Getting to Know the Millennial Student: A Crash Course


Although institutions of higher learning must prioritize academic rigor and student success above all other values, the truth is that colleges and universities are much like any other business: in order to do well (i.e. meet enrollment goals), they need to understand the person they’re serving.

In this case, that person is the student. This changing population demands that schools shift campus policies as well as marketing tactics and strategies in order to appeal to the millennial student. To do so, they need to understand how their students think, make decisions and interact with the world.

This is easier said than done. According to the New York Times, millennials are hard to define, putting off traditional priorities and focusing on career. One thing is certain, however:

Millennials Want Self Service

Millennials grew up in a self-service economy. According to Fast Company, the vast majority of consumers today expect self-service solutions to everyday tasks: 90% value speed when it comes to interaction with a company or organization, and 88% want the problem solved in one interaction. These expectations extend to the educational sphere as well: Students expect to be able to take care of their academic needs online, by themselves, at all hours, and with minimal help from school officials. When they have an annoying chore like verifying their FAFSA information, they need to be able to do so online, quickly, by themselves.

Millennials Expect to Find You Online

Millennials don’t place a lot of trust in organizations with no online presence. In fact, the online sphere has changed so much that you’ll probably have even better luck connecting with today’s student on a social media platform such as Facebook than on a traditional website. What does this mean for colleges and universities? That connecting with students about financial aid, enrollment and award letters needs to happen online and on devices, and get backed up by social media.

Millennials Aren’t a Faxing Generation

Sure, fax isn’t dead, but millennials aren’t using it. No, a full 85% of them own smartphones, according to Nielsen. If you want students to consider your institution cutting-edge, they need to be able to take care of business online. That means letting them submit documents through a web portal or email, and using SMS messaging to engage with them.

The millennial generation is huge, empowered, digitally savvy and has high expectations for their education as well as for the abilities of the colleges and universities they attend. These traits are creating a strange and novel dynamic among institutions of higher learning.

While campuses have for hundreds of years been used to setting the rules and guidelines that students must follow if they wish to earn a place there, that has changed. Now students act as true consumers, setting the guidelines with their own expectations and desires. Today, knowing the consumer is the only way to keep up.


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