Best Practices for Recruiting Gen Z Students


We know that Gen Z students are headed to college in dramatic numbers. And we know that traditional recruiting has to take on new dynamics. So what are the best ways to connect in their hyper-connected world? New in-depth reports from Ruffalo Noel Levitz offer a wealth of data. We’ve summarized some of the high points for you, along with our own insights.

First Impressions

Increasingly, email wins the day. Despite students' reliance on texting and Snapchat, email is the preferred means of initial communication for 50% of students. Surprisingly, that number is up even since last year. They’re checking email from their smartphones, so never skimp on making your messages mobile-friendly. (Did we even need to say that?)

Don’t be too quick to give up on direct mail, though, because 34% of students still prefer your first contact to come this way.

Another quickly-rising trend is interest in paid ads through digital marketing. While 55% of high school juniors have clicked on an ad for a college or university (another number that’s up since last year), this is still an under-utilized tool for most colleges. Ads on Google are favored by 70%+ of students and parents, followed by Facebook.

Then What?

For interested parents and students, your website is their next stop. Does your site meet their premium design expectations? Is the content relevant and real? Does it give them the critical information they’re looking for?

And while they’re exploring your website, don’t miss the opportunity to respond. Once a student or parent has indicated interest in your school through an RFI form, your communications plan necessarily becomes even more sophisticated.

At this point in the process, 76% of students and 68% or more of parents welcome your email messages. A range of 51-61% of parents also want a brochure mailed to them, while the same number of students want an app messaging response. And though 60%+ of high school students are willing for a college to text them, many colleges are not yet sending texts to prospective students.

The bottom line here? A multi-faceted—or even personalized—approach.

And then?

Even though technology is as natural as breathing for this generation, relationships matter more than ever. And not just digital relationships. You’ve connected, and now it’s time to secure their loyalty.

For both private and public four-year institutions, campus open house events top the list of effective recruiting strategies, followed by visits of all kinds—weekend, overnight, or even one-day events. One way or another, get them on your campus. It’s your moment to shine. Show them what you’re made of.


Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2017). What Prospective Students Really Think: 2017 National Report on the Perceptions and Communication Preferences of High School Students. Cedar Rapids: Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2017). 2017 E-Expectations Trend Report. Cedar Rapids: Ruffalo Noel Levitz.

Ruffalo Noel Levitz (2017). 2017 marketing and student recruitment report of effective practices. Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Retrieved from