Content Ideas for Your Higher Education YouTube Channel

Here are several content ideas for YouTube channels in higher education to engage Generation Z for years to come.

The demand for video isn’t diminishing anytime soon, especially for Generation Z. From Instagram Reels, TikTok, Snapchat, and YouTube, video dominates the feeds of digital natives. These platforms provide ways to stay connected with friends. However, when it comes to making new connections to new ideas, brands, and personalities, YouTube is the place to be. 

If you haven’t already, revisit our last blog on Gen Z and YouTube. We explored how YouTube serves as a primary source for learning and making decisions. We also analyzed a common format found on the platform: vlog style with a trusted host. Universities will welcome students from Gen Z for the coming decade. Here’s a few content bucket suggestions within the higher ed space, informed by these previous observations. 

Funnel them in

Research shows that 3 in 4 prospective students go to YouTube while evaluating schools. Also, 90% of Gen Z uses YouTube. It’s a wide net to catch as many curious students as possible. With that in mind, videos in the introductory and exploratory space is key. 

Tours content

A tour is visual. Videos provide information that’s jam-packed with sensory details. Use wide lenses or perspectives that show off your corner of campus in a way that feels larger-than-life. Highlight spaces that feel modern and sophisticated. Concentrate on areas that tell your brand’s story or match your brand vibe. 

For incoming students, it’s hard being away from home. With that in mind, feature activities, from clubs to off-campus projects, that provide subtle hints of life in their soon-to-be new home. For example, at Colorado State, various classes and programs make trips out to CSU Mountain Campus for research or retreats. The backdrop of the mountains alone could be enough to entice a student to want to live here.  A college student gives a tour at Harvard University.

A final note on tour-oriented videos: make it vlog style. Whether it’s shot on a phone or high end camera, you must have a relatable and entertaining student leading the way. Vlogs are familiar formats in the YouTube space. Take note of how some tour videos are stylistically produced on YouTube. They’re filled with personality and genuine moments.  

Show them the way 

Gen Z and Millennials prefer videos over books when learning how to do something. How-to videos are huge on YouTube and they lend themselves well to earning views and subscribers.  

Coming to a university is a new and daunting experience. Students will be brimming with questions and searching for videos to answer them. To come up with concepts for videos, list common questions prospective students would likely have upon arriving on campus. Ask current students what they were most curious about during the exploratory stage coming to CSU. Then, create instructional content addressing those common questions. 

Keep them coming 

Once you funnel them in, keep them coming for more. YouTube is both a place of information as well as entertainment. Everyone has different entertainment needs. Those needs drive them to specific channels, whether it’s cable television or YouTube. Niche channels serve up a specific type of content, format, and style. Here are a few suggestions for channels in the higher ed space. 

Research content 

YouTube is filled with educational material. They help audiences learn something new or to gain skills. Younger audiences are not looking for glossy, decorated, and embellished videos talking about how great a brand is. They’re there to find solutions from people they can trust.  A green graphic with text "Fig.1"

Universities are innovative and imaginative spaces, a nexus of ideas and discoveries. This puts us at an advantage, as resources to create educational content are at our disposal. Some of the most successful YouTube channels of universities have playlists dedicated to educating audiences on complex and critical topics. 

Take a look at University of California’s YouTube playlist “Fig 1.”  The channel is described as exploring “groundbreaking ideas—from science to art to history to psychology—and the brilliant minds behind them.” From glow in the dark jellyfish to the life of a star, the channel explores intriguing topics in engaging ways. It’s the whole package of YouTube style: an expert or engaging host; vibrant, easily digestible graphics and visuals; and a consistent tone and format across its channel.  

Bust out the best

So, with all this in mind, what topics should you cover? A study by Education Technology, Services, and Research (EAB) showed that prospective students often use the word “best” in search engines when looking up information about colleges. Reflect on your brand areas of excellence. Consider creating channels dedicated to showcasing your prowess in specific areas.

Here are few examples from colleges listed in uniRank’s top college YouTube channels: Berklee College of Music’s YouTube channel is filled with stunning, high-quality videos showcasing performances by students. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which focuses on fields like science, engineering, and technology, has a channel filled with videos demonstrating novel technologies and innovations. Both of these YouTube channels consistently publish content dedicated to illuminating their areas of prestige. A screenshot of Berklee's College of Music YouTube homepage.


As a final reminder, all of these videos have one or both of these qualities: an engaging host or personality and easy-to-digest visual elements. Always include an authentic personality that young viewers can trust to glean key information with real-world applications. 

A YouTube strategy is a two-pronged approach. First, funnel them in with introductory content that gets them hooked and interested. Get them to stay and subscribe by creating a niche channel focused on your areas of expertise.  

Finally, universities have a unique advantage when it comes to YouTube. The platform is a learning space. Let’s apply what we do best: inspiring and informing.