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4 ways to tailor your application process to younger generations

As Gen Z students finish high school and apply for higher education, colleges and universities will spend the next decade focusing on this audience and the application process.
By David Karandish, Founder & CEO, Capacity
December 13th, 2021

As Gen Z students finish high school and apply for higher education, colleges and universities will spend the next decade focusing on this audience

Pew Research recently found Gen Z to be the best-educated generation so far. This generation is less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to pursue higher education than previous generations. This means universities don’t have to spend the same time and energy convincing them to advance their education like they used to. Instead, institutions must find ways to stand out from all the other colleges courting Gen Z students.

As Gen Z students finish high school and apply for higher education, colleges and universities will spend the next decade focusing on this audience. College admissions teams must go beyond their past tactics to engage these prospective students and make the application process more appealing. Here are four tips to improve the application process and engage Gen Z college students.

Utilize technology

This younger generation is a digitally native and technologically savvy crowd. They’ve never experienced a world without the internet or even mobile phones and social media. This means it is critical for higher education institutions to incorporate digital technology into their interactions with Gen Z college students, starting as soon as they visit a website.

Growing up using technology regularly, this generation expects seamless and straightforward processes with tools to help them achieve their goals. By integrating technology into college application processes, schools can utilize these students’ digital-savvy skills while simplifying the process for both students and school administration.

For example, implementing support automation software, like an AI-powered chatbot, into the application process can help answer potential students’ questions anytime and anywhere. This relieves admissions personnel from having to answer repetitive questions while allowing students to receive clarification almost immediately. That 24/7 support reduces application abandonment on the students’ end and instead decreases the time it takes to apply. Additionally, showcasing their tools and technology during the application process, schools offer a brief look into how they utilize technology continually for students once they are enrolled.

Provide access to financial information

The affordability of higher education is a hot topic for Gen Z. More than half of Gen Z students plan to fund their education through opportunities such as grants, scholarships, or part-time jobs — especially as they are keener on minimal to no debt for schooling. This means higher education institutions must provide open and easily accessible information on financial aid and other alternative opportunities.

To do so, institutions should provide updated financial resources available on their website, school portal, and within the application process to help explain the options and opportunities available for students to help pay for school. One way to help engage students with their financial opportunities is through interactive tools. With support automation software, students can engage with institutions by asking questions about financial aid and can receive instant answers or be redirected to the best applicable contact. With this option, the technology can quickly connect students to the best resource without wasting administrators’ time by passing students from staff member to staff member looking for the right person to answer their concerns. With a support automation tool, schools can easily review interactions to uncover trends in questions and engagement they are receiving, then adjust their assets accordingly to fit the needs of their students.

Use brief and engaging assets

Attention spans are only getting shorter: Gen Z’s average attention span is eight seconds, compared to the millennial generation at 12 seconds. Understanding this can help higher education institutions garner this generation’s attention while also increasing engagement.

Short-form and visual content goes a long way for Gen Z. The best way to provide this content is by keeping written information brief and to the point — eliminating fluff paragraphs, and instead focusing on bolding key information that audiences can quickly scan and consume. Additionally, incorporating videos and other visual assets like graphs or pictures can help to explain the application process and provide students with the information needed for completion. An example of this is by providing step-by-step instructions on how to submit the application and where students can access help during their application process.

Be authentic

Gen Z is keen on connection and personalization. Another tip for engaging these students is through providing authentic content. Prospective students are interested in seeing and hearing what each higher education institution has to offer. Generic messaging, photos, or a general lack of information and resources is not going to cut it.

Instead, higher education institutions should provide authentic content and resources tailored specifically by the students and staff of their institution. This includes using current and past student testimonials describing their experiences or sharing pictures of classrooms and popular campus landmarks. Making these assets visible and easily accessible for potential students can help them feel connected and eager to engage throughout the application process and beyond.

For higher education institutions, understanding Gen Z students is important in engaging with them and providing what they need to succeed. This generation values technology, affordability, brevity and authenticity in their experiences, which can translate into a successful application process if institutions have the proper tools and resources.

About the Author:

David Karandish is Founder & CEO of Capacity – an enterprise artificial intelligence SaaS company headquartered in St. Louis, MO. Capacity’s secure, AI-native support automation platform helps teams do their best work. Prior to starting Capacity, David was the CEO of Answers Corp. He and his business partner, Chris Sims, started the parent company of Answers in 2006 and sold it to a private equity firm in 2014 for north of $900m. David sits on the boards of Create a Loop (a computer science education non-profit tackling the digital divide by teaching kids to code) and Prepare.ai (a non-profit providing educational resources and strategic guidance about Artificial Intelligence to individuals, communities, and companies). David was also an early investor and board member at Nerdy (NYSE: NRDY), an on-demand, real-time learning platform in the ed tech space.David lives in St. Louis with his wife, Erin and four kids. When not working, he enjoys spending time with his family and playing ukulele.