CHICAGO--()--A newly released study of nearly 6,000 young people finds that the generation often criticized for being coddled and entitled has become more realistic than idealistic in its attitudes toward money and career preparation. Announced today, the study findings suggest that Millennials who came of age as economic boom times turned to bust understand that success and security won’t be handed to them, and they are opting for pragmatic life choices.
“This clearly signals that Millennials are adapting their expectations”
The research demonstrates the impact of economic uncertainty and changing social norms. Conducted by TRU, a leading youth market research firm, the survey of 5,667 high school and college students anchors the new TRU Enrollment Insights Program, launched this month. The new tool marks an expansion into higher education by TRU, which for 30 years has been the go-to source for national and global insights on tweens, teens and 20-somethings and has helped brands including Nike, Amazon and Google better understand their audiences.
Among the study findings that have important implications for colleges and universities, as well as all organizations that seek to connect with youth:
- It’s not about making money to spend money. Instead, the majority of college students focus on being debt-free, having a decent amount of money saved, being happy on a daily basis and being able to retire comfortably.
- With more students footing their own bills, schools need to make the financial process easier to understand during recruiting by openly discussing financials and recognizing their audience as more money-conscious.
- Most college-bound teenagers – 88 percent – place career preparation or future success over more nebulous ideals like personal growth or a pursuit of passions. In addition, 49 percent of enrolled college students listed unemployment as the most pressing social concern, showing that finding a job has replaced the classic notion of ‘finding oneself’ through the college experience.
“This clearly signals that Millennials are adapting their expectations,” said Deborah Maue, vice president of TRU. “Young people may still be dreaming of bigger and better things like past generations, but they’re much more pragmatic. They’re thinking carefully about the risks involved with all of their decisions, something that’s reflected in how they choose their colleges, their views on social and cultural issues, and how they bank.”
Other key findings from the TRU Enrollment Insights Program study:
- Both high school and college students prefer local banks and credit unions over big banks, whose recent perceived instability hasn’t engendered trust.
- The cost of tuition and the availability of financial aid are two of the top factors when choosing a school. Much-publicized by higher education institutions, Greek life and sports affiliations barely register on students’ radars.
- Tolerance is what matters to Millennials. The majority of college students favor birth control, abortion rights and universal health care. In addition, nearly two-thirds of college students support and only 22 percent oppose same-sex marriage. Even among high school students, half of them support same-sex marriage and just 28 percent oppose it.
“For those who‘d use this study’s findings to put today’s young people in a ‘liberal box,’ think again,” Maue said. “A majority of college students also support gun rights while fewer than half want to legalize marijuana. This shows that today’s youth can’t be understood based on old assumptions. By helping bring a more clear understanding of youth motivations, we can help deliver a win-win scenario for students and colleges alike.”