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How to Cut Through the Noise and Grab Gen Z’s Attention: A Guide for Higher Ed Marketers

Gen ZZZ: It’s Time to Wake Up Your Admission Strategy for the Next Wave of College Students


If you’re struggling to engage with and recruit Gen Zers, it might be time to give your outreach strategy a facelift. 

The old method of sending general, “batch and blast” messaging that tells students what you think they want to hear about your university — instead of actually getting to know them — might have worked twenty years ago, but it won’t fly with Gen Z. 

That’s because Gen Z is more diverse than any previous generation — they come from a lot of different backgrounds and have varying opinions and ideas on higher education. They’re also the first generation to grow up with the internet as a part of daily life and are digital natives. They live online and consume hours of digital content from never-ending social feeds that are perfectly curated to their interests and habits.

Bottom line: If you want to cut through the noise and grab their attention, you need to ensure your communication is personalized and relevant to them.


Here are some proven strategies to connect with the next wave of college-bound students:


1. Personalize your communication

With all of the content that Gen Z is consuming in their daily lives — from email and text to tweets and short-form video — they aren’t likely to waste their time on generalized content that means nothing to them. That’s exactly why social media apps like TikTok and Instagram developed algorithms so that users see only content that is of interest to them — it keeps them on the app longer. 

So, how do you translate that concept to your marketing? The first step is to take advantage of the data you have at your disposal. Find out what major they’re interested in, what clubs and organizations they want to be a part of, if they’re interested in participating in research or internships — anything that you can use in your marketing to pique their interest and let them know that your university is a place where they will find everything they’re looking for. 


2. Keep it short and to the point

Again, Gen Z consumes a lot of content — so, in addition to personalization, make sure your messaging is short and to the point. If a student opens an email that they have to scroll through to find the information they need, odds are they’ll give up before getting to it. It’s important that you respect their time. If it’s an SMS message, keep it short with the best info you’ve got. If it’s an email, 75 words or less. If it’s a video, make sure those first 15 seconds are killer.


3. Be a resource for them

If there’s one thing that marketing to millions and millions of high school students has taught us, it’s that they’re earnest and confused. So show an interest in them and be compassionate — in all your outreach, from search through Accepted Students Day — and let them know you’re there for them. 

Make sure to let them know how to get in touch with you — send them emails and text messages that serve as check-ins asking them if they have any questions or need support navigating financial aid or submitting their application. This generation is used to getting information fast (think Google, Siri, and chatbots) so they expect the same in their college search journey. 


4. Make sure content is mobile-first

Having content that is responsive across mobile, tablet, and desktop is no longer a nice to have — it’s necessary for this generation of students. Gen Z uses their phones for browsing the web and checking email, so make sure that the designs for your email content, website, and student portals are formatted and optimized for mobile screens. That way, students don’t have to awkwardly pinch and swipe on their screens in order to get the information they need.


5. Showcase student testimonials

According to a recent study, 68% of Gen Z consumers read or watch at least three reviews before making a purchase. And with influencer marketing taking over our social media feeds, it’s no surprise that this generation wants the inside scoop before making any purchases. 

Since college will be one of the biggest purchases they’ll ever make, they need to hear from students and alumni about their experience.. Look to infuse student testimonials and alumni success stories in your communications with Gen Z — whether in the form of written text or video — to have a better shot of getting them to stop and listen. 


Reach Gen Z With the Help of Waybetter Marketing


Do you need some extra support getting through to Gen Z or have questions about any of these strategies? At Waybetter, we’re experts at crafting content that students respond to and engage with. So, get in touch with us, and we can get started on tackling your biggest enrollment challenges.

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