Preparing for Gen Alpha Students: Everything Will Be Different

Highlighting events, tutoring and Title IX will help overcome Gen Alpha students’ innate distrust in marketing and may just help your current Gen Z students.

5 minutes
By: Andrew Cassel

Social strategists prepare. Something is coming for your job. Not artificial intelligence; it’s Gen Alpha students.

Born from 2010 onwards and raised and molded in the digital environments we’ve made, they’re going to always be one step ahead of our content. They’ll be out-strategizing the strategists in pursuit of their goal to find a place of higher education that works for them.

In 2025, when Generation Alpha is starting to be the main focus of higher ed marketing efforts, those prospective students will be tired of pretty pictures of landscapes and heartfelt videos. Those can be generated by AI anyway. 

No matter how authentic the content is, there will be a hardwired distrust of anything from a brand or organization. They were marketed in the womb. Still, we need to plan for them now.

“You have to think about it like chess,” Karen Gross said in an interview with The Guardian. “If you don’t think five moves ahead, you’re behind.”

The good thing is that there’s plenty of research about Generation Alpha and what they’ll be looking for in a higher education experience. We can start arranging our chess pieces with some insight into what will resonate with these students as they near the event horizon of the admissions funnel. 

As Gross noted, “A lot of what you would be thinking about would help not only the alpha generation but also the z generation.” 

Sense of place, student life, academic programs, outcomes, inclusivity and affordability make up the core of current content strategies. These are exactly the things that Generation Alpha will have found on their own, long before paid or organic content from the school comes across their feeds.

What we know about them is that place and people aren’t the strongest drivers for their ultimate choice of where to go to college. Research says their choices will be led by how the college will help them maintain mental and physical well-being, the transparency of the college’s communication with the community, a personalized marketing experience and universal skill development. 

We share all the time about outcomes, and how developing AI tools will contribute to that personalized experience for prospective students. For now, we should start looking at content that’s not usually part of our calendar but is directly in line with Generation Alpha’s projected interests. We can start putting our pieces on the board, so to speak.

Those pieces are in the shape of content about mental health support, information about Title IX resources, tutoring information and events fliers. All things that aren’t front and center in marketing and communications materials. It’s a big change; it will take more work; and it’s not something that’s currently the mainstream.

Title IX

Let’s talk about the most difficult one first: Title IX. 

We rarely publicly share what students should do if they have experienced dating violence. It’s too close to making a post that, in the marketing world, could be seen as “look, dating violence happens here!” Not something any admissions or marketing team wants to have front and center on Instagram.

Our job is to skate around that kind of thing. It’s there, but we don’t talk about it. Sometimes, we’ll share about Green Dot events happening on campus, but rarely do we share about what a student should do if (when?) they encounter discrimination or assault.

Research indicates this is the exact kind of content—the kind of differentiator— that Generation Alpha wants. 

If no other schools on their list are talking about the resources available for students who have been the victim of discrimination or dating violence, and you do, then you have something the others don’t: transparency and a concern for the prospective student’s well-being. These are two of the most important things to members of Generation Alpha.

It is not easy to share about Title IX. It takes creativity, sensitivity and a new approach to content creation. It could also be key to boosting recruiting and enrollment numbers in the coming years. 

Proceed carefully in your approach to sharing this content; partner with other offices on campus and do extensive reviews of potential content. This does have the risk of taking a turn you don’t expect. It’s one of the reasons we usually shy away from it.

But if you talk about it regularly, it will be an important and effective differentiator in your content marketing strategy.


Likewise, tutoring resources are not often shared publicly. 

There’s strong internal communication in the form of fliers on campus billboards and newsletters to students about where and when students can find support, but not something that’s part of a regular social media content calendar. As a challenge to yourself as a content creator for higher ed, find the last time you shared about peer-to-peer tutoring at your school or even subject-specific tutoring. 

