A Gen-Zer’s Dad asks how schools can provide timely, personalized responses to each student’s most burning questions.
GUEST COLUMN | by Lance Hydrick
Zoomers, The Anxious Generation, The iGeneration… Generation Z has been dubbed some interesting names over the years (and as a father of an 18-year-old, I’ve used most of them). The one I think hits closest to the mark, though, is “The Realist Generation.”
Generation Z—people born roughly between 1997 and 2012—may spend a lot of time on TikTok, but that doesn’t mean they mess around. They’ve grown up extremely online in a post-9/11 world, in the shadow of climate change and the Great Recession. Basically, they’ve grown up fast and skeptical.
This can be a tough mindset for higher education to appeal to. How do you pitch expensive, years-long training to a generation terrified of student debt and convinced that most jobs won’t even exist in a decade?
‘How do you pitch expensive, years-long training to a generation terrified of student debt and convinced that most jobs won’t even exist in a decade?’
It’s a daunting challenge; and based on the fact that higher ed enrollments have shrunk by 6% since 2019, it’s a challenge that schools are struggling to meet.
However, the Gen Z mindset is a mindset I can relate to. I’ve already explained a little bit about my own journey to higher ed, but the bottom line is, 20 years ago when I was searching for schools, I didn’t have a big margin for error. So I asked schools some hard questions:
1. What will this degree actually allow me to do?
2. What kind of support can I expect to receive financially, personally, and professionally from this school?
3. What kind of return on investment can I expect from this education?
In short, I asked the same questions that Gen Z is asking—the questions that we all probably should have been asking this whole time. And just like 20 years ago, many schools still don’t provide satisfactory answers.
The lack of clear, immediate answers for future students is a massive reason that higher ed enrollment is faltering before we even get to the Enrollment Cliff. The question is, how can schools provide timely, personalized responses to each student’s most burning questions?
‘The question is, how can schools provide timely, personalized responses to each student’s most burning questions?’
Connecting With Today’s Students…Fast
Trying to create a bond with today’s student can leave higher ed marketers and enrollment professionals in a frustrating paradox: Future students want a website experience that makes them feel recognized and unique, but they want it in record time.
Schools have two minutes to create a lasting connection–that’s it. Within two minutes, the average prospect has either decided to move forward or they’ve left the website, likely never to return.
Maximizing that 120-second window has never been more important. So why do we keep falling back on those same shopworn CTAs, like ‘Apply Now’, and ‘Learn More’, that didn’t even work for me 20 years ago?
Smart education marketers recognize that the typical student or parent, probably in the thick of researching schools, isn’t ready to take such decisive actions. They’re much more likely, however, to interact.
Interactive spaces where students can talk about themselves gives your website the chance to deliver more personalized information–especially with the help of AI. Conveniently, sometimes the most effective places to host these interactions are the website tools you’re already using.
Reimagining Lead Capture as an AI-Driven Personalized Interaction
Tweaking current website tools to provide personalized interactions creates unique connections without scrambling the user experience. We’ve already touched on how you can transform your school’s site search into a meaningful conversation. Today we’ll cover another stale website interaction: Lead Capture.
Lead capture has long been the eyesore of the university website. For over two decades students have stared blankly at endless fields that offer little real value.
Edtech companies, however, are reimagining the lead capture process as an AI-powered opportunity to connect with students. Students are much more willing to provide personal information when they know it will lead to in-the-moment personalized answers to their questions. AI can now crawl a school’s website content to provide accurate answers immediately. Here’s how these tools work:
Through these tools, schools can offer on-the-spot insight into scholarship opportunities, best fit programs, transfer options–almost anything that students would want to know. And AI does the heavy lifting for them.
‘Through these tools, schools can offer on-the-spot insight into scholarship opportunities, best fit programs, transfer options–almost anything that students would want to know. And AI does the heavy lifting for them.’
Here’s an example of those on-the-spot responses:
In seconds these interactions affirm a student’s uniqueness, honor their time, and provide the kind of online experience they’ve come to demand. And the best part is, with the help of AI, it’s an experience that schools can deliver instantaneously.
This generation of Realists asks the hard questions. But the fact is, they’re the right questions. And if we can provide meaningful answers, at scale, within those crucial seconds, we’ll be sending Gen Z the message that they’ve come to the right place.
Lance Hydrick is founder and CEO of Halda.AI. Connect with him on LinkedIn.