November 18, 2021

Personalize the campus visit or risk losing Gen Z


Chris Langone

Personalization is the name of the game. Prospective Generation Z students have specific ideas of what an interaction with a college or university should be prior to even showing up on campus. VisitDays Research shows that Gen Z wants an interaction with a college or university that is individually tailored, allows for digital technologies to be used, and shows the opportunities that will come from pursuing a degree at that particular institution.

This research is in line with industry market research that shows, as the first digital natives, Gen Z seeks out information from many online sources before making a decision. This generation of prospective college students has preconceived ideas about your institution before they even meet your tour guide. They’ve searched your institution’s social media channels, followed hashtags, and conducted Google searches to see what can be offered to them as a student. This puts the onus on colleges and universities to create hyper-personalized and memorable campus visit experiences when engaging with Gen Z.

One example of focusing on personalization of the campus visit is our client, McMurry University, in Abilene, Texas, who realized that personalization was critical to the prospective student experience and decided to make the registration and check-in processes more fun and engaging. When a prospective student registers for a visit at McMurry, they are asked their favorite candy bar. Once the student shows-up on campus, they receive an entire bag of their favorite candy, a university t-shirt, and a picture with Wally the War Hawk, the university’s mascot. These touches allow for the university to show prospective students that they matter and that their experience for the next four years will be amazing.

We have found that many institutions aren’t thinking through ideas of personalization. We have seen that many colleges and universities don’t make the effort to talk about majors, student interests, or know a student’s name at the start of a tour, even though they asked for this information at the time of registration. This is why we have recently embarked on analyzing campus visits across the nation. With secret shoppers and both announced and unannounced campus visits, we’ve been able to see first-hand how institutions are doing in showing that they care about the student experience and their persuasion skills to have a student commit. For example, we examine:

  • Institutional digital footprint
  • Check-in process
  • Pre-visit and post-visit engagement between institution and student
  • Tour route
  • Tour guide knowledge of the campus, school spirit, and training
  • Welcome Center or Visitor Center

These areas give us tremendous insights into the experiences of prospective students and the value an institution places on such experiences. This allows for colleges and universities to understand their opportunities with prospective students and to craft campus events that yield more students.

I hope this is a helpful peek into the need for personalization of the campus visit for Gen Z students.