I recently attended a workshop entitled Generation Z: Tomorrow’s Student.

I’m currently reading “iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us”.

Last weekend I streamed the movie “Eighth Grade”, about a 13 year old girl’s pre-high school struggles.

Waiting for me on my shelf is “The New Generation of Students: How Colleges can Recruit, Teach, and Serve Gen Z”.

You can do an internet search and find multitudes of articles, videos, books, and pundits all weighing in on this generation of current college students. YOU could probably author content for this genre, as you know them the best.

Those of us who work in higher education find value in learning what influences led to the shaping of our current student body: What do they value? How do they learn? What world events defined their generation? What cultural trends influence behaviors? How do they communicate?

Some of the findings coming into focus relative to Gen Z are not surprising. For example, today’s college students never knew a life without technology. This has positive effects of connectivity, ease of information sharing, and access; advantages that are seen across geographic and socioeconomic groups. The negative effects can include social isolation, discomfort with face-to-face communications, and the real or imagined pressure to measure up to the perception of those with a “perfect” online presence.

Families and educators can benefit from understanding that engagement with these young adults, apart from their screens of choice, can be a key to helping them learn resiliency and feel connected. We all can encourage them not to fear failure or to make mistakes. These normal bumps in the road are a “right of passage” to adulthood, and learning to navigate through and past them are valuable lessons to maturity.

Gen Z are pragmatic and look for on-demand resources. They seek an education that provides tangible skills for their future work lives, and flexibility in learning, living, and experiential environments. They are also coming to campus “less seasoned” than their Millenial predecessors. At the workshop I attended, the speaker declared, “Millenials grew up too fast and Gen Z didn’t grow up enough!” Lafayette is adapting by adding more options in everything from housing styles (think our Monroe Street Residences), to dining options (like our multiple Meal Plan options/Pard Dollars/Meal Exchange options), counseling services (individual, group, drop-in counseling just to name a few), and wellness education (LiveWell, LaFarm, and Wellness Housing options), just to name a few.

Families can encourage flexibility, course selection diversification, social interactions outside their comfort zone, part-time jobs, seeking out and utilizing campus resources, and self-reliance to navigate and solve day-to-day issues.

By understanding Gen Z, families and institutions of higher learning can help them learn about themselves, help them help themselves, and provide them with the resources and support to thrive.

Amy Blythe
Director, Parent & Family Relations
Lafayette College