Marketing your Sixth Form: Understanding Gen Z and their parents

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in Blog
Sixth Form marketing is a perennial topic for independent schools as more find it increasingly challenging to a) retain students after Year 11 and b) recruit a new cohort. The upside of the increase in seepage is that it’s a carousel- where one school loses, another wins but the harsh reality is that Sixth Form colleges in the state system are growing in academic success and therefore popularity. After all, why pay when you can have great results and often a good bridge between school and university for free.
But the type of independent learning that frequently characterises the culture of Sixth Form colleges isn’t for every student, so it’s up to the independents to do what they can to keep current students in the fold.

Notepad with generation z on the wooden table.

Earlier in the year, we investigated the validity of using social media in addition to the more traditional channels to market to Yr11 and mindful that it’s their parents who actually pay the school fees, we found out which channels they like to be marketed through too. The results were interesting.

As marketing channels are developing on a near daily basis, our study is on-going and this the latest iteration of our findings , as shared with our workshop delegates via ISBI at Frensham Heights.


The backdrop to Gen Z

Gen Z are the Post-Millenial generation born between 1995-2005. This is their profile:

Born between 1996 and 2010

  • Raised in a world of instability: socially-conscious, politically active and culturally liberal
  • First Digital Natives
  • Live in a post-linear, digital world with access to limitless information, no longer performed in a chronological timeframe
  • Learning multi modally is second nature
  • Mindful of the future
  • Cautious about debt and cynical about the rising nature of student fees
  • Recognizing that there are alternatives to HE apprenticeships
  • Entrepreneurial mindset
  • Identity and gender fluidity
  • Most developed cognitive process and Able to multi task like no other generation
  • Tech is who they are not what they do
  • Want to be the change rather than wait for it
  • More conservative than millennials
  • Mindful of the future and feel able to implement change
  • Seek relevance, authenticity and transparency
Key topics relating to marketing to them are:
  • Accessible, relevant information that can be accessed via mobile most importantly
  • Bite-size messages (8 second filter) to draw them in
  • Authenticity and transparency
  • Being aware of embracing their culture and influences
  • Treating them as adult consumers
  • The best preparation for the future in whatever way suits them
Priorities when marketing your Sixth Form to Gen Z
  • Academic results
  • Priority information for Gen Z
  • Facilities
  • Uni prep especially Oxbridge
  • Factual financial information (especially for their parents). This means accurate details of scholarships and bursaries and what the complete school package is likely to cost
  • Quality and scope of Uni prep (especially Oxbridge)
  • Getting to know the Head of Sixth form and what they stand for
  • Links to unis and advice on application
  • Co-curricular opportunities
  • Careers (old and new) and alumni networking to help them get there
Priorities when marketing your Sixth Form to Gen Z parents
  • Academic results
  • Courses on offer
  • Pastoral care
  • Advice on university application/career options
  • Facilities
  • Co-curricular
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Financial information
  • Social life
Best channels to reach both students and their parents
  • Website
  • Positive publicity for the school: Blogs/features/PR from the Head – demonstrating their opinion and authority
  • Literature (yes, paper!)
  • Video/ You Tube provided it is authentic
Some tips for schools and marketing departments
  • Knowledge of and empathy with current issues
  • Exude accessible and relevant authority and authenticity
  • Be open minded about everything!
  • Be future thinking to be future-proofing
Other considerations for value-added advice for students
  • Using career networking sites
  • Writing CVs
  • Advice on financial matters
  • Providing and respecting other options than just university
  • Authentic videos
  • Communication from student to student
  • Testimonial from other students and alumni

(If you’d like to take part, by having us conduct a focus group at your school, please contact us: It would be lovely to hear from you and by doing so you will be one of the first to hear the findings on a regular basis

Alternatively, if you’d like our expert help when preparing a marketing strategy for your Sixth Form, we’d be pleased to talk to you about this too.

Finally, do take a look at the film below.

TedX GenZ talkA manifest from Generation Z. Elise by Olsen. TedX