Student Marketing Strategies: How to Market to Gen-Z

August 14, 2023

Student Marketing Strategies: How to Market to Gen-Z

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Student Marketing Strategies: How to Market to Gen-Z

With student enrollment declining for the past decade, many institutions are struggling with effectively reaching this generation’s pool of prospective students. And from sizable education costs to a general mistrust in the education system, many Gen-Z students are rethinking the traditional college experience, putting many institutions at a disadvantage. However, this doesn’t mean it’s over for higher ed; instead, this challenge presents an opportunity for institutions to flip the narrative and grab hold of the market. To do this, we have put together a comprehensive guide of student marketing strategies to help you market to Gen-Z students.

Who is Gen-Z?

Generation Z represents a major force in the marketplace for higher education. As the next generation going to college, it is imperative to know and understand this audience as the foundation of your future student marketing strategies. Gen Z, born between 1996 and 2012, is a cohort defined by being the most technologically advanced, outspoken, and educated generation. 

Gen Z places the highest value on truth, compared to Gen X who values status, and Millennials who value authenticity. This value for truth comes from Gen Z’s persona as digital natives. As a generation that has never lived without the Internet, Gen Z has more access to technology than any other generation. Because of this, Gen Z students are very comfortable searching for information and cross-referencing data sources in their quest for truth. For higher education institutes, this means that the student marketing strategies you put out must speak to the driving factor of this new generation: truth. 

Student Marketing Strategies to Attract Gen Z Students

Be authentic.

Gen Z values authenticity more than anything else. They can spot a fake or insincere message from a mile away. This means that your marketing messages need to be authentic and genuine, and you need to be transparent about your values and your brand.  Don’t try to be something you’re not, or Gen Z will quickly lose interest.

Gen Z students prioritize authenticity and truth, and they want the same from the brands they interact with. No longer will the one-size-fits-all marketing messaging and catchy taglines work for this group. Schools need to be upfront about cost and the value-add they offer to attract prospective students. 

It’s best to focus on the facts because this generation is all about asking “Is it worth it?” when choosing a college education. And it’s on institutions to answer that for them; because if you don’t, then you can’t start the relationship of trust between your prospective students.  

Prioritize digital outreach.

Gen Z students are part of the first generation to grow up with social media, and it is a crucial part of their lives. With the majority of Gen Zers owning a smartphone (and spending nearly 10 hours a day on their phones), social media can be a great way to connect with them. 

However, not every social platform is going to attract your intended audience. So when evaluating student marketing strategies, higher education institutions must be sure to be on the same platforms as their audience. For Gen Z, these platforms include Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube. 

Facebook and LinkedIn tend to be the top two platforms institutions prioritize. However, from a demographic perspective, Facebook is primarily used by Baby Boomers and Gen Xers while alums primarily use LinkedIn. For marketing efforts to be successful, colleges and universities must be active on the social media platforms their prospective students use.

However, decisions regarding which school to attend often involve people from multiple generations: prospective students, parents and guardians, relatives, teachers, and mentors. A multi-generational social media approach can help schools connect not only with prospective students but also with the varying members in their lives.

Focus on visual content.

When it comes to social media, 81% of Gen Zers say Instagram, TikTok, and Youtube are their preferred mediums of media. This shows us that Gen Z is a highly visual generation. As you’re creating student marketing strategies, stick to short-form videos and high-quality visuals to showcase the beauty of your campus and community. 

Video and stylized visual content should be a top priority for catching the attention of your target market. Due to the dynamism of the digital community with so many new apps and filters, anything considered static or “boring” won’t stand a chance with Gen Z. 

Leverage peer-to-peer influence. 

As you’re evaluating your student marketing strategies, consider leveraging peer-to-peer influence to attract prospective students. Gen Z tends to respond more to input from peers than their parents. They rely on platforms like TikTok to receive this peer-to-peer input and tend to view this kind of user-generated content as more authentic and accurate. 

Therefore, colleges and universities should use this peer-to-peer influence as a potential student marketing strategy. Because Gen Z primarily uses social media, this type of content can yield better results as well as reach a wider audience. 

Some examples of how to incorporate peer-to-peer influence in your student marketing strategies include:

  • “Day in the Life” videos created by current students 
  • User-generated content by student ambassadors 
  • Alumni spotlight videos 

These types of student marketing strategies allow institutions to incorporate storytelling into their brand, which in turn bridges the gap between prospective students and schools. 

How to Best Incorporate Student Marketing Strategies 

Remember that Gen Z values truth and authenticity the most, so be sure these values are reflected in your brand and your marketing messaging. And don’t be afraid to throw out the old playbook: What worked for the last generation of college students won’t necessarily work for this generation. This means pivoting from some of the traditional methods of marketing and meeting students where they are, in the digital universe. Digital platforms offer a great way to connect with prospective students and really lean into the Gen Z persona. 

By leveraging the latest student marketing strategies, you can improve your student enrollment, attract the right fit students, and increase brand awareness of your educational institution.