Companies and brands are scrambling to figure out the best ways to connect with Generation Z. They have watched millennials grow up and want to be different than them. This also means that colleges need to find ways to engage with Generation Z as they are reaching the age to apply for college. So why are some of Generation Z deciding not to go to college? We conducted a Q&A with two people who are a part of Generation Z to try to understand their thought processes when deciding if they want to attend college or not. Our first Q&A was with Stephen White who is 20 years old and did not attend college. He chose to attend a film program instead.
Why did you decide not to go to college?
At the moment college stressed me out too much. I wanted to take a year off after I graduated high school. Around that time I started making videos with my friends and posting them on YouTube. And then another thing that with my career path, is that school isn’t really something that they look at on your resume and just because you have a film degree doesn’t mean you're going to get as much work as someone that’s been doing it since day 1 of them graduating high school. It’s about connections and help.
College I guess just isn’t something they are looking for. I have a friend whose parents are making her get a film degree and she was on the same path that I was but she’s spending all of her time doing school now instead of going on jobs or working.
Did you ever think about going to college?
My case was kind of different. My dad teaches at a college so I would get a discount. I thought about college when I was younger but it wasn’t until I got halfway through high school that I realized I don’t want to be in a school environment forever. Or if I am in a school environment I don’t want it to be stuff that I don’t care about.
Do you ever regret not going to college?
Sometimes, the social aspect of it is an obvious reason, because if you’re a social butterfly or not, you’re going to miss out on stuff just because you’re not there, you’re not in that environment.
It depends on how I’m feeling. I look at people who are trying to do what I’m doing and they are eating my dust.
Why do you think gen Z doesn’t want to go to college?
It’s really expensive now and if you are like my friend and your parents are making you get a degree you can just see the money being wasted, especially when its something where you know that you don’t need a degree deep down. And if you can do something without taking that extra hard step then they are obviously going to do it. It’s the awareness that you don’t have to follow the archetype. I think there are a lot of younger people breaking that flow of things. Sometimes that means going to college, sometimes it doesn’t, but a lot of people are realizing that you can do what you want to do without going to college.
Is there anything colleges can do to entice people like you to go?
If it works for you, it works for you. If you learn how the majority of people learn, college might work for you.
Deep down I know college is going to be slaving over papers and homework and projects and labs and stuff. A lot more hands-on is needed. It takes a certain amount of time to get to what you actually want to do with core classes. But, if you fit that mold, then do it. And it just seems kind of cookie cutter.
Another thing is that, a lot of media studies people in smaller cities, their programs in film aren’t realistic in terms of what it’s like in cities where there are a lot more productions happening. There is stuff that I learned the first or second week in my training that they still haven’t gotten to in college classes and that’s easy stuff.
Is there anything else important that you want to add?
I want to stress that if college is something that works for you, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do college. If you have the finances in order and you have scholarships and you know that what you want to do requires college, then go for it. For me, I just saw another way to do it. I consider myself lucky because the program that I went through I was the 4th graduating class and it was really early and it was a real big gamble because it was like are these people just taking my money or are they actually getting jobs? But they said people were getting jobs. I even have a friend that is actually working on "The Walking Dead" today.
Next, we talked to Graham Russell who is 13 and already thinking about what colleges she wants to attend and what she’s looking for in a college.
Why do you want to go to college?
There are so many opportunities that come out of it. And after college, there’s so much more that you’re going to be able to do. People my age aren’t attracted to work and they don’t want to learn the way they have been taught to learn. They want a hands-on experience instead of pen and paper, take notes, and take a test. They want something out of the ordinary.
What makes you want to go to the colleges you are interested in?
I tend to pick my college based on location. I want to go somewhere in the northwest. Somewhere I’m not boarded up with nothing to do, not based on tradition, but based on innovation. Somewhere that doesn’t teach in traditional ways.
Have you seen any advertisements for colleges? If so, where?
No. I don’t have social media and spend most of my time on YouTube. I haven’t seen any advertisements that I can remember.
What should colleges do to recruit generation Z?
Offer hands-on job experience. Good campus life. New ways of learning, innovative campuses and classes.
How do you define good campus life?
If I visited a campus I would be looking for bookstores, coffee shops, everything within walking distance. Outlets everywhere, easy to connect. Libraries. Dorms with large workspaces, but small rooms.
What do you think should be changed about college?
How everyone is sticking to tradition and how no one is looking for input from generation Z, they are only talking to parents. They aren’t asking what we want out of college, they are only talking to parents and asking “what do you want your kids to do and be able to do.”
They also need to advertise on YouTube. Getting themselves featured in someone’s video. Discord, Twitch, YouTube, streaming services. I feel like the kids that are on there more are the people more likely to go to college. Kids thinking towards their future are on those sites more.
Do you know what you want to major in? Will that impact your college decision?
No one my age really knows what they want to major in. I was on Pinterest the other day and took a quiz that helped you decide what major you should be in. We like to consume content like that. When you quiz someone it appeals to us, we don’t know ourselves at this age. What we like to do is take these quizzes. Colleges should provide career quizzes, quizzes about what courses you should take at their college, or about which college is best for you.
Anything else you want to add?
I would say help them figure out their career first. When we get into high school years it pops, but we want that to happen early, we are constantly trying to figure it out. Help us to figure it out and figure out that we need to do what we want to do.
Let's say someone’s friends tell them they are a great artist, that's because it looks great for their age. They take that and they run with it. They need to understand that what they’re great at now they might not be great at then. That hobbies aren’t jobs. Its a matter of finding themselves and figuring out what’s going to happen after that.
We want to go to a place where people are like us and is made for a modern age of technology.
We get info all day at school and we don’t know how to turn on and off all of that information. When we get home everything becomes slow, so we want more information, that’s why we absorb content online. What we want to absorb is our futures, we want to know what is going to happen. If they can lead us in a way that’s going to tell us what’s going to happen we might want to go there.
Generation Z wants to feel prepared for their future. Memorizing notes for a test and then forgetting it a day later is not cutting it for them anymore. They crave hands-on experiences and want to learn how to do things for themselves. 89% of Generation Z believes that having a college education is valuable. But colleges need to adapt to new learning styles. 51% of Generation Z learns best from hands-on experience and 38% learn by watching. Education needs to become more personalized and less cookie cutter. Advertising, social media algorithms, shopping, media consumption, and experiences are all becoming personalized and focused on the individual customer, so why isn’t higher education doing the same thing?
Generation Z is consuming more visual content on YouTube and other platforms than any generation before them. This is why it is essential that colleges put emphasis on the video content that they are producing. Generation Z has an endless amount of content to choose from and you have to make yours stand out. Download our free eBook on Video Content Marketing for Higher Education below to put yourself ahead of the game.