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Reaching Out to Generation Z

You can read about it in Forbes, and you can read about it on The Huffington Post. You can read about it on many of the top blogs covering higher education.

You can even read about in in a study conducted by Barnes & Noble to help their marketing execs understand their newest customers.

Generation Z—people born between 1996 and 2011—are a generation unlike any that has come before. This unique cohort is of particular importance to college administrators, given the fact they make up the bulk of today’s college students.

Who Is Generation Z?

Every generation has its own unique characteristics and values. But this latest generation has grown up in a distinctly chaotic world. Generation Zers have already witnessed widespread economic fluctuation and significant technological disruption. This has driven Gen Z to favor adaptability—partly to survive, partly just to stay sane. They’re solutions-driven. Best of all, they’re eager to contribute.

But they won’t accept just any solution. Generation Z is highly skeptical. Fact-checking is a daily routine. As a community, they’re generally more practical than the generation that preceded it. As individuals, they’re not afraid to invest time or money into a given experience or purchase, but they demand a high return when they do.

Branding and sales gurus are elbows-deep in studies and analyses of Generation Z, revising their marketing campaigns and modifying their product lines in order to appeal to this rising consumer group. Administrators in higher education have no choice but to follow suit.

When members of Generation Z shop and compare colleges, they’ll be searching for a school with the right vibe before committing themselves as students.

Education as Experience

As Gene Lewis, writing for Forbes, points out, more than a fancy catalog with an impressive list of offerings, members of Generation Z want something that engages them intellectually—that encourages participation.

“Given the number of choices students have,” says Lewis, “universities can no longer depend on the quality of their programs. They need to sell an experience.”

Lisa Malat, Barnes & Noble College’s VP and Chief Marketing Officer, calls this generation the “ultimate do-it-yourselfers.” College administrators should keep this unique quality in mind as they design and equip their campuses, says Malat. “If this is the way they live, we shouldn’t expect them to learn any differently.”

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