How to engage with Gen Z international students

  • 4 min read
How to engage with Gen Z international students

Generations have distinct social experiences, technological developments and political situations that give them a unique identity. Generation Z (Gen Z) are the latest university-eligible generation, and if you're looking to recruit international students, then it's important to understand Gen Z. Knowing how to communicate with your audience is the first step in building an effective international student recruitment strategy.

What makes a student Gen Z?

Someone is classed as being Gen Z if they were born between 1995 and 2010. This 15 year span has seen rapid advancements in technology, and as a result Gen Z have never know a world without the internet; this makes them "digital natives". Their obsession with devices and smartphones is akin to older generations' TV habits.

For perspective, Generation Z makes up about 27% of the US population. They've been a driving force behind social movements such as addressing climate change and they crave authenticity from the brands and organizations they interact with.

A survey by Cambridge International of 11,000 students around the world (aged 13-19) illustrates just how globally minded Gen Z is: 96% of respondents stated the importance of leaning about global issues in schools. More than a quarter claimed that climate change is the biggest issue facing the world.


Rules of engagement: Gen Z international students

In June 2020 we explored Gen Z as international students in a webinar. With Studee's experience of speaking to Gen Z international students every day, we shared our knowledge with universities around the world.

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Gen Z as international students

Gen Z's engagement in social issues, teamed with their grasp of technology, sets them up for being different students to their millennial counterparts. There is also the suggestion that Gen Z are more sober curious than past generations; anecdotally, fewer young people are choosing to drink or experiment with drugs.

These traits mean that there are some key aspects of university life that they are looking for. From the prospective international students that Studee advisors speak to, we know these include:

  • Active student organizations or sports teams
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Diversity
  • Robust student support systems
  • Fast resolutions to any issues
  • University climate initiatives

Barnes and Noble College's 2018 report into Gen Z gives us an idea of what types of students Gen Z are when they arrive at university; they're keen to participate as much as possible in the learning process, rather than taking in information from a distance. 51% of those surveyed said they learn by doing, and just 12% through listening.

This hands-on preference for learning may increase demand for vocational subjects, or those with practical assessments and work placements.

How can universities grab Gen Z's attention?

University website and tech

It's important that your website functions across different devices and operating systems is intuitively laid out, and holds the exact content prospective students are looking for. Gen Z students will expect all of this as a bare minimum. Being so exposed to technology throughout their lives means Gen Z's threshold for a poor web experience is low and universities need to keep up with this.

Another way to be tech-forward and diverse with your website is to improve your website's accessibility. With universities so focused on diversity, it's important to also think about whether all website visitors are able to get what they want from your site - regardless of circumstance or disability.


Gen Z value great customer service, and expect any issues or questions to be resolved swiftly and with ease. The same goes for the communication they receive from universities they are interested in.

Being able to offer multiple methods of communication such as email, phone calls, chatbots and messaging apps means they will feel better connected to your university. It also increases the potential of any questions being answered on their terms, as they don't necessarily need to wait around on the phone, or keep checking their email.

Showing you care

With social causes so important to Gen Z universities must be shouting about what they care about. Providing practical information to potential students such as support systems is obviously a key part of them finding the perfect university, but there's more that universities can be talking about.

Celebrating diversity and inclusivity is often something that happens at a university with its current students, but universities should also be celebrating this with prospective students.

Volunteering activities are another aspect of university life that are only advertised once you start at an institution. These types of opportunities aren't just a nice to have, but are increasingly important and appealing to younger generations.

Finally, let prospective students know what you are doing to help tackle climate change. At Studee, we have started a "Trees for degrees" initiative to contribute towards absorbing the CO2 generated by our international students' air travel.