The millennial generation is the largest demographic in the U.S., comprising 40 percent of the total population. Born between 1983 and 2001, millennials are the children of baby boomers and Generation X. They have grown up in a very different world from their parents and as a result, have very different outlook on life.
Obviously not all millennials possess the same typical characteristics, however, to an older student services professional, understanding the needs of a millennial can be challenging. Millennials, despite often being shielded from adversity and continually told they have special attributes, are generally more ambitious and goal-oriented than previous generations.
To be successful, student service professionals need to understand how this generation operates and what they need from their college experience. Higher education administration professionals should make it a primary goal to develop advanced skills when working with students in order to be of service to them and certify their success in college. It is helpful to understand the top priorities of millennials and what they expect from the college experience.
Guidance and Focus
Millennials have been raised in an environment filled with constant supervision. Their parents were highly involved in all aspects of their lives. This parenting style resulted in a generation that thrives on structure, needing detailed explanations and instructions for most activities. Millennials have a tendency to seek out guidance and help to resolve issues rather than solve problems on their own. They have a need to be told what is expected of them. The role of student services is to provide clear and concise guidelines for handling problems and to be available for guidance at a higher level, especially for new or younger students.
Technology had an enormous boom when millennials were growing up. Many do not even know or remember a time when the world didn’t have cell phones or computers or the internet. Of course millennials expect to have access to the latest technology at Stratford University as well as the ability to use this technology to obtain information and services they need. In order to be beneficial to millennials, student services should offer important information online and allow students to complete documents and tasks online at any given moment.
Millennials typically are more motivated and self-assured. Likewise, they tend to put more emphasis on achievement and advancement rather than personal development. Studies show that millennials have high expectations of landing their “dream job,” without working their way up. Knowing these trends, student services can assist students by creating a career plan, with strategies for how to reach their goals that are both realistic as well as rewarding.
Millennials are team-oriented and prefer to work in groups. They thrive on communication, and look for opportunities to stay connected and build their communities. Student services can help develop these communities by helping the students connect with each other and strengthen their social and professional relationships. Student services can also open up more opportunities for parental involvement, since millennials have strong bonds with their parents.
Millennials were raised with constant reassurance and positive reinforcement from their parents, teachers, and coaches. They often were told they are exceptional and unique. They crave praise and positive feedback, while wanting to feel like an individual. They need structure, and depend on counseling and support, both from parents and other adults, such as teachers or student services, to handle problems that come up. Student services should make their services available to students in person and online to help students be more successful.
Every generation faces challenges of understanding and working with the generations that came before them and after them. Instead of expecting the new generation of students to conform to the ideals and expectations of administrators, student services professionals are more effective when they try to understand millennials’ needs and expectations. This approach will promote a brighter, more successful student community.