, name, mailing address and programs they are considering with academic institutions. Making sure you ask the right amount of information in a form that is easy to find, load and complete is key to ensure full completion.

2. Stand out with print.

Surprisingly, even though Gen Zers are digital-first, they prefer to receive print pieces in the mail in addition to emails with next steps and resource links. Because print has become a less-used media due to costs, when you send a print piece that speaks to the individual and is representative of your audience, your brand stands out.

3. Be real with your chatbot.

Even though many organizations have jumped on chatbots to increase conversion and efficiency, several have failed to address the authenticity with which their bots communicate. Make sure that the design, content and flow of conversation is absolutely natural and relatable, like talking to a human one-on-one.

4. Create an omni-channel, data-driven strategy.

Many institutions overuse email. Creating an omni-channel strategy that leverages your data is indispensable for recruiting today’s prospective students. It’s crucial to have a multi-channel approach that provides a seamless experience and is based on insights. 

Consider leveraging:

  • Primary field research to adjust your messaging so you speak to the expectations and benefits that your audience seeks 
  • Website data to retarget ads on search engines and social media
  • Social audience insights to drive your content and influencer strategy, allowing you to understand what they think is engaging and ignore what you may think is
  • Alumni and career center data to learn where your successful alumni are and how they can serve as brand ambassadors 
  • Email marketing insights, which can guide your content marketing strategy to be unique and sensible to your brand and audience

5. Drop the fancy words.

Academia is filled with incomprehensible vernacular. Instead of using vocabulary that you think sounds impressive and smart, use words that anyone can understand and find relatable. You are talking to a young audience who wants simple content that they can digest quickly and then take action. 

Employing a diverse set of strategies — recruitment and yield events, mailers, social ads, live chats, webinars, texting — is essential, but timing is just as important. How would you feel if you were searching for a product and suddenly started getting text messages to make a purchase? It can feel invasive and even desperate. Contacting your prospects at the right time, on the right channel and from the right person can make or break your relationship. 

Remember to have a clear and measurable call to action. Every communication touchpoint, virtually or in real life, has opposing outcomes: to bring your prospect closer to home or send them away to your competition. Balance is key.


photo credit: andreagils

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