Student Life

YouTube, TikTok Has Millennials, Gen Z Cleverly Paying for College

Shawna Newman

January 10, 2020

YouTube, TikTok Has Millennials, Gen Z Cleverly Paying for College
We keep hearing it, but in case you missed it, the cost of college is expected to continue rising. Millennials and Generation Z are now thinking differently than their parents did about paying for college. According to a study by the National Center for Education Statistics, the average price of in-state tuition, room and board at four-year public colleges in 1995 was $11,004. In 2017-18, that average cost rose to $20,050.

Cost of College, Meet the Rise of Social Influencers

But with Millennial and Gen Z’s college-debt challenge, comes a weird and timely solution. According to Pew Research, Millennials are considered those born from 1981-1996 and “the first generation to come of age in the new millennium.” Business Insider classifies Gen Z as the youngest and largest generation in American History born after 1997. The childhood of both Millennial and Gen Z has been spent immersed in social mediums like YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram. Time may have placed both generations in a pricey higher-education era, but these students have put their tech-savvy skills to use leveraging social platforms to conquer college debt. A new era of visual influence is happening – More and more students have started to use their social media influence to offset the rising costs of college. According to a Forbes article, platforms like YouTube are on the rise–“60% are daily YouTube users.” Today’s college-bound high schoolers and current college students have an abundance of social apps that allow them to connect and promote their social audience following.

How Kool-Aid, YouTube Gave Katie Her Start

Katie Legate, a 2017 Communication Studies graduate at the University of Central Missouri, is no stranger to the power of social media. With more than 99,000 YouTube subscribers today, she’s a prime example of how her generation is creatively using their tech skills to become profitable social influencers. As a high school freshman, Katie began YouTubing in 2009. For her, posting YouTube videos started out as a hobby. In 2012, her DIY Kool-Aid Hair Dye video went viral. This led to an increase in followers and a recognition boom—Katie was now a social media influencer. Her viral video opened the door for a partnership with StyleHaul. With the help of her viral video and new partnership, Katie started to see a substantial amount of money coming in monthly. As Katie grew, her YouTube channel transitioned too. Once she began college, her makeup tutorials shifted focus to college life. Katie said, “My entire three years at UCM was documented thanks to my YouTube channel. I had a vlog series my senior year called ‘My College Life.’” Katie’s 2014 Dorm Room Tour has over 200K views, and is still watched today. During her freshman year of college, she was earning approximately $700-$1,000 per month from YouTube monetization. She used a large portion of this income to pay her college tuition.
Later she was approached by notable brands for sponsorship deals too. Katie said, “I made $3,500 from an opportunity with Covergirl my Freshmen year and $1,500 my Junior year from an opportunity with Sally's Beauty Supply.” Her sponsorship deals allowed her to study abroad in Greece for a semester and helped her afford a campus housing upgrade.

Social Media Monetization, Expansion Looks Like This

In a recent U.S. News article detailing similar student stories, the profit structure and ways to increase revenue are explained. In order to begin monetization, a YouTuber must have more than 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 valid public watch hours in a year. The article states, after these metrics have been met, “Creators can then earn a percentage of the ad revenue generated by video views through Google AdSense, but to maximize income, creators recommend diversifying revenue streams.” Katie follows a similar tactic to expand her brand and promote her YouTube channel using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. She considers the integration of multiple social mediums a great way to connect with her viewers on a personal level. Katie explained, “Many of my viewers are people I consider my friends now thanks to other social media platforms.” The latest trendy social platform she has explored is TikTok. Katie shares the only trophy she’s received, the YouTube 100,000 Followers award, in this fun TikTok video. While she doesn’t use it too often yet, Katie points out, “It’s an awesome platform with an algorithm that gives anyone the opportunity to go viral.”

Graduate College Debt Free

“I’m so thankful to say I am now officially debt free and have paid off all of my student loans. This would not have been possible if I didn't have my YouTube channel as an extra source of income during my time in college,” Katie acknowledged. After college graduation, she placed her YouTube channel and experience at the top of her resume. This helped her job application stand out and led to her current dream job as the social media manager for an online women’s clothing boutique.

Ready to start saving or paying for college with social media too?

Aware that college debt is a heavy concern for many students, Katie shared her advice to students interested in using social media platforms to help pay for school. Check out her four tips and some questions you should consider below:

1.) Establish your personal brand.

Katie’s Tip: Find a niche that you love and only make videos you’re proud of. Do you have interesting experiences you can share? Does your story have a common theme?

2.) Produce content that stands out.

Katie’s Tip: It’s more challenging to get views with so many people starting YouTube channels every day. Has this video or post been done before? How can I approach an idea or topic differently?

3.) Pay attention to viral trends and topics.

Katie’s Tip: “I remember starting my channel in 2009 because I had started watching other girls my age make videos.” Can you approach a viral trend with a new perspective? What is your audience talking about?

4.) Don’t be afraid.

Katie’s Tip: “Create content about your college experiences.” Will your brand allow you to be transparent and help others in similar life places?

An Ideal Solution

Katie’s social media efforts in high school and college helped her finish college with less college debt than her peers. It won’t be long before more Millennials and Gen Z’s catch on and start earning money from their social media presence—It’s an ideal solution both generations are comfortable with to tackle their college debt concerns.

Love Social Media Yourself?

There are social media related scholarships out there you should check out. Many scholarship providers add social media components to their entry requirements. If you enjoy social media or consider yourself an expert, take advantage of your skills!

You can follow Katie on the social media channels below:

YouTube: Katie Legate TikTok: @katielegate Twitter: @KatielegateYT Instagram: @katielegate Facebook: @katielegate95

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