Creating content for college students? You might be explaining how Mandarin will enhance job prospects, providing tips for living in a dorm full of night owls or giving advice about saving up for Spring break in Cancun. Whatever the topic, the content needs to be engaging enough to keep them reading. Today’s students (assuming you’re writing for the roughly 18- to 22-year-old cohort) are more time-pressured than previous generations and have multiple distractions, including plenty from smartphones and social media.
So, how do you draw them in? Keep the following three tips in mind.
1. Solve Their Problems
Solving a problem is a way to entice people generally into reading, of course, not just college students. But contemporary students do have a number of pressing problems in front of them.
Remember that the contemporary college students are Millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 2000. Millennials face worrisome issues that previous generations didn’t. They are far more stressed than other age groups. More than half reported in a 2013 poll that stress had kept them awake at night in the previous month.
Take the economic picture. Seventy-six percent of Millennials are stressed about work, compared to 65 percent of Americans generally.
Today’s college students were between 9 and 14 years old when the Great Recession hit in 2007-2009. In their memory, the job picture has pretty much oscillated between bleak and not robust. As a result, this college generation is far more concerned with getting a job than previous ones, whose formative years were spent in a stronger economy. (Looking at you, Generation X and Baby Boomers!)
It’s not just jobs, either. Levels of student debt are more than double what they were 20 years ago, and far more students need to finance college with loans. Almost 70 percent of college students now carry student debt.
The idea that the U.S. offers less upward mobility than the past is also definitely in the air, and it creates a lot of anxiety about who is going to grab the rungs of the upward ladder.
A pithy, well-written article providing facts and helpful strategies will draw an interested readership because it offers a solution to their problems. Are summer internships increasingly necessary to be considered for jobs? Tell them the facts. Then tell them the best ways to land one.
2. Orient Your Content to Their World
If you’re not a Millennial or friends with some, research how the landscape looks from their vantage point.
One good place to start is The Mindset List. The Mindset List, put out by Beloit College, gives you a snapshot of what the world looks like, by birth year of today’s students. The freshman class entering in 2016, for example, was born in 1997. That means that Princess Di has always been only history, and they have never licked a stamp.
It’s not only about interesting cultural nuggets, though. You need to tailor your topics and approach to be in line with those of contemporary students to secure their attention.
The Mindset List, for example, will let you know that today’s students do not regard “the first woman” anything as a big deal. In their lifetimes, women in positions of power have always existed. Plus, they’re likely to think of pioneering women as an issue important to their parents’ generation.
Wi-Fi and the online world, too, have always existed for today’s students. Comments about the rising importance of technology may sound passé if you don’t acknowledge this. Do fish notice water? No, and it’s the same with college students and contemporary technology. It’s not the new thing. It is the thing.
3. Keep the Medium in Mind
If you’re posting web content, keep the properties of the medium in mind.
First, people — nearly 80 percent of them — tend to scan quickly on the web rather than read deeply, at least initially. It differs profoundly from television, for example, in which people let the experience wash over them. (Think binge watching on Netflix.) Well, not so with web content. Generally, people are looking for something or attracted by a headline or picture.
So, your content needs to include headlines that grab attention and copy that fulfills the promise of the headline. If you’re solving a college student problem about student loans, for example, the headline needs to tell them what, and the body tells them how.
Second, just as books are primarily a word medium, the web is a words-and-pictures medium. Your content is highly likely to run with images. As a result, your content has to command attention. Make it vivid and lean. Fluff, or failure to get to the point, runs the risk of losing your reader’s attention. And there’s plenty new to click to if their interest flags.
News they can use, in a compelling form. That’s how you create content college students care about. [Tweet it]
5-Star writer Rita W is an award-winning writer with extensive experience creating Web content, blogs, and articles. She has written more than 1,000 blog posts in a variety of fields, including education, media, health, finance, law, senior care, travel, art, dance, green energy, credit, and home & garden.
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