Across the board, universities are relying more and more on conference and hospitality services to introduce students to the campus. The well-facilitated execution of summer and other programs will be the springboard that begins their journey of falling in love with your campus. As your department becomes more sophisticated and professional to keep pace with growing expectations of the university departments, so does your ability to grow and consider other income generating opportunities.
You already know that these students are going to be arriving on campus, and you need to be ready for them. But this generation that is coming to the fore now, is like no previous generation before them. In order for you to attract them, and then cater to them when they are here, I’m going to give you a glimpse into what I now know about this group. They are a generation that raises eyebrows, causes confusion, disrupts the norm, and is brilliantly ingenious – they are Gen Z. They are i-Gen. They are here already. Are you ready?
THE RECENTLY DISCOVERED DNA OF GEN Z
This generation lives in a time where the biggest hotel has no rooms, the largest transportation company owns no vehicles and the most profitable bank has no currency: AirBnB. Uber. Cryptocurrency.
Gen Zers have always had technology at their fingertips. The Internet existed before they did. It’s quicker for them to look things up themselves than to ask a parent or teacher. They prefer to receive guidance from their peers. They can learn skills independently online on a free site, rather than sitting for months in a class at school, waiting for the whole class to keep up. There are so many ways for them to connect with others without ever leaving their house. Consider that for a moment – they can study at home, connect from home, be entertained at home, try new things online from home,… so why would they leave? The manifestation of them choosing home as their platform is that they have no need to leave the house, there’s no need to get a driver’s license. Thanks to the likes of Uber, there’s no stress to get a job to pay for gas, or to save to buy the car in the first place.
Shorter programs are more appealing to them at first, sometimes followed by them choosing an opportunity to dive deeper into a specific area. Remember they can get the basics of almost anything online, so when we consider the deep dives, they want to experience it in real settings with meaningful outcomes.
As I am sure you have anticipated, you have to work harder to get them out of home, and wanting to get onto your campus. Once they are in some form of collaboration or a social environment, they actually blossom. They are wired to collaborate and connect, but it’s getting them there in the first place that takes a skilled coach, a program of special interest, or an event that is desirable amongst their peers.
CONNECTIVITY AND PURPOSEFUL PROGRAMMING IS KEY
It’s all online for them, so connectivity is not even a negotiable. If the possibility of having wifi isn’t an absolute given, they won't come. This leads me to Programming and how it’s linked to their connectivity. They want to share it, tweet it, snap it, or instagram it, so you should program in such a way that they can use their devices to share their experiences, give you feedback or participate in an activity.
Consider engaging them with peers from around the world to give them perspectives and discovery opportunities in a free style form. Lastly, being purposeful or meaningful is a priority for Gen Z. They want to make a difference, they want to care for their environment, they want to cause change, so consider their philanthropic nature when programming.
FIRST STEPS TO PREPARE FOR THEIR ARRIVAL
- Understand the upcoming generation, by unraveling the new combinations of their DNA.
- Once you have an understanding of what makes them so unique, you will be able to educate departments about them, or consider their priorities as you work on your own programming.
- Design your programming in such a way that Gen Z has an urgency to experience the program. They have to want to get onto your campus.
- Provide shorter programs to entice them, but anticipate more staff turnover.
- Ensure that all parts of the program run seamlessly.
- Show that you also care about the environment. Find out whether this is a message that the President deems important as a school, and then build that into the curriculum.
- Make safety even more of a priority. It is a major concern for this generation. They have witnessed much violence in their lives, albeit on their social media platforms.
- In a world that is so instant, customer service is paramount. As soon as they experience it, they share it. So treat them like honored guests. Your story depends on it.
In conclusion, it’s the programming you do today that is going to make them come tomorrow. Remember, they’re like no other generation before them. You have to figure out what makes them tick, program accordingly, and then design a creative approach to make them want to come.