Homelanders…Who Defines this New Generation?
- April 24, 2017
- Posted by: enrollmentFUEL
- Category: Articles
Move over Millennials, here come the Homelanders! A new generation of college-bound students are upon us, and they look and act differently from those now graduating college in record numbers and entering the workforce.
The Homelanders, otherwise known as Generation Z, are those born from the year 2000 and beyond. These students are the future prospective high school recruits that institutions of higher education aspire to enroll over the next several years. But, in order to be successful, recruitment approaches that have been effective for the last ten to fifteen years will lack impact and penetration with this generation. Homelanders are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation, ever. Why? Because Homelanders’ parents are the well-known group called Generation Xers, and they are the largest immigrant generation, per capita, in history. This shakes up the landscape, and knowing more about this group’s background, dreams, and desires helps us better prepare for the changes needed if we want to successfully attract these students to our campuses.
So, as college admission offices gear up their recruitment of these students, what do we know about them? Well, in some ways, they are the polar opposite of their predecessors the Millennials (more about them later). This generation was born and raised with the shadow of 9/11 in their path, and many compare it to their version of Pearl Harbor. They lived through the housing market crash and the most recent recession, and they will forever have the uncertain safety reminders because of mall and school shootings. They have grown up in the shadow of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. They are much more secure in their traditional surroundings and are coined by many as “Homelanders” because of loyalty to their safe and secure surroundings in which they were raised. They literally spend more time at “home”, driven by their interaction with multiple technology platforms, which occupies their time.
For college admission officers, this will create a very different conversation than the one you had with a Millennial a few years ago. That conversation was couched in much different terms because Millennials are an entirely different profile. Mentally, we need to prepare to shift our conversation patterns as we recruit an entirely different generation. So, what is the difference? Millennials bounced onto the scene as the most populated generation in American history. Their parents were the Baby Boomers, and they grew up with participation trophies, a constant voice in their ear of “you can do anything you want in your career,” and were driven by hard work and persistence in almost anything they did. They were recruited to colleges by the ultimate personalized and customizable recruitment process. College brochures catered to their every desire: from major, to extra-curricular activity, to athletic team, or to even the desired residence hall amenities. Let’s be honest; most colleges now are sporting some residential housing that has granite counter tops, hardwood floors, and upscale furniture. We can thank Millennials for the advancement on that front. The rock climbing walls, lazy rivers, and over-the-top dining options all began popping up on college campuses as a means of attracting the largest generation with the largest “college wants.” But, the tradeoff generally benefited institutions with larger enrollment growth because of such accommodations. Now don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that these high expectations of Millennials don’t have payoffs. In fact, it’s these same expectations that are bearing fruit in the current workplace. Millennials are graduating college with a strong work ethic steeped with an eye for exacting outcomes that will surely benefit the workforce in numerous ways.
But, as Millennials graduate college and head into the workforce, Homelanders are emerging as those filling college recruitment funnels. How should colleges differentiate their marketing and recruitment strategies for this new generation? First, technology will play a significant role. In most cases, if technology and digital marketing are not already channels of communication, then you are lagging behind your competition. That is a guarantee. However, the good news is that while technology will be a major factor in the recruitment of Homelanders, it does not have to be an all-out “blitz.”
Second, the messages to these students should focus on what is important to them. They have a strong sense of community, and civic engagement is a hallmark of this generation. Remember, they have a commitment to their “home,” so it makes sense they have a desire to give back to their community through acts of service. If you want to appeal to the nature of this generation, it will be imperative that your campus provides a variety of options for students to do service both domestically, and internationally. Homelanders want opportunities to make a difference—that means on your campus, in society and globally. Are these messages and opportunities that resonate with your campus?
Finally, this generation is attracted to opportunities for academic exploration and achievement. Surveys that examine which factors impact a student’s decision to attend college almost always point to variety of academic programs as a main consideration. But, the achievement factor goes beyond just studying to obtain a degree. For Homelanders, it is woven back into their sense of community. These students will seek knowledge both inside and outside the classroom. For example, honors programs, study away trips, academic webinars, and professional conferences will play a much more significant role in the life of a Homelander student. College campuses need to create a three-pronged community that:
- generally enriches students;
- offers them a variety of opportunities to become involved;
- and allows them the flexibility to work toward a better cause either domestically, or globally.
To better understand the Homelander generation, a continued study and exploration of their parents will provide insight into their upbringing and mindset. Generation X produced a very rebellious, socially conscience, and anti-establishment focused generation that became the parents of our Homelanders. Continued evaluation and study of these interwoven generations will certainly help prepare those of us in the field with the responsibility of recruitment.
The population for future enrollment into higher education has been identified. This diverse and multi-dimensional generation of students will certainly make a difference in the world in which we live. Because of their strong sense of community outreach, their entrepreneurial mindset and immense desire to make the world a better place, we must tailor our educational opportunities to fulfill these outcomes.
Enrollment managers are now tasked with how to draw the attention of this generation. Personalized student search campaigns with multiple levels of fulfillment may become mandatory, rather than an option. Digital marketing will become not just one of the channels of communication, but instead, the main channel to this digitally native group of students. College campuses will have to adjust to, and create, an environment in which these students can excel. Ask any admission professional and they will attest that their role is only a small part of the recruitment of a student. It is the entire campus that enrolls and retains the student. To be resilient in the face of a changing recruitment market, your campus will have to align its current strategic plan to embrace Homelanders. Talk to your campus leadership today about these important changes to the landscape.
Now is a time of change and uncertainty in college admissions; PPY has invaded, the new SAT has graced us with its presence, demographic and high school graduate numbers are rapidly shifting, adult markets are shrinking, and a new generation of students are about to hit our campuses. On your mark, get set, GO!
Adam Connolly is the Vice President of Enrollment Management at Coker College, SC and Affiliate Coach with enrollmentFUEL. In his work, he enjoys a student-centric approach, thus, his research on generational shifts for a better understanding of the students we recruit. Adam can be reached at email@example.com.