How Schools Can Use Personas To Entice Prospective Students


Targeting your audience is never a simple task, but it can get especially tricky for colleges. For example, your audience can change drastically depending on the degree programs each prospect explores and the learning method (traditional or online) they prefer.

And don’t forget factors that are as fundamental as personality. Some prospective students are eager; others are lazy. Some choose a degree program quickly while some take forever.

So how do you account for all of these variables when trying to reach out to prospective students? Fortunately, there’s a solution—you can develop personas!

Last quarter, the writers at Fathom set out to learn all about buyer personas. If you’re not familiar with personas, check out “Your Crash Course on Buyer Personas” by Caroline Bogart.

As the writer for the education vertical, I’ve been developing personas primarily for schools, and this means figuring out what students really want when they’re considering a college. For each school, I develop four different personas, one for each of the common buying personalities: Competitive, Methodical, Humanistic, and Spontaneous.

For each persona type, I’ll use the school’s demographics to assign a name, picture, occupation, and brief bio, which help the persona come to life.  But what’s really important are the persona’s goals because they are specific to each school. These goals are based on the persona type’s typical influencers and motivations, and once the goals are developed, I brainstorm possible solutions to address them.

These solutions are essentially strategies, and I’ve listed some general strategies below to give you a quick overview of what each persona type will look for on college websites.

  • Methodical prospective students want to become experts on your school and their program of interest. These are the people who want to receive fact-based emails, read white papers, and identify ways to reach out for answers to their questions.
  • Competitive people want to know they’re choosing the best school and the best program, and they want to explore your content quickly to identify your unique selling proposition. Some solutions include short, bulleted copy and charts showing why you’re better than the competitors.
  • Spontaneous people make quick decisions, but they want to see any positive media attention your school has received to determine whether it’s a popular choice. To target spontaneous people, you can emphasize awards and publish the latest news on the school blog.
  • Humanistic people want to know all about your school’s history and learning environment because they want to become part of a supportive community. They will want to see your social media profiles, a good human-interest story on your “About Us” page, and plenty of student success stories and testimonials.

Keep in mind that these strategies will change based on your audience’s specific goals. Also, certain strategies may appeal to more than one persona type.

Have questions about using personas in the Education Vertical? Feel free to ask them below!


*Image provided by Agonic on Flickr


Check out Fathom’s 30-pg. Ultimate Guide to Marketing an Educational Institution with Social Media. It’s full of insightful interviews and illustrative case studies on using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for marketing a school.

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