Students are changing. Today’s generations are consuming information in different ways and have different priorities than previous generations of students. Consequently, institutions must adapt their marketing strategies for attracting Gen Z applicants.
One of the most important changes is the increased importance Gen Z place on student reviews. Original university and course reviews posted on sites like EDUopinions are now a huge factor when it comes to Gen Z choosing their study path.
But why are they so important for Gen Z students? And what does this mean for attracting Gen Z applicants?
Understanding the Gen Z Applicant
Generation Z (those born between the mid-1990s and 2010) are very different to the previous generation, millennials. In general, this generation is more tech-savvy and has higher expectations from brands, companies, and institutions. To attract Gen Z applicants, universities must therefore consider their brand reputation and how they are marketing to students.
Firstly, let’s consider some key characteristics of Gen Z students more generally. According to a Stanford University survey, the most important characteristics of Generation Z are:
- Value diversity
- Collaborative and social
- Value authenticity
- Likely to question rules and authority
- Conscious of environmental issues
When it comes to marketing to Gen Z, other characteristics are significant. Because of their lifelong reliance on the internet, they are savvy consumers who generally do a lot of research before purchasing a product. Furthermore, they often see their purchases or consumer choices as extensions of their identity, which means they are more likely to be swayed by a brand that aligns with their beliefs.
Gen Z and Higher Education
There is also evidence that Gen Z students are less likely to trust higher education institutions than older generations. One recent study found that 35% of adult members of Gen Z said they do not trust colleges and universities. 41% said they do trust higher education institutions, compared to 49% of millennials.
Additionally, the survey found that two-thirds of adult Gen Zers surveyed, and 77% of high school Gen Zers, said that to trust a higher education institution they had to have read or heard about it beforehand. Here you can also find the 4 steps on how to qualify and convert Gen Z students.
Why Student Reviews are Important for Gen Z
It’s clear based on the typical characteristics of Gen Z applicants that they might place more importance on student reviews than other generations. For example, they are typically hesitant to immediately trust institutions and say authenticity is extremely important. As a result, reading honest student experiences may be more valuable to them than traditional institution marketing strategies.
Gen Z is also more likely to read reviews than other generations. They are also careful about the relevance of reviews; 66% of Gen Z and millennial consumers say they would not purchase a product if the most recent reviews were published more than a year ago. More than other generations, Gen Z place more equal weight on the volume and recency of product or service reviews.
For this savvy generation, who value authenticity and are more likely to think highly of a university if they have read or heard about it before, student reviews are significant. Authentic student reviews offer Gen Z applicants peace of mind about the course or university they are applying to by allowing them to experience the course before applying. As a result, negative reviews are likely to sway their decision, while positive reviews will serve as reinforcement that they are making the right decision.
Considering the particular characteristics of this new generation of university-goers, it’s more important than ever that universities pay attention to student reviews. Gen Zers value recommendations from real people, no matter if that’s friends and family or strangers on the internet. As a result, institutions need to be pushing student reviews in their marketing materials for attracting Gen Z applicants.
While many universities already include student testimonials in marketing materials, reviews on independent sites like EDUopinions are more valuable because they aren’t linked to a university. This increases their authenticity and trustworthiness. However, there are still ways for universities to engage with reviews online, including by responding to negative reviews.
To find out more about student preferences, read our article What Do Students Think of Online Learning?