NACAC Recap: Connection Is Key with Generation Z

As we put a bow on this year’s NACAC National Conference in Seattle, I’m reminded of the importance of connection, message and mission. For the past 25 years, I have come to NACAC to learn from my colleagues and reaffirm that what we do every day is important. Helping students navigate their way through the enrollment process is helping the future of our world. And we do this by making every interaction count.

The ability for higher education institutions to identify, convert and enroll the right students is more important than ever. We have read several studies about the changing demographics, the number of students completing the FAFSA, and a general feeling of uneasiness about enrolling because of COVID-19 concerns. Institutions must find ways to engage with prospective students in an authentic way. Gone are the days where simple print and email campaigns are effective.

We know that Gen Z still uses email, visits websites and uses social media. But ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your message authentic and meaningful?
  • Is your message being received by the student when the student is ready to receive it?
  • Do all your digital assets, (website, digital marketing, email) have congruence in messaging?

By making meaningful connections — whether through dynamic content on your website, or joining a virtual event online through our partner Platform Q — institutions have found themselves redesigning their entire enrollment marketing and recruitment campaigns to meet the needs and desires of Gen Z.

COVID-19 has curtailed on-campus visits, college fairs and high school visits. Institutions that were able to retool and reimagine what interactions and messages were important have maintained or even grown their enrollment. Others did not fare as well.

It is more evident now that colleges and universities need to take a serious look at how they begin to build relationships with prospective students. While the short-term goal is to enroll as many students needed, the ultimate goal should be to enroll the right students who will thrive on your campus. This entails thoughtful and strategic development of prospect and application pools and enrolling students who can graduate. The capability to identify institutional financial aid expenditures, coupled with predictive nature of enrolling those students is important to enrollment success.

Speaking with many attendees at NACAC, it’s clear colleges and universities are looking for best practices for digital marketing, student interaction and building long-term relationships with prospective students. Institutions must begin to revisit their strategic enrollment and recruitment plans to evaluate their short- and long-term enrollment goals.

A key to success is having a partner who can help guide the entire student enrollment journey, from identifying your prospective students to enrolling them.

By Chris Harris, Senior Enrollment StrategistCapture Higher Ed