Building Your Path

How to Create and Use Personas in Higher Education Recruitment

Higher education recruitment and admissions professionals are fighting for the attention of new students. Students have more options than ever. They can choose to get their post-secondary education from traditional 4- year institutions, community colleges, boot camps, for-profit colleges, and new options like Google’s Career Certificates. These students will ultimately choose the option that is the best fit for them and help them reach their career goals.

These options give students the ability to choose how and at what pace they get their education. On the other hand, higher education institutions need to work harder than ever to appeal to the needs of their prospective students and prove that their programs are the best fit for them.

How can this be done when competition is constantly growing, budgets are shrinking, and staff are overworked?

Higher education institutions can stand out by understanding their prospective student better than any of your competitors. This can be done by gathering the right data and creating personas, so you can craft messaging that will increase your institution’s enrollment.

What is a persona?

A persona is a “semi-fictional representation of your ideal [student] based on market research and real data about your existing [students]”, according to Hubspot. Your personas will essentially be composites of multiple students that represent your ideal student students.

To effectively communicate your institution’s value, you need to understand a few things about your prospective students: 

  • who they are and the goals they want to achieve, 
  • the reason for wanting to pursue their goals, and 
  • what is stopping them from achieving those goals. 

So how do you get a better understanding of your prospective students? 

Create student personas by talking to your current students and learn about why they chose your institution over another. 

Completing this exercise will help you better understand your prospective student’s goals and pain points. Knowing this will lead to more effective messaging in your advertising, blog posts, emails, and social media content and lead to higher enrollment numbers. 

Here is an example of a persona that we have put together to help you better understand exactly what a persona will look like.

Higher Education Recruitment Persona

Creating your personas

You may already have the information that you need to build your personas, but there is a chance that your data is old and it does not reflect your current student body. 

The best way to get the current and relevant information you need is through phone/video interviews, email surveys, and robust career assessments.

[Read more about using robust career assessments to improve enrollment]

To get the interview process started, you will need to:

  • identify the questions that you want to ask in the interview/survey
  • (include survey questions that will result in quantitative and qualitative data),
  • identify the individuals that you will want to interview,
  • gather their contact information,
  • email the individuals and ask them if they would like to participate in the interview/survey,
  • call/email survey questions to the individuals, 
  • and analyze the data.

Once you have analyzed the data, start building your composite student based on similar ages, backgrounds, career interests, and barriers.

Using personas in higher education recruitment

Now that you have a better understanding of your audience and what drives them, you can take the next step and begin to craft the messaging that you will use in your higher education recruitment.

You can learn more about putting a complete higher education recruitment and marketing strategy together in our eBook, Introduction to Digital Marketing and Advertising.

Call to Action - Introduction to Digital Marketing and Advertising for Community Colleges eBook

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