With each passing generation, modes of communication change. Your higher ed institution needs to adapt its recruitment strategies or risk being passed over for rival colleges and universities.


Just a few years ago, Baby Boomers were coming in for campus visits with their kids who were Millennials. Today, Generation X parents are coming in with Gen Z kids. Each of these generations has a different outlook about life and different expectations when it comes to higher education. No online student recruitment campaign can be set up for success without this reality firmly established in the minds of all involved.


How does Generation Z differ from Millennials?


Gen Z students have finally phased out Millennials from college campuses, leaving recruitment teams wondering which recruitment tactics still work and which can go because they absolutely do not.


The first thing you need to come to terms with is the fact the preferred modes of communication have changed.


Generation Z is the most tech-savvy college cohort so far and the most successful communication strategies for them must take this into account. Millennials can be considered digitally native, sure, but Gen Z is mobile and app-native. This is the smartphone generation, used to having instant answers to their questions and queries from search engines and their peers on social media. 


When communicating with Gen Z, keep these parameters in mind:

Email is so yesterday: Texting appeals to Gen Z more, and you’re more likely to get them to pay attention if your messages encourage them about higher ed in general and your university in particular.

Gen Z is also more likely to appreciate personalization than other generations, so incorporating that when you do send an email is important.

And lastly, don’t send too many emails. Be selective of what you send and when you send it. Too many emails from one institution may cause Gen Z users to begin ignoring them.
Facebook is now a king among many: Sure, Gen Z still uses this channel, but not as much as Millennials, for whom it was the go-to social media platform. Gen Z is all over Instagram and Snapchat, and they are more likely to be found documenting their lives on other social media channels popping up across the ether.
One-on-one communication is desirable: Gen Z values authenticity and personalization, and nothing offers that better than face-to-face interaction. Admission officers need to buy into this idea now and start looking for ways to implement face-to-face meetings either through video or in-person.

Re-defining the means of communication going forward is the smart way to go about the student recruitment process for years to come. For one thing, online student recruitment strategies are going to become even more important while handing out pieces of paper or physical brochures becomes less important — a trend that started with the Millennial cohort.


Knowing what Gen Z and their parents want from higher-ed institutions is crucial, as well. This ensures that prospective students and their parents are getting the information they really care about.


So, modes of communication and the information itself are both key to student recruitment strategies today.


New communication opportunities


The peculiarities of this generation should be cause for exploration rather than complaint. Admissions officers need to get acquainted with the native environment of this video-streaming, app-using, social media-savvy generation — which is the digital world.


Online recruitment strategies need to match their behavior toe-to-toe if recruitment numbers are going to be met. This means:

Prospective students ought to start seeing your targeted advertising all over their social media platforms after they leave your school website. This is where they spend their time, after all.
Spread beyond Facebook into other media channels, committing to be flexible when needed. Social media is very much alive where this generation is concerned, and so is Facebook. However, this is the app-native generation; expect to see them on much newer, harder-to-understand (but still exciting) platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. Be ready to campaign on these platforms, too, if you want to meet online student recruitment goals.
This generation is more concerned about social issues, like the cost of education, student loan debt, post-school employment, and racial equality. Expect to field detailed questions on graduation rates, average student debt upon graduation, and starting salary after graduation, among others during campus visits. With new outlooks come new expectations.
Start incorporating peer-to-peer discussions in your recruitment strategies. Gen Z trusts what their peers say more than what they see on TV or hear from admissions officers.

The more your higher-ed institution adapts its online recruitment strategies to the realities of this generation, the more likely it is that you’ll meet student recruitment targets.


Mimic the classic conversion funnel in your online student recruitment


The need to go online to recruit students is not going away, especially not after the coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, online recruitment strategies can be very effective if they mimic the online conversion funnel.


Your online messaging towards prospective students should try to do any of three things:


1. Attract students to your college (top of the funnel messaging): At this stage of your messaging, you are marketing your university, casting your net wide to get the attention of as many prospects as possible.

At this stage, the target audience of your school’s online recruitment strategies includes recent graduates, people looking for courses in your locality, and people looking to enroll in institutions of your type (community college, university, graduate school, and so on).

2. Engage interested or promising students (middle of the funnel messaging): At this stage, your messaging should engage recruits who show real promise or genuine interest in your institution. These are the people who are not just looking for higher-ed admission, but also:


Show real interest in the courses you offer at your school
Express genuine interest in your college or locality
Have maintained some connection with your school by following you on social media, liking your posts on social media, signing up to your email lists, or engaged with your online initiatives, like Q/As and surveys

3. Inspire prospective students to secure admission (bottom of the funnel messaging): Messaging at this stage is targeted at the most engaged prospects. These are the individuals who have your university on a shortlist and have signed up for a campus visit. They have asked for admission requirements, engaged in conversations with admissions officers, and just need some nurturing to be guided towards confirming their admission status.


Make a first impression that counts with KWALL’s help


Over the last decade, KWALL has helped over a hundred higher-education institutions with their online recruitment strategies and meeting recruitment goals. Our goal is to help colleges and universities succeed online with powerful web experiences that make a good impression on young audiences. Contact KWALL today to learn more.


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