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How Gen Z Researches Grad Schools, How Transparency Promotes Diversity, and Taking Personalization Full-funnel

How Gen Z Researches Grad Schools, How Transparency Promotes Diversity, and Taking Personalization Full-funnel
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Welcome to the first insights of 2024! We interact with students from over 150 schools. As always, we’re turning our connections into research. Our in-house data insights are in bold. If you like what you learn, go ahead and share it!

The website has always mattered…Now it matters More

78% of Gen Z graduate prospects visit the website within a couple days of investigating a school.

59% of Millennials and Gen X graduate prospects visit the website within a couple days of investigating a school.

A school’s website has been a substantial part of a prospect’s research process for decades now, but Gen Z is ushering in a world where your website truly makes your most important first impression. Younger students are more online, more likely to spearhead their own research, and more likely to evaluate schools based on their digital footprint. Not only are they quick to land on a school’s website, they’re also less likely than their Gen X and Millenial counterparts to focus on social proof and referrals.

In many ways this is a great thing for schools. Gen Z starts the research process with a cleaner slate, willing to make a decision based on what personally resonates with them. However, school’s can’t rely as strongly on name recognition, brand, and peer pressure; they have to show each student that they provide real value. And that journey starts–more than ever–on a school’s website.

The Younger the Student, the Stealthier the Student

80% of Gen Z graduate prospects almost never speak with admissions before applying.

72% of Millennial graduate prospects almost never speak with admissions before applying.

64% of Gen X graduate prospects almost never speak with admissions before applying.

School’s are increasingly faced with a pleasant but somewhat unsettling surprise: The stealth application. According to our graduate survey data, 38% of graduate applicants never make contact with a school before submitting an application. They never submit their information, never ask a question, never connect. This leaves schools mired in uncertainty when it comes to confidently projecting their application and eventual enrollment numbers.

And this is only going to get worse.

Younger prospects are rolling in at what feels like the last minute, but they’re actually taking lots of time to research, usually around (blank)-to-(blank) months. Therefore, building an interactive, instructive, and attractive online experience to cater to stealth visitors has never been more important. The irony is that students want an increasingly personalized experience despite their preference to remain anonymous. That means automation, personalization tools, and flexible content paths are a must when it comes to creating a website experience.

How Indiana State Pioneered Full-Funnel Personalization

Meet Faith Haley and Shonta Sellers, two innovators we’ve had the privilege to work with. Facing slimmer teams and more applications than ever, they pioneered an approach to full-funnel personalization that drives student interaction and conversion long after that initial lead capture stage–without overstretching their teams. Here’s the complete case study if you want to take a look. But, in the meantime, check out some key lessons from their approach.

Nurture the Relationship between Marketing and Enrollment: Faith and Shonta are skilled communicators not only with their prospects, but with each other. They create a seamless experience between marketing and admissions with consistent messaging and clear communication processes for students to follow–they both even use Halda’s tools to serve their different functions. Without a collaborative relationship, it’s impossible to create this student experience, and much more difficult to drive enrollments.

Personalize the Whole Funnel: People sometimes think of Halda as a lead capture engine, but Haley deployed what we do for down-funnel conversion. The “Where Are You Stuck” DLP asks students who have started the application process where they’re experiencing friction. Then the DLP provides them with tools and avenues to move forward. It’s an efficient way to make students feel taken care of, and it’s a scalable strategy to give Indiana State’s team the information for incisive follow-up.

Respect the 3-second Rule: It might take students a little longer to bounce off a website, but according to Sellers, you really only have about 3 seconds to grab someone’s attention. If you aren’t greeting your visitors with a powerful hook, then you lose them. And the majority of them never come back.

Accessibility doesn’t mean Accessible

Meeting accessibility standards doesn’t always mean that your information is truly accessible to students. Dallin Palmer, Halda CoFounder and COO, highlights how some of our partners innovate to make information truly accessible to students. Here are some takeaways:

-Easy-to-use personalization tools are particularly appealing to minority students. 34% of students who interact with our DLPs self-identify as African-American.

-First-generation students also have a high rate of interaction with our DLPs. 32% of students who interact with Halda’s tools claim to be first-generation students.

What does this mean? Easy-to-access information helps students who have less support and generational experience find their footing in the research process. Without networks to provide guidance, school websites must provide clarity for students if they want to promote diversity and inclusion. It's an inclusive communication strategy, and if you wanna read more about how it works, here's the full blog.

You can’t spell "Arizona State" without "AI"

Arizona State University has been at the forefront of AI innovation at the university level. Now, after launching AI-Acceleration–an on-campus AI tool creation engine–they’ve officially become the first university to partner with OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT. They’ll leverage ChatGPT Enterprise for plenty of functions, including student success and organizational efficiency.

But we’ve known AI can be useful for a while; what this partnership really represents is the overall recognition of AI’s secure place in the future of education and innovation.

Thanks for checking in, and stay tuned for more data and AI insights!

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