A Day in the Life: how schools and students are showcasing campus life online

Campus life videos are trending in a big way with Gen Z.

YouTube and TikTok has overtaken Google as the favored search engine among Gen Z audiences for finding videos about campus life and informing their selection of schools and programs. 

Video content about campus life is a growing trend for 18 to 24-year-olds interested in an authentic preview of life at universities to inform their decisions about which schools and courses to enroll in.

Here’s how your university can use the growing trend to showcase campus life.

Campus & student life: YouTube and TikTok overtake Google as search engines

With over 80% of users falling within the 18-24 age group, YouTube and TikTok dominate online searches among Gen Z users, according to the U.S. internet population statistics. 

Prabhakar Raghavan, a Google senior vice president, said at Brainstorm Tech that nearly 40% of young people use TikTok instead of Google Maps or Search when looking for a place for lunch.

The growing popularity of search terms related to campus life and student life is easy to see, according to Google Trends (YouTube searches) and TikTok’s Trend Tracker.

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Worldwide interest over time in the increase in YouTube searches for "campus tours" (blue) and "student life" (red) video content. Source: Google Trends

Over on TikTok, the hashtag #campuslife garnered 371 million views in just the last 120 days. 

And #studentlife is even more popular, with a massive 2 billion views in the same time period.  

day in the life-video-higher-ed

day in the life-video-higher-ed

Post and view figures for #campuslife (above) and #studentlife (below) on TikTok
over the past 120 days. Source: TikTok Creative Center

With such a huge audience available, creating and promoting video content on YouTube and TikTok is a must for any university marketing team.

Types of popular video content

So, what specific kind of related video content is popular? User insights can show us. 

The figures below are from TikTok, showing the audience, overwhelmingly Gen Z users ages 18-24, are interested in:

1. "Campus life: campus life, including teacher-student interactions and facilities"

2. "Diary & VLOG: Real life happenings in the form of diary entries or VLOGs"

3. "Street Interviews & Social Experiences"

day in the life-video-higher-ed

#campuslife audience insights and related interests. Source: TikTok Creative Center

These figures make sense with so many long and short-form videos on YouTube taking on a student diary / VLOG format adopted by Gen Z influencers and universities. 

1. Virtual diaries

"A Day in the Life of" videos are especially popular because they give viewers an authentic, realistic preview of life at university. 

Prospective students are looking for demonstrations of the look and feel of a campus. 

These virtual diaries by a diversity of creators make it easy for prospective students (and their parents) to imagine themselves at your college or university and foster a sense of intimacy, familiarity, and safety.

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day in the life-video-higher-ed

YouTube Shorts: example of short "Day in the Life of" videos
created by students and universities. Source: YouTube

2. On-campus street interview

The on-campus street interview format is also popular among student and university social media accounts.

Oliver’s Oxford is a content creator on TikTok and YouTube featuring interviews with Oxford University students. 

His content regularly gets millions of views and is a great example of how universities can showcase their student’s knowledge, the quality of their courses, and the look and feel of the campus.

day in the life-video-higher-ed

day in the life-video-higher-ed

Oliver’s Oxford "Interviewing Oxford Uni’s Smartest Linguist"

3. Students’ future life

Cambridge University’s "What’s next, Cambridge?" interview series on their YouTube channel asks graduating students about their plans for the near future.

day in the life-video-higher-ed

 What’s Next, Cambridge?

4. Campus tours and Open Days

Cambridge University also has a popular campus tour video on YouTube with over 1.5 million views and great engagement.

It is a dynamic sweep-through of the campus facilities on a typical day, giving an inside view and demonstrating the diversity and functions of the university.

day in the life-video-higher-ed

Welcome to Cambridge!

Authenticity, all the way

Authenticity is key when creating content for Gen Z audiences and prospective students. 

The age of the overly filtered social media feed selling a picture-perfect influencer lifestyle has ended. Young users are pushing for more meaningful and authentic online interactions.

Keystone Education Group’s State of Recruitment Report found that prospective undergraduate students expect to get 100% authenticity and a good sense of your school from social media.

Jisoo Lim, a student at  Colombia University, is one of many YouTubers posting honest previews of her student lifestyle on campus. Engagement in her videos from other Gen Z users shows a positive response to authentic sharing and vulnerability. 

In the vlog, she documents her feelings and experiences over a typical week at university. She talks about experiencing depression from a lot of time alone in the library, stress due to workload and deadlines, and even her newest pimple. 

In the comments section, other students share their experiences and how they related to her video.

day in the life-video-higher-ed

day in the life-video-higher-ed

"Week in my life as a freshman at Columbia University"
and top comments by Jisoo Lim.

Authentic content can foster a sense of community even before a student has enrolled and continues this effect during their studies. 

So, keep it real if you’re looking to showcase student life and capture your Gen Z audience.

If your school or university has great video content, we’d love to see it! Comment below. We are always on the lookout for great examples to feature on our blog.

Have you rounded out 2023 with some great #campuslife campaigns? Share them with us on social media or in the comments below!

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