Being digital natives, Generation Alpha has had an educational experience different from any generation before them.
Their unique expectations will bring new challenges to higher education.
Who are the Generation Alpha?
Generation Alpha encompasses those born between 2010 and 2025, or, more specifically, the children of the Millenials. Gen Alpha is projected to overtake Gen Z as the world’s largest generation, with an expected population of two billion by 2025.
This is the first generation to grow up in a technologically advanced world. They have only known a world with smartphones, computers, and artificial intelligence. They have lived with screens from early infancy and have learned to access information earlier than any previous generation.
Children aged 8 - 12 have over 4 hours of screen time daily, and most have used technology in the classroom. They are passionate about various causes and prefer to engage with brands that represent their beliefs. When they enter the workforce, they will prioritize skills over degrees and expect digital-oriented workplaces.
Everything about their upbringing and the world they’ve experienced will impact their decision when they start thinking about higher education. If universities want to stay ahead of the curve and create a connection with this generation, knowing what they care about and look for will be indispensable.
Here are some approaches to consider implementing in your Gen Alpha recruitment efforts that go beyond marketing to previous generations.
Showcase support for mental wellbeing
Over the past years, the stigma around mental health has been increasingly dismantled. Millennials are more open about their emotions and struggles than boomers.
For Gen Alpha, open communication regarding mental health will be neither taboo nor an innovation; it will be expected. They have (and will continue to) grow up in a world where discussions about mental health are part of their routine, whether they are with friends or at school. They will have no shame in prioritizing their mental well-being and expect to find understanding and support in their future schools and jobs.
Every student knows that university comes with elevated levels of academic pressure, but the school can balance it by showcasing tools to support students’ mental health. Asking for feedback from the campus community through surveys, offering counseling sessions for those facing personal struggles, and ensuring your programs don’t overwhelm students are a few ways to offer support to students. And, when students are satisfied with their experience on campus, they will become your most important advertisers.
Promote diversity and social awareness
Studies show Gen Alpha will be the most ethnically diverse and socially conscious generation so far. They are aware of our differences and embrace them, and they can see when a space isn’t representative of the world around them.
A 2019 study by Hotwire found the topics Gen Alpha holds as most important are “keeping children safe at school” (97%), “making sure everyone has enough food to eat” (97%), that “all people are treated fairly no matter what they look like” (96%), and “taking care of the environment” (95%).
Laura Macdonald, EVP and Head of Consumer North America at Hotwire, says, “Generation Alpha brings with it a strong set of opinions about the world we live in today. For brands to build relationships with this group, they’ll need to embrace diversity and recognize it will take much more than a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”
Take their relationship with money into account
Generation Alpha is likely to be even more money-conscious than Generation Z. For 67% of parents and teens, money is one of the most discussed topics at home, only behind the COVID-19 pandemic at 78%. They are being educated from a younger age, which extends to financial education.
They have also seen how a family’s financial situation can change quickly: many members of Gen Alpha have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as their parents faced unemployment or economic instability during the economic and health crisis of the past three years.
As the global economy recovers, current teenagers will come to value financial security above other factors. They are aware of the cost of university and have grown up having easy access to information. So, universities will need to not only showcase their educational value when teens can learn nearly everything through the internet, but also prove to be an investment that will lead to job security and financial stability.
They may not leave their homes
The traditional experience of leaving home to go to college may lose its status as the norm. While Gen Alpha may still be too young to understand the current cost of living crisis, they will have a better grasp on the housing crisis when they’re old enough to start university.
Combining the rising cost of housing with the previously mentioned financial consciousness of Gen Alpha, they might take a little longer to leave their parents’ homes. Instead of moving to campus accommodations or sharing a place with a few roommates, many will look for universities within driving distance from home or online degrees.
This contrasts with the frequently reinforced need to promote your university’s on-campus student experience. Yes, Gen Alpha will still want to feel a sense of belonging within the school before they even apply, but a significant portion of future students will be looking for flexible and online solutions to their pursuit of higher education.
Start changing while there’s time
To fully accommodate Gen Alpha’s needs, higher education must undergo substantial change. Making these adaptations takes planning, investment, and effort, requiring joint action from the administration, staff, and faculty. If you want to be ready when the first round of Gen Alpha begins looking for a university to attend, the time to start preparing is now!
3 min read
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