Westmont Magazine How to Recruit Gen Z on Their Turf
by Dominique Loftus ’15 and Emily Greig, Westmont Admissions Events and Marketing Team
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, Westmont shut down all events on campus and canceled all in-person visits. The admissions team faced a dilemma: how to virtually recruit the most tech-savvy generation.
Generation Z knows all about going virtual. When they interact with a brand online, they expect high-quality, trendy, yet relatable content. The challenge for admissions was taking the most useful platform—Zoom—and making it a fun, different and engaging experience. By the time virtual visits and events started, high school students had already sat through a month and half of Zoom learning. How could we recruit and engage these students in new ways?
We offer five tips from our team to yours as we’ve navigated virtual events and campus visits during COVID-19.
1. TAKE CAMPUS TO THE STUDENT.
Early on, our team quickly adapted and made ourselves available for personal calls and Zoom video chats. Once staff could return to campus, those calls
and chats morphed into virtual tours. Student tour guides who had sheltered on campus during the pandemic performed a vital service in leading virtual tours of Westmont. Prospective students appreciated the personalized interactions and opportunity to ask counselors and students questions.
2. GIVE ZOOM A TWIST.
Most Zoom webinars occur with one presenter—the host—conversing with or without digital slides. For virtual events, the Westmont events team incorporates pre-recorded video segments to kick off sessions with high energy! Enthusiastic openers, personalized greetings and campus videos all play a part in quickly capturing the audience’s attention.
When the video ends, the host stops the screen share and goes live with a handful of panelists. Participants hear from admissions counselors and current students, as well as from President Gayle D. Beebe.
We encourage prospective students and their families to submit questions before and during the event. As a result, panelists spend most of their time answering individual questions and making connections with
the participants directly, building relationships even in the midst of restricted interpersonal engagements.
3. FOCUS ON THE INDIVIDUAL.
Gen Z is all about individualization, so the admissions team considered ways to capitalize on it. We created virtual events specifically for targeted groups: first-year and sophomore students; junior and senior students; professors talking about their majors; and Mother’s and Father’s Day sessions that parents and students attend together. We promoted these events through extensive email communications and weekly website updates to inform prospective students about the options available to them.
Last fall, prospective students embarked on a series of virtual events focused on different aspects of the college search and application process as well as student life at Westmont. The events kicked off in September with an application party, where Senior Admissions Counselor Matt Pace ’17 walked students through the brand new Westmont portal application designed by current students from CATLab, Westmont’s technology innovation hub.
4. REMEMBER TO SHARE THE SWAG!
Gen Z relishes free college swag and considers the items they get when visiting campus to be a big part of the experience. After each virtual event, student interns package T-shirts, stickers and handwritten postcards to send to all the virtual event attendees.
5. KEEP AN EYE ON THE TRENDS.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we held events once or twice a month with more than 100 attendees. Counselors and interns saw daily activity in their connections through virtual visits. As demand increased, so did the supply and variety of virtual visits. Zoom fatigue set in, and demand dropped, so we adjusted to avoid oversaturating interest from prospective students.
This may sound easy and organized, but the entire team climbed a steep learning curve. Those of us at Westmont and the prospective students contacting us have all experienced the challenges and changes of living in a pandemic. Gen Z students have been incredibly resilient and persevered during these unprecedented times, which our Westmont community knows makes them even more ready for their college journey ahead.
If anyone on your staff has video editing experience, ask them to help you create a prerecorded segment to bring music and life to your virtual session!
The Westmont admissions team has hosted more than 60 virtual events in the past year, ranging from webinars with more than 1,200 participants to individual connections such as Coffee with a Warrior that includes 10 students chatting virtually with Westmonters on campus using Zoom.
Invest in Zoom Webinar for professionally planned events, which offers a polished and designed set up with exclusive settings. Zoom Webinar does almost everything needed for most virtual events, and it’s user-friendly and affordable!