Millennials and Gen Z different attendance habits

Millennials and Gen Z different attendance habits

Curios about the buzz surrounding terms like “Generation Z” and “Millennials”? These labels have gained significant traction in the recent year, serving as a shorthand for specific age demographics. Millennials refers to any individual born between 1981 and 1996, Generation Z (also known as Gen Z) refers to any individuals born between 1997 and 2012. 

In this blog, we dive into the attendance patterns of these two generations, uncovering insights into their classroom habits. From analysing attendance rates to understand the underlying motivation driving their educational choices.

Key takeaways:

  • These are general observations, and individual preferences within each generation can vary greatly.
  • Millennials prefer collaborative and interactive learning environments with group projects and discussions, while Gen Z often favour independent learning with opportunities to set their own pace and explore topics in depth. Both generations, however, value practical learning with real-world applications.
  • Gen Z has grown up in a hyperconnected world where they can be connected at any time, all the time. More than half (55%) of Gen Z believe they can learn a new skill via an online video rather than attending a physical course.
  • Millennials are better educated than prior generations, Gen Z are on the path to being the most educated generation yet.
  • Gen Z thrives in tech-rich environments while Millennials appreciate the practical applications of knowledge.

Millennials and Gen Z differences

Before we start to look into Millennials and Gen Z attendance habits, it’s crucial to first grasp the main differences that define these two cohorts. While both generations are often grouped together under the umbrella of ‘young adults’, their upbringing, experiences and societal influences have shaped them into unique entities with different characteristics. 

Millennials came during a period of rapid technological advancement. They witnessed the spark of the internet era, adapting quickly to its powerful impact reshaping communication, entertainment, and e-commerce. 

Raised in an era of relative stability, Millennial tend to prioritise work-life balance, career fulfilment, and personal development. They value authenticity, diversity, and social responsibility, often seeking purpose-driven endeavours and meaningful connections. (Pew Research Center) 

In contrast, Gen Z represents a generation that has never known a world without the internet or smartphones. Growing up in an age characterised by information overload and constant connectivity, Gen Z are typically tech ‘savvy’ and can navigate complex digital landscapes with ease. 

This hyperconnected upbringing has fostered a generation marked by heightened individualism, entrepreneurial spirit, and inspiration for innovation. (McKinsey & Company). Raised in the aftermath of the Great Recession and global uncertainty, Gen Z values financial security, practical skills and adaptability. According to Forbes, 46% of Gen Zers regard salary as a primary factor when considering a job position. And over 22% of them combine work with study to support their parents financially. Another 72% combine work and study to cover basic living needs. However, this combination comes at a cost, 32% of Gen Zers struggle with mental health issues, with 50% foregoing sleep or leisure time. 

More recently, the Deloitte report showed that 75% of Gen Zers would prefer a job which offers flexibility over one with a high salary.

Millennials and Gen Z different attendance habits

These differences merely scratch the surface on the Millennials vs Gen Z topic. 

As we take a further look into their education habits and how these have changed over time, we should shed some light on their preferences and behaviours and underlying reasons. From classroom engagement to academic performance, understanding the difference between Millennials and Gen Z is a helpful element for educators, policymakers and anyone invested in the future of education.

Millennials and Gen Z education habits


According to Pew Research Center, “Millennials are better educated than prior generations.”

While previous generations like Baby Boomers (29%) and the Silent Generation (15%) primarily relied on vocational training, almost half of Millennials (39%) now opt for bachelor’s degrees or higher, showcasing a significant shift in educational attainment. This higher percentage can be attributed to several factors, one being the increasing importance of a college degree in securing well-paying jobs in a knowledge-based economy. Furthermore, pursuing higher education was given the opportunity of relative affordability with the introduction of financial programs, such as student loans, making it much easier to finance education. 

Millennials ideal working environment involves more group based projects and flexibility with ideas, assessments and personal expression and creativity (eFront Learning).

Gen Z

Here are a few staggering statistics based on Gen Z educational views of 2024. (Zipdo) 

  • More than half (55%) of Gen Z believe they can learn a new skill via a YouTube video rather than attending a physical course.
  • 75% of Gen Z said that there are other ways of getting a good education than going to college.
  • 88% of Generation Z students believe that technology is reshaping the education system.
  • Gen Z individuals expect to earn an average annual salary of $47,000 in their first job out of college.
  • Only 39% of Gen Z believe that a university degree is needed to get ahead in life.
  • Approximately 62% of Generation Z college students would rather be entrepreneurs than employees.
  • About 35% of Gen Z students tend to process information faster and prefer visuals over text.
  • Nearly 72% of Gen Z high school students want to start a business someday.

With this being said, there are also many statistics which show that Gen Z is on track to be the best educated generation to date. Gen Z are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to be enrolled in a two-year or four-year college, 52% compared to 43% of Millennials and 43% of Gen X. (Pew Research Center). They are still looking for engagement as part of their learning experience.

According to Pearson Accelerated Pathways, Gen Z’s focus on engagement and future security stems from witnessing the Great Recession, pandemic, climate change and other various social challenges (mass shootings and police brutality in the U.S).

