Guest post by Jordyn Morris, who is interning in EAB’s Research division
As a college junior, graduate education is regularly on my mind, as it is for many of my peers. EAB estimates that by 2031, 60% of adult learners will be Gen Z (like my classmates and me). Gen Z undergrads are searching for graduate programs that fit our needs, and this search often begins with your webpages. More than 90% of adult learners surveyed by EAB earlier this year visited the websites of the schools they’re considering. With a generation as well-connected and digitally-savvy as Gen Z, this trend will undoubtedly continue. Here are three crucial tips to keep students’ attention on your program webpages.
Tip 1: Clearly display the cost of your program—and why it’s worth it
In conversations with my friends and peers about grad school, cost and affordability is always a topic of discussion. Many of us work part-time jobs while attending school, leading us to be hyperaware of the cost of post-secondary education. In EAB’s recent survey of college freshmen, 37% of respondents didn't pick their top choice of college due to cost, and 36% picked their college because of affordable tuition. In my search for advanced degrees, nothing has concerned me more than the cost of graduate programs—especially when I can't seem to find any scholarship opportunities or proof of return on investment.
Institutions could help alleviate my concerns regarding cost and return on investment by clearly advertising cost (total cost if available, by credit if needed) and showcasing available scholarship and financial aid opportunities on program webpages. Additionally, promoting specific career outcomes (such as examples of graduates' employers and salaries) and including testimonials of alumni success stories can really help me picture the benefits of a graduate education. If your program includes experiential learning, such as internships or practicum, clearly advertise this as well. By promoting the hands-on skills students like me will learn while enrolled, you can quickly showcase return on investment.
Tip 2: Make the information we’re looking for easily accessible on program webpages
Right now, almost 75% of prospective adult learners turn to graduate program webpages for information, and Gen Z is the most connected generation yet. We are known to research programs on our own, often unbeknownst to the institution and without the help of admissions counselors. And due to the massive amount of content we consume daily, our attention spans don't always last very long. Personally, webpages that aren't clearly organized are not pages I'll spend much time on—and I’m not alone. Seventy-two percent of the adult learners EAB surveyed said they will abandon university webpages that aren’t user-friendly.
So how can you make sure we are able to find what we’re looking for and don’t navigate away from your webpage? Place calls-to-action at the top of your page and ensure they lead directly to RFI forms or application pages. The fewer clicks it takes to get to these essential pages, the better. Additionally, include information such as cost, financial aid, amount of time to complete the program, program mode, and classes the program offers prominently (or in easily accessible drop-down menus).
Tip 3: Showcase what makes your institution and programs unique
Take the time to advertise what makes your institution unique on your adult learner pages, not just your homepages. In a post-pandemic world where me and so many of my peers attended classes virtually, we are yearning for connection and activity. Are your cohorts close? What's special about your campus culture? How will online students feel connected to your institution? Gen Z is on track to be the most diverse generation yet—what do you do to promote DEIJ on your campus? These are just some of the questions I ask myself when browsing graduate program webpages! Make sure the webpage design for your graduate program represents your brand just as well as your homepage does. Incorporate a similar look and color palette and remember to spotlight photos of real students where possible.
Gen Z also tends to use social media to understand institutional culture and brand. When I was applying to undergraduate programs, I consistently turned to Instagram to get a feel of a college's brand and would also look for accounts for the specific schools and programs I was applying to. Link your social media pages to your webpages. And don’t overlook the social media for specific schools, such as your graduate school or professional, continuing, and online education unit. TikTok is incredibly popular with my generation as well, so place effort into your institution pages there, and participate in the latest trends (in my opinion, students make the best TikToks).
Your future adult learners are digitally fluent, cost-aware, and brand-focused. By aiming for transparency around cost and important program information, as well as making sure to advertise your institution’s culture, your graduate program is sure to stand out to us.