This is different from “many resources are available in the library” posts. That’s exactly the kind of content Generation Alpha will be finding for themselves. The part of our job they’ll be doing on their own. It’s up to us to show them more: inside the writing center, student tutor profiles or online tutoring schedules.

College is hard. Classes can be difficult. Academic success is not guaranteed. Brand transparency that will resonate with Generation Alpha includes the message that they may struggle here, but there are things here that will help them. 

To reiterate: our job will be to take the step beyond the content they can and will find on their own. They’ll know about what programs you offer and the incredible academic opportunities that await them. What they’ll welcome being served in their social feeds are all the things they’re not consciously considering. We can answer the questions they may be afraid to even ask, such as “What if I fall behind.”

If we only show them what they can find themselves, they will have no use for our content.


Let’s celebrate student life in a new way. 

Fliers and happenings around campus are far too often ignored as valuable content in current thinking. But events can be exactly what Generation Alpha hopes to see. 

What is there to do in this place that’s beautiful, close to amazing recreation areas, with small class sizes, delicious dining and world-renowned graduates? That’s all we usually say about our colleges. We rarely talk about what’s happening day-to-day, and night-to-night on campus. 

Athletic events are often relegated to athletics accounts, but many people who don’t play sports enjoy going to sports. (We’re not even really discussing esports here, but that could be a huge draw for Generation Alpha!)

Those lectures, visiting experts and faculty presentations will be interesting to Generation Alpha. According to Caylor Solutions, Generation Alpha “will be far more connected to the world than previous generations and more likely to value learning opportunities that deepen their understanding.”

Lectures and speaker series highlight these learning opportunities outside the classroom. Beyond the events themselves, these activities show Generation Alpha how the students at the college are creating ways to share and strengthen their community. Research from Corgan indicated that “supporting the sense of self-efficacy and competence, their perception of control and self-determination and providing a feeling of belongingness are all protective factors that can positively contribute to the well-being and academic motivation.”

An event is more than gathering people in a residence hall kitchen and making new dishes. This is a celebration of community, inclusiveness and experiential learning organized and executed by the students. Events can speak to what life will be like for a prospective student in ways that Generation Alpha will appreciate more than a student activity fair photo with a generic caption.


Events, tutoring and Title IX, these are all sources of content that we don’t often tap.

It’s not that we’re doing something wrong by not sharing them. Many higher education social admins and strategists have moved into marketing and communications roles right from their time as students at these schools and share great content that comes from an intimate knowledge of what current audiences want. It’s beautifully effective.

Now it’s time for planning for many years down the road. Admissions offices are starting to connect with members of Generation Alpha who are in middle school and will be starting their high school careers this fall. 

There are going to be difficult conversations as you begin to work with campus partners to develop strategies to reach these students. When the strategist considers sharing public safety, academic support and student events, there could be significant pushback.

Not everyone likes to play chess. You’ll need to get your research together, face those obstacles, and get ready to stay focused on what you know will be effective. 

Different? Yes, very, but it’s a different world now than it was in 2019. What prospective students want from their colleges has changed. Our content and strategies need to change to show them we have what they’re looking for.

All of these things, all of them, are messages that current students would appreciate as well: information about where to go for support when you face bigotry, who’s on campus to help with your math, and the next thing happening where you could meet some cool people. This content is a great service to current students.

Andrew Cassel

Andrew Cassel


Andrew Cassel has been creating and curating social media content for higher ed since 2011. Cassel speaks regularly about social media content at conferences and symposiums. Cassel was awarded a best-in-track Red Stapler and is a five-time winner of the Aurora Awards of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America – Alaska. In 2019, he was a host for Higher Ed Live – Marketing Live. His paper “Twitch for higher education and marketing,” based on his HEWeb 2019 session, was published in the spring 2021 peer-reviewed Journal of Education Advancement & Marketing. Cassel is currently the Senior Social Strategist and Content Producer at Middlebury College.

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