Just when it seemed everyone was starting to understand the traits and personalities of Millennial students, another group began showing up on move-in day at campuses around the country. In 2013, Generation Z — born 1995 to 2010 — became the newest generational cohort to enter college. They’re now the majority of traditional-aged students on college campuses, with the oldest turning 21 this year. While both groups share an affinity for all things tech, Generation Z differs from Millennials in distinct ways that already have and will continue to influence institutions of higher education and collegiate organizations like fraternities.
When the first Generation Z students graduate from college in a few months, many will go from being full-time students to full-time employees. They will be co-workers of Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation Xers (born 1965-1980), and Millennials (born 1981-1994). They’ll even work alongside members of the Silent Generation (born 1928-1945) and the Greatest Generation (born before 1928) who have yet to retire or who have returned to the workforce in encore careers. In the coming years, Generation Z will become managers and potentially supervise workers decades older than them. Some have already started their own businesses, and we can expect many others to do so in the future.
This influx of Generation Z students will continue to impact colleges and the global economy for some time to come. The youngest of this generation is just 6 years old; and viewed through the lens of the traditional four-year college degree, those in Generation Z will continue entering the work force until 2032.
In the summer of 2013, Corey Seemiller, then the director of leadership programs at the University of Arizona, began talks with Meghan Grace, a graduate student and coordinator of leadership programs, about the lack of research available on Generation Z college students. What did exist was limited to early market research and youth studies. However, many of Seemiller’s and Grace’s questions about education and leadership remained unanswered since no study had yet examined this group as a college population. This led the pair to conduct their own research which engaged more than 1,200 Generation Z students from 15 different colleges and universities. In 2016, they published their findings in the book “Generation Z Goes to College.”
Now, the authors are sharing their insights with the Journal. Through their research findings and the personal stories of Generation Z SigEps, we look at who this generation is, what shaped them, and the wide-sweeping impact they could have on America’s colleges, economy and culture.
About the authors
Corey Seemiller has worked in higher education for more than 20 years in both faculty and administrative positions. She currently serves as an assistant professor in the Department of Leadership Studies in Education and Organizations at Wright State University. Her areas of expertise include leadership, civic engagement, career development and social justice. She is also the author of “The Student Leadership Competencies Guidebook.”
Meghan Grace is the director of undergraduate programming and university partnership for SigEp’s Headquarters staff. She joined the Fraternity’s staff as the new member orientation director in 2015. Prior to joining the staff, Meghan completed her master’s in higher education at the University of Arizona and served as the coordinator for leadership programs. While at the University of Arizona, she and Seemiller began their research and independent study on Generation Z.