Jill Haley: Generation Z goes to college | TheUnion.com

Jill Haley: Generation Z goes to college

Jill Haley

Born between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z (post-Millennials) are unlike any generation we have seen. Brought up on iPhones and Google searches, this generation has always known the internet. They have no memory of Sept. 11, but may have felt the pain their family went through in the financial recession of 2008.

Working with Z students, I have learned a few important things. They are skilled at research, and spend many hours looking at colleges. College cost is as much a deciding factor as location or major in their choice of college. They are not at all interested in accruing student debt to put themselves though college. Perhaps because they remember the financial crisis, they want to remain debt free and concentrate on high-paying jobs with a future.

Frequently, both students and parents ask about the percentage of students who secure jobs in their field after graduation at a particular college. Many are considering opening their own companies, and seek out classes on entrepreneurship.

They also want their learning environment in college to be more interactive and less lecture based. Shared learning experiences with peers and access to their professors are high on their list of factors in choosing a college. They are also wanting hands-on experience such as internships and co-ops to get a head start in the job market once they graduate.

This generation wants to remain closer to home. Current data tells us that students who applied last year moved fewer miles from home than ever before to attend college. Staying connected to family and friends was ranked very important in their decision on where to attend college.

Generation Z students are socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. They care deeply about the environment and the health of the economy. They are looking to make a lasting change by their choices of majors such as environmental science, political science and medicine.

They are earning money while still in high school and are saving to pay for their college education. Their focus on community service is changing as well. Instead of volunteering a few hours, students now want their time to be focused at places where they can make a more lasting change.

Colleges are adjusting the way they reach out and market to Generation Z students. As many of us know, students today do not check their email. Colleges report they are communicating to students by text or going back to the days of regular mail. Colleges reach out to this YouTube generation by posting videos on their college website, and students report that these videos are their most trusted source of college information.

Outside of the classroom, Generation Z is an active group. Colleges know that marketing to Generation Z students should include highlighting their athletic facilities, state of the art preforming art buildings and travel abroad programs as well as their excellent academics.

Generation Z now outnumbers Millennials by one million in the US. Impacted by the recession and internet savvy, this group of students is serious, frugal and out to change the world. We need them.

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