Student personas are the most important first step you can take in your higher ed marketing efforts. Without student personas, your admissions marketing and recruitment teams are left to make assumptions about the students you're recruiting, and we've all heard the adage about when we assume anything...
What are student personas?
Simply put, student personas represent the students you're recruiting. These personas are the result of gathering real data from your currently enrolled students and creating profiles of the types of students you'd like to recruit.
You should create one or two personas for EACH group to which you're marketing. This includes prospects, applicants, admits, enrolled students, seniors, juniors, freshmen, parents, international students...however you're breaking down your marketing and communication efforts, you need a persona for each type.
How to create student personas:
1. Identify demographic info
What factors do you look at when buying names? Location, age, GPA/class rank, and test scores are the usual suspects. You can easily identify these fields when looking at enrollment data.
2. Identify psychographic info
This is highly specific to the college or university, but there are some general guidelines that apply across the board. Do you require recommendation letters? Community involvement? Class rigor? Is it important for your students to be passionate about a particular activity or hobby? What are the goals and challenges your students face when considering a school?
3. Select REAL students
After you decide what demographic and psychographic details are best for your student personas, it's time to find real students. For your prospect, applicant, admit, and enrolled populations, there's no better place to look than your own college or university. Invite a group of your thriving students - those who enrolled and are maintaining a solid GPA after the first year, for example - to take part in a student survey (free pizza is usually a good motivator).
4. Interview students
Put your work to the test! Ask your students about all the fields for which you don't have clear answers. What made them select your school? What were they nervous about? Were you a safety or reach school for them? Did scholarship or tuition factor into their decision to enroll? Ask anything that will help you create future messaging. Snap a few pictures (with permission, of course) so you'll have real students to use in your personas.
5. Create student personas based on your research
Your personas don't have to be fancy - a simple Word doc will get the job done. Give your personas a name (fake is fine), drop your photo in, and add the information you identified in steps 1 and 2. That's it!
What NOT to do with your student personas
It's important to note again that your student personas need to come from real research from real students. When you make assumptions about the students to whom you're marketing, you run the risk of taking your higher ed marketing strategy down the wrong road. Stick with the facts and you'll be in good shape.
Using student personas in your higher ed marketing strategy
Once you've created your student personas, use them! Your students personas should guide every aspect of your higher ed marketing efforts. When you have a clear picture of WHO you're recruiting, all other aspects of your marketing strategy make more sense. Your admissions counselors can better plan for high school visits and fairs, your marketing team can craft better content, and you'll end up communicating with the right students in the right way at the right time.
How many student personas are you currently using in your higher ed marketing plan? If you'd like schedule a call to discuss how StudentBridge can help you with your marketing efforts, we're here for you.