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How to develop & leverage STUDENT PERSONAS?

How to develop & leverage STUDENT PERSONAS?

Students look for a lot of information when they want to enroll in a university. Lack of appropriate information or the wrong message, can impact a student’s decision to apply.

It is important for universities to communicate the right message, at the right time, to the right audience. The use of ‘Student Personas’ streamlines the communication process for universities and helps them to plan their messaging themes and choose their communication channels.

A student persona is a fictional representation of an ideal student. Each persona represents specific backgrounds, interests, motivations and goals.

‘Student Personas’ can help universities and higher education institutes to tailor their marketing campaigns and devise effective student recruitment initiatives.

Let’s understand how to develop a Student Persona and why is it so important.

What is a Student Persona?

A Student Persona is a representation of a key segment of your target audience and is based on research, and analysis, of their demographics, interests, aspirations, motivation and goals. It categorizes students into different buckets based on who they are and why they might choose your institution.

An institute can cater to: undergraduate students, graduate students, international students, transfer students, online students

Understanding different segments of students and the micro-segments therein, will enable you to tailor your marketing messages and deliver the intended impact.

How to develop a Student Persona?

Start with identifying persona clusters based on common sets of characteristics such as age, location, interests, aspirations, education background, affinities, work experience, level of preparedness, socio-economic status, decision-making dependency and goals.

You can do this by conducting research, surveys and interviews with current and prospective students and then segmenting them into logical groups.  Analyze the data for common patterns and trends.

Next step is to mould each cluster into a persona and give them a name and an image. Map each persona to different stages of your enrolment funnel and plan your communication mix and messaging planks.

Let us illustrate the use of student personas with a simple example.

University A does not use student personas. It relies on analytics data and important triggers/actions to segment its users. Let us assume 2 users visited university A’s website.

After looking at its analytics data, it may seem to University A that Student 1 and Student 2 are very similar. University A will probably categorize them in the same bucket and target them with the same message.

University A might send emailers to Student 1 and Student 2, with program information and how to apply emails, as both of them looked at the tuition fee section on its website. Their demographics seem similar too.

But what’s missing are the critical factors that would motivate these students to take the next step.

University B works with student personas. It plans its communication based on a broader profile it creates for each persona.

Let’s look at 2 student personas that University B has created for students who are interested in its Art & Design programs at the postgraduate level.

When you see Priya’s persona, it becomes clear that University B has actually gathered multiple data points, conducted research and perhaps, a few interviews, to create a richer, fuller profile.

Let’s have a look at another persona that University B has created.

With its student personas in place, University B is better placed to direct the right message to Priya and Monica.

Though they are interested in similar programs and share a few common demographic traits, they need different kind of information to make an informed decision.

Information that Priya needs – Financial aid and scholarship information, career support services

Information that Monica needs – Alumni success stories, extra-curricular activities, travel and holiday options for international students

Leveraging Student Personas

Once your Student Personas are ready, you can use them strategically and chart your communication plan and mix. Here are some examples:

  • Personalize your emails based on what your student personas need
  • Craft logical prospect nurturing strategies
  • Use the right channels to connect with your TG
  • Create focused content for each stage in the decision-making journey


Student Personas help you to think critically about your prospective students.

They help you to distill your data and get insights, based on their interests, their preferred channels of communication and the kind of information they need, among many other things.

The insights you get from personas, can help you to personalize messages and provide targeted communication.

Have you started leveraging Student Personas yet?