Recruiting Gen Z: Best Practices for Prospective Student Communications
By Megan Kauffman on February 11, 2021
This summer we surveyed high school students using Scoir about their college search to gain insights into the resources they rely on, what matters most, and the challenges they face. What we heard over and over again, was that students want to dive deeper into understanding a college and their offerings, but at the same time, don’t want to have their inboxes inundated with emails. How do colleges strike a balance between the two? Breaking free from email and providing interested students with the information they want to know based on their interests.
Crafting compelling messages is not as simple as that. It takes a deep understanding of the intended audience and the content and tone that will resonate most. We recently recorded a podcast entitled “Reimagining Prospective Student Engagement” where we dive into the best practices for communicating with prospective students. You can listen to the recording here. The three key pieces of advice were to keep messages short, include a visual component, and focus on making a connection.
Keep It Short
The average attention span of Generation Z, the generation born from 1997 - 2012, is 8 seconds. The students of today are used to consuming a firehouse of content across multiple devices and channels. This abbreviated attention span actually helps in processing information faster than ever before and quickly filtering content. But still, that’s not a lot of time to capture the attention of students even when the content is of interest.
Letter length communications are a thing of the past. When communicating with students, it’s essential to keep it short and to the point. Shorter messages have a greater likelihood of being read and have the information retained. Think about crafting social media style messages with one clear call to action.
Make It Visual
One major emphasis of student engagement strategies today is creating visually compelling content. Students are used to spending hours consuming visual content on TikTok and YouTube. In a world where visiting campuses is challenging or impossible, providing a way for students to see your campus and the student experience is essential. Include images or GIFs if your communications and/or drive traffic to sources of more visual content such as social media accounts.
The visual aspect of communications isn’t limited to images and video. The way text is presented is also a visual experience. Call attention to what’s most important in your message by using formatting like bold, italics, or bullet points. Students often start by quickly skimming messages before deciding whether or not to read them, so use formatting to draw eyes to what you want them to read most.
Make A Connection
Gen Z can spot a marketing message from a mile away. They value authenticity and expect personalization when engaging with brands and colleges. Whenever possible, avoid one size fits all messaging and tailor communications to student interests, such as topics related to their intended major or clubs they've expressed interest in learning more about. In communications, focus on the student perspective and building a relationship instead of transactional communications. This can be done by including more student centered content and using a conversational tone. Not sure what student centered content to focus on in your messaging? Ask current students why they chose your school or what they love most about being a student at your school.
In addition to using a conversational tone, avoid using higher ed jargon. Working in higher ed, the definition of words like matriculation or registrar may seem like common knowledge, but to a 17 or 18 year old going through the college admissions process for the first time, it may not be clear what those terms mean.
To learn more about this topic and to get started with updating your communications plan to be more student-centered, download our student messaging playbook to share with your team. It includes the key takeaways from today’s blog post along with content ideas for prospective student communications.