Tailoring Content for Transitioning High School Students

How to Set Your Program’s Marketing Efforts Apart

Picture this. You’re 18, you just graduated high school, you only barely know how to do your own laundry, and you’re about to take the biggest leap of your life totally solo. Effectively marketing to someone at this stage in their life, aka high schoolers transitioning to college, is no small feat.

Though putting yourself back in their shoes may induce some cringe-worthy memories of your teen years, it’s important to understand where the new generation of transitioning high school students is coming from and what they want out of their next educational steps.

Traditional vs. Nontraditional Students

Entering college students are split into two different groups that should be analyzed and marketed to very differently: traditional and nontraditional students. The former are the students, usually 17-19 years old, that are moving directly from their high school to collegiate studies. The latter are a much broader, behaviorally diverse group. Nontraditional students may have come to your university post-military, mid-career or from just about any other point or walk of life.

Nontraditional students, as they are usually older than their peers coming out of high school, enter college with a greater sense of stability and security. Many will have already been living on their own and may have been part of the workforce for years—or perhaps decades—before arriving.

Traditional students, on the other hand, need to know that their university will not only foster their academic growth but their personal growth as well. While we may forget the feeling of being 18 and afraid as we age, it really does take some blood, sweat and tears to make the transition from teen-hood to adulthood, and today’s efforts to market to this demographic must acknowledge that.

Highlighting the support systems within your program, be it a university, trade school or any other postsecondary opportunity, are crucial for satisfying the needs and assuaging the fears of these transitioning high school students. From the practical (mentoring programs, care packages, transition assistance) to the quirky (campus-wide puppy petting pre-final exams), transitioning traditional students want to know that they’ll have what they need to be happy and healthy outside of their parents’ care.

Knowing Gen Z

Marketing to Millennials is such a hot topic in the advertising and marketing spheres that it seems as if all young people are getting lumped into the Millennial generation. The demographic entering college as traditional students is now securely within Generation Z, or those born in 1998 and later (though some consider it to begin with those born as early as 1995). It’s imperative to know how Gen Z thinks, feels and learns—and how they do it differently than the generations before them.

Whereas prior generations learned from textbooks, Gen Z grew up with the world at its fingertips. Lectures on history are abundant—and free—on YouTube. They follow their peers across the globe on Instagram, seeing how their cultures and lives play out in real time. Take note of this generation’s increased sense of global connection and access to information to emphasize how your program reflects their values.

It may be a pretty different world from the one you lived in when you graduated high school and faced the future but understanding this new frontier (and the ones facing it) is what will set your program’s marketing efforts apart.