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They’re Here: Are You Ready for the Millennials?

by Daphne Atkinson, Vice President, Industry Relations

Millennials are the most studied and most written-about generational cohort in history. Business school administrators can use that to their advantage. Understand Millennials’ expectations and motivation—and, new for us, the motivations of their parents—and you can position and market your program effectively.

Will it be business as usual or are Millennials really a different breed? As we take a brief look at a few of the defining adjectives used to describe the cohort, consider both the opportunities—and challenges—of recruiting and marketing to Millennials.


You’ve probably read that Millennials have never directly felt the effect of the Cold War, the fall of Saigon, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Watergate, or the Challenger disaster. One defining difference is that Millennials didn’t experience these seminal events of the 20th century directly, but rather that they learned about them in history class—and from the Internet.

The reality is that Millennials—

  • Don’t remember a time when the Internet did not exist as a resource for term papers and school assignments;
  • Never had a computer that could not fit into a backpack;
  • View technology as an extension of who they are—like having another hand or an extra sense with which to navigate experience.

Millennials have high expectations for schools’ use of technology; after all, they have never known anything else. For this discriminating audience, perception is everything. For Millennials, technology is not merely a tool but the way to an expanded sensory experience that contributes perspective and enables order.

Granted, technology is a given at schools today. But are you using that technology to engage Millennials as well as deliver information? Have you re-evaluated your delivery options for information? Are they robust enough to accommodate an array of personal preferences—Podcasts, live chats, or RSS feeds, all available on demand at any time from anywhere?


Another reality is that Millennials—

  • Are wired 24/7 into an extensive network that includes parents, peers, teachers, coaches, counselors, tutors, and anyone else associated with ensuring success;
  • Rely on technology to sustain relationships and initiate friendships;
  • Have revolutionized social networking—sites like are destinations where information, perceptions, and opinions are openly shared.

As a business school professional, you are now more likely than ever to see parents, mentors, coaches, counselors, and peers involved in a number of your processes (recruitment and yield, just to name two). Recruitment approaches that overlook the role and importance of key influencers—parents in particular—may ultimately be less successful. If you thought the “helicopter parents” (mostly Boomers) were challenging, are you ready for the “Stealth Bombers” (Gen X parents)? These parents are savvy investors who demand bottom line accountability and a calculable return on investment. You can create opportunities to partner with influencers—it’s all about marrying their strategic agenda to yours and creating a win for all involved. And by the way, have you considered social networking spaces as gathering places to get prospects talking about your brand?

Perpetual Negotiators

Our third reality is that Millennials—

  • Expect that everything is subject to negotiation
  • Perceive schedules as artificial;
  • Assume everything will be available on demand.

The Millennial experience has suggested that anything can be negotiated and if you don’t ask for accommodations, you’ll never receive them. They are an “accommodated” generation—from exam rescheduling for family vacations to extensions (or re-submissions) on papers and projects. They (or, on occasion and if the situation warrants it, their parents) will expect and demand them. If scheduling is at the convenience of someone else, why can’t it be changed to accommodate others’ schedules? The bottom line expectation for Millennials (and their parents) is that everything must be available on demand—and they do mean everything.

As you weigh how best to work with the incoming wave of Millennials in light of who they are, you might ask this critical question: Where is the sweet spot in delivering the consummate customer service, and what level of investment and effort is required?

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