Social Media Engagement Key to College Recruitment of Gen Z Students

Press Release

Social Media Engagement Key to College Recruitment of Gen Z Students

EAB study shows students are increasingly likely to discover and engage with colleges on social media

Washington, DC, Sept. 23, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — High school students are more likely than ever to interact with colleges and universities on social media at every stage of their college search, according to a study released today by education research and technology company, EAB. Nearly 30 percent of students have used a school’s social media site as a gateway to that school’s website, and more than 85 percent say every school should have a social media presence.

“In the past, EAB found that social media was not the best tool for recruitment but rather a better tool for engaging students once they have decided to apply,” said Pamela Kiecker Royall, Ph.D., head of research for enrollment services at EAB. “The findings of EAB’s new study show that students are more likely than ever to interact with colleges and universities on social media at all stages of their search.”

EAB’s report, “Recruiting the Digital Native,” is based on a survey of 9,476 college-bound high school students and follows a similar study conducted by the company in 2017. 

Social Media Highly Effective at Reaching Underrepresented Students

Social media has become an important channel for reaching underrepresented students, including those who are first-generation, come from lower-income families, or identify as African American/Black or Hispanic/Latino. First-generation students, for example, were about 60 percent more likely to have discovered a college on social media compared to their non-first-generation counterparts in both 2017 and 2019. EAB research revealed that students from lower-income households and students of color spend more time online than their higher-income and Caucasian counterparts.

Digital Ads More Prevalent in College Search

Whereas in 2017 less than half of students indicated they had seen a digital ad from a college on social media, 74 percent now report having seen such ads. EAB research also showed that students were most likely to have seen ads from colleges on Instagram and YouTube. 

Instagram Is King

Instagram has emerged as the platform students use most, with 82.5 percent of students reporting that they use the platform, a 10 percent increase since 2017. There has also been a nearly threefold increase (up 281.6 percent) since 2017 in students who reported sharing content created by a school on Instagram. Use of Facebook has declined 17 percent over the same time period.

“Growth in Gen Z’s use of Instagram and their willingness to interact with schools on Instagram makes the platform a clear focus area for colleges looking to engage prospective students,” Royall added.

“However, Facebook continues to serve as an important channel for reaching parents and the 50 percent of Gen Z students who still use it.” 

About EAB

At EAB, our mission is to make education smarter and our communities stronger. We harness the collective power of more than 1,500 schools, colleges, and universities to uncover and apply proven practices and transformative insights. And since complex problems require multifaceted solutions, we work with each school differently to apply these insights through a customized blend of research, technology, and services. From kindergarten to college and beyond, EAB partners with education leaders, practitioners, and staff to accelerate progress and drive results across three key areas: enrollment management, student success, and institutional operations and strategy.

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