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College for Generation Z

You hear the words, Millenials, Generation X and now Generation Z. What do we as parents, educators and counselors need to know about this group of students to help them navigate the college application process?

Recently I listened to a webinar presented by Corey Seemiller, co-author of the book "Generation Z goes to College". In their book, Corey Seemiller and Meghan Grace, studied over 2000 students and asked them very open ended questions about their experiences and concerns.

According to Seemiller and Grace, understanding this generation begins with understanding their experiences. These students grew up during the recession and many of their families were affected. Witnessing their parent's worries about money had an impact and many of these students worry about the cost of college. These are also children who have grown up in a world post Sept. 11th. To them it is a scary world and kids are now able to witness tragedy in real time. With the advent of 24/7 news they are exposed to so much. For many, the thought of moving far away from home and the security of their family is not something they want to consider.

Gen Z cares deeply about social issues, specifically around inclusion, diversity and social justice. However, they live in a world where civil discourse seems to have disappeared and they do not understand the decisions that politicians are making. Finally, these students live in a world where technology allows them to have 24/7 access to virtually anything they want. Corey Seemiller stated, "Higher education is one of the last institutions that is not available 24/7". These students are not accustomed to slowing down and planning ahead.

For those of us working with students that are applying to college the challenge will be understanding these experiences and teaching them the value of a college education. Many students now are able to obtain internships directly out of high school. While some students see how fast technology is moving and worry that their major will be obsolete by the time they graduate. Seemiller says, "We have to change the message of what colleges are for".

According to Seemiller and Grace, the value in a college experience has three key components.

1. It is a great practice laboratory of what a student wants to do.

2. The ability to make professional connections and network is invaluable.

3. College provides the opportunity to develop students holistically. Skills acquired in college (the ability to write and communicate effectively, live with others, etc) are skills that will benefit a student for a lifetime and can't be acquired anywhere else.

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