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Customization vs. Personalization: What's the Difference?

StudentBridge Staff June, 14, 2021

When it comes to marketing in higher education, you're always trying to reach a diverse population of potential students. You want to be able to showcase your school to attract students from a wide variety of backgrounds. However, student recruitment goes beyond providing tours of all the perks of attending your university. In today's competitive recruiting environment, it's important to show prospective students how your school can help them reach their academic and career goals, give them an inclusive and diverse learning environment, provide them with access to great faculty and learning opportunities, and offer them access to resources that will help them grow, mature, and become successful alumni.

Admissions advisors and recruitment specialists know that each prospective student is unique, so it's important to find innovative recruitment strategies for minority, international, traditional, and nontraditional students to reach as many potential students as possible. Integrating customized, personalized experiences into your recruitment strategies is a must for attracting a wide variety of qualified applicants with the potential to enrich campus life during their studies and, eventually, your university's thriving alumni community.


When you think about customization and personalization as student recruitment principles, you might think they are the same. Customization and personalization are strategies you can use together to create great experiences for prospective students and the influencers of their decisions, such as parents and college counselors.

Customization in Student Recruitment

As a marketing method in higher education, customization is your unique brand and how you can reflect your mission, vision, and values throughout your content. It's best to present your school and all available student resources clearly and consistently. A great way to showcase your school, the campus, and its resources is to offer virtual tours. Virtual Tours will allow you to customize the experience for prospective students based on what interests them the most while remaining true to your brand.


For many students, families, and college counselors, the virtual campus experience is the first experience with your university. Ensure your brand elements, logo, fonts, colors, and tone of voice are consistent with your brochures and marketing materials. 


Make it easy for anyone visiting your virtual tour to get more information about an in-person campus tour, speaking with a recruitment specialist, admissions advisor, financial aid, or other admissions resources. Aim to establish a virtual campus experience that doesn't look like every other campus but truly integrates and showcases the best of what your school offers and how your school will help students succeed in their college experience. Your institution's unique—your virtual campus experience should be as well.

Personalization in Marketing for Higher Ed

Each of your prospective students is unique and has unique goals for college and beyond. They come from a variety of backgrounds and have different financial needs. They want diversity and inclusion to be at the forefront of the college experience, and some students may be the first family member of their family to attend college. This highlights the importance of personalizing your student recruitment methods to show prospective students that what is most important to them is a part of student life at your institution.


Personalization creates a unique experience for each potential student, family member, or college counselor accessing your virtual college tour. You can personalize your content based on the visitor. Personalizing your content means changing verbiage, images, playlists, and recommendations to reflect their interests. Making the most of the data you gain about visitors to your site will make it easier to personalize your content based on visitors and their desires.


Your students are more than just a list of names. When emailing students be sure to address each student by name and provide them with communications specific to their circumstances, needs, or location. When students return to your site, you can run targeted ads based on the pages most visited by each student, their search history and interaction with your site, and their stated college goals.

Best User Experience for All of Your Visitors

As you are building or enhancing the website for your university, put yourself in your visitors' shoes. Your main visitors will likely be prospective students, and your secondary visitors will be interested family members and college counselors. Having specific pages for your different audiences will help visitors find the information they need quickly and efficiently.


For example, prospective students are going to look for information about:

  • Undergraduate degrees and programs
  • Bios for faculty
  • Descriptions of courses and degrees
  • College awards and recognitions
  • Scholarships & financial aid
  • Information about campus activities and deadlines
  • Resources available to them, such as learning labs, tutoring centers, career centers, and health centers
  • Statistics about internships and career success
  • Housing options and residential life on campus
  • Campus life, such as clubs, groups, Greek life, LGBTQ communities, athletics, and more

Make it easy for students to contact admissions advisors or recruitment specialists when they contact you to gather more information, submit an application, and apply for scholarships. Don't let clunky communications be the factor that sways a prospective applicant away from your institution into the arms of a rival university.


Consider sending informational packets to students who show interest in your college. You could include plenty of branded merchandise, including brochures, campus information materials, and gifts, such as sunglasses, pens or pencils, and notebooks. Students gather information about many other colleges, so going the extra mile for prospective students will help your university stand out. If the student shows interest in a certain degree path, send materials about that degree path and what your school can do for the student.


For college counselors and parents or family members, you want to answer questions that will help them help their students make the best decision possible. These visitors are more likely to question cost, degree options, campus activities, safety, and housing. Offering them free downloadable materials, such as infographics or checklists, can help them assist their students through the application process.

Going the Extra Mile

Whether the students are the first in their family to go to college or if they are a legacy student for your college, you want to make their entire experience of your school the best it can be. Answering common questions about your college campus, housing, financial aid, and academic offerings in a dedicated blog can help your college reach more visitors and answer their questions without having to call for more information. It also allows your college to have another touchpoint with your visitors.


You can take your students on a virtual tour of your college and its offerings in innovative ways that integrate customization and personalization to improve the experience of your visitors. If you want to convert stealth visitors into prospects and then into enrolled students, StudentBridge can help. We develop fully customized and personalized virtual campus experiences designed to convert curiosity into applications.

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