Getting college students to pledge your CU

Think the life of a college student is carefree? Think again.

From tuition to textbooks, being a student is more expensive—and demanding—than ever. Over 50% of college students report experiencing daily, chronic stress according to the American Psychological Association. Limited financial literacy and support only add to the problem.

Credit unions can lighten the load. The right support can do more than alleviate everyday stress for college students. It can build trust, and, in turn, bulletproof brand loyalty.

If your organization is searching for ways to engage with college students, your messaging choices are critical. Relying on fads or one-off campaigns will only work for so long. Strategic, continued connections will stand the test of time. Here’s how to do it right.

Pass the sniff test

No cap: nothing’s more cringe than a brand with no rizz.

Notice how out-of-place that sentence looks? That’s because it isn’t authentic. Sure, it contains phrases younger people use these days. But the context is all wrong. It feels off because it is off.

When you try to force your brand into a shape that doesn’t fit, you’re doing the same to the consumers you’re after. College students are more than their stereotypes. When you look beyond the surface level and see what your organization has in common with this audience, you can develop an authentic connection.

As nonprofits, credit unions are naturally in line with what most of today’s students look for in a brand. According to a recent McKinsey study, 70% of Gen Z consumers purchase products from companies they see as ethical. Climate impact, labor practices, and DEI commitments are all top of mind. College-aged adults know that where they put their money matters.

When connecting with students, show—don’t just tell—how your team works on a grassroots level. This can be done traditionally, like with formal days of service. You can also get creative and have your team pitch in as movers at the start of the school year. The possibilities are endless.

Ace the oral exam

Word of mouth matters, especially on colleges campuses.

For college students, this type of endorsement isn’t limited to what their friends are saying. Today, 68% of young adults read or watch at least three reviews before making a first-time purchase. These assessments can come from anywhere these days. The more you appear in students’ lives, the more they are willing to trust that you’re the real deal.

  • Look alive: Nothing can replace an in-person connection. Find ways for your team to be a presence in students’ lives. Can you sponsor a team’s road to victory? Offer to review upperclassmen’s resumes before they enter the workforce? Hand out free coffee during study periods and finals? It’s easy to swipe past a one-off social post. It’s harder to ignore boots on the ground.
  • Look to the top: Colleges and universities are authority figures in students’ lives. Building connections at the top is a great way to build trust. Consider building relationships with leaders and educators on college campuses. Chances are, many are looking for guest speakers and fresh ways for students to get insights from experts.
  • Look to the stars: Build up your brand awareness by encouraging enthusiastic members to leave positive reviews online. You can also tap into the power of influencers. College campuses, especially at larger universities, often have their own network of tastemakers other students rely on for what’s worth their time.

Do your homework

Waiting is hard. It can also be a mistake.

The average student attends college just 91 miles away from home. If they have access to a highway, that’s only an hour and a half away. That means your organization shouldn’t wait until people are on campus to build relationships.

Research the colleges and universities in your area. If most of their students come from nearby towns, consider making connections before they arrive on campus. Like colleges, high schools need outside perspectives to ensure kids get a well-rounded education. Volunteer work, fundraisers, and guest lectures can build trust before teenagers choose to pursue their Bachelor’s.

For many, starting college can feel like getting thrown into the deep end. Seeing a familiar face—or brand—on campus can be a source of comfort. When you start developing bonds with college students early on, it’s easier to be a pillar for students to lean on as they gain more independence.

Ben Prager

Ben Prager

Prior to forming Prager Creative, Ben worked with design studios, branding firms and advertising agencies to push great strategy and design for all his projects. His experience with all aspects ... Web: Details