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Gen Z states that the top reason they attend college is with the final purpose of getting a job, rather than helping the generation develop or grow for life in general.


Classroom engagement and academic performance


While exploring Millennials vs Gen Z different attendance habits, it’s crucial to consider the bigger picture: how these habits might influence classroom engagement and academic performance. 

As mentioned above, millennials prefer a learning style full of active participation and collaboration. They thrive in environments that encourage discussion, group projects, and activities. (Howe, N., Strauss, W.) If activities do not suit their interest, students may lose focus and motivation very quickly. Paul E. Kotz, from St. Mary´s University recommends, introducing topics that tap into personal interests and encouraging group working in case studies to reach a stronger engagement with millennials. 

Gen Z

Gen Z on the other hand are currently shaping the landscape of education. Many Gen Zers were starting university when the pandemic hit and the world had to adapt to online learning and working. This had a big impact on their preferences of working/learning, you will be able to see that in the following: 

While comfortable with collaboration, Gen Z often demonstrate a preference for independent learning experiences that allow them to set their own pace and explore topics at their own depth. (Seemiller, C.,Grace, M. 2017.)

A similarity between Millennials and Gen Z is their preference toward practical learning. Both generations wish to be prepared with relevant skills for future careers using real-world scenarios. When lessons lack a clear connection to future application, engagement may decline. 

Gen Zers seek learning experience that leverage technology and new emerging technologies. They expect on-demand services that are available at any time with easy access. According to a study by Barnes and Noble College revealed a shift in student expectations. Gen Z no longer wishes to show up to class, write notes and study them for an exam. Instead, they desire to be active participants in their learning journeys. 51% of students reported learning best through hands-on activities, compared to only 12% who favoured more traditional ‘sit and listen’ approaches. 

Constant access to information has empowered Gen Z to become a self-reliant and career-driven generation. 13% of them already have their own businesses, showcasing their entrepreneurial spirit. This drive extends to their education as well. Many Gen Z students demonstrate a strong interest in shaping their own learning journeys – evident in their desire to co-design their college curriculum. This proactive approach highlights their ambition, shaping the future of education. (Forbes)

It’s important to note that generalisations about entire generations can be misleading. Individual learning styles and preferences vary greatly within each generation. However, understanding these broad trends can help educators tailor their teaching methods to effectively engage both Millennials and Gen Z, ultimately fostering a positive learning environment that benefits their academic performance.

Beyond Numbers: Reasons for Different Attendance Habits

What drives their choices? 

While both millennials and Gen Z value education, their academic habits differ. Here are some possible reasons behind this: 


  • Millennials enter a very competitive workforce, but also understand the importance of work-life balance. Flexible schedule and remote work opportunities can lead to missed classes or last minute adjustments. 
  • Technology plays a significant role in millennials lives, while it is a powerful learning tool that some did not have access to when growing up (in comparison to Gen Z), they are interested in adopting it within learning environments which can lead to distractions in the classroom. 

Both millennials and Gen Z are known for adopting different learning styles, therefore traditional lecture based settings lacking interaction can lead to both lower engagement and potentially influence their attendance choices. 

Gen Z:

  • As digital natives, Gen Z thrives in tech-integrated environments. However, their comfort with technology can also lead to online distractions during class, potentially impacting both attendance and engagement. 
  • Unlike previous generations, Gen Z prioritised mental health and self-care. Taking absences to address personal well-being is becoming more normalised, potentially affecting attendance compared to previous generations. (Twenge, 2017).

Strategies for Improving Attendance

Understanding the reasons behind possible different attendance habits is crucial, educators and institutions also need to implement strategies to improve engagement and attendance for both millennials and Gen Z based on this information. 

Here I will outline a few strategies based on the research gathered in this blog. For more strategies to improve student attendance, read this blog written from the perspective of two professors. 

  1. Flexible learning options: Millennials and Gen Z value flexibility. Offering hybrid or online learning options caters to their diverse needs and schedules. 
  2. Technology as a tool, not a distraction: instead of fearing technology, leverage it but integrating engaging learning platforms to enhance learning and skills. 
  3. Mental health: both generations prioritise mental health, so providing readily available support resources in learning environments will help encourage openness and communication, improving engagement and student satisfaction. 
  4. Interactive and engaging learning: move beyond traditional lectures. Implementing active learning methodologies such as group work, simulations, case studies, technology-integrated activities can boost engagement. Gen Z thrives in tech-rich environments while Millennials appreciate the practical applications of knowledge.

Conclusion – Millennials and Gen Z different attendance habits

This blog looked into the different attendance habits of Millennials vs Gen Z, researching their educational approaches, learning styles and motivations. 

While their preferences may differ, both generations share a common desire for meaningful engagement and a strong connection between their learning and future aspirations. Understanding these broad trends allows educators and institutions to bridge the generational gap by implementing effective strategies. This fosters positive attendance habits, enhanced engagement, and ultimately, academic success for all learners.

How will the next generation learn?


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