Part of being successful in admissions is seeing the forest through the trees. In other words, discovering the larger overall trends and ties that keep your student enrollment numbers strong. One way to begin doing that is to create personas.
Personas can play a huge role in your overall admission process by driving student enrollment. Many higher education schools and businesses use personas to reach the right students or target customers in a more personal way. So why aren’t many K-12 schools doing the same? In order to connect with your families, you first have to know who they are. If you put in the legwork, you can create a clear picture of the best-fit enrollment candidates and hone your marketing so it resonates with them.
Read on to learn more about what a persona is, how to create one, and why personas are an important asset to increase student enrollment at your private or independent school.
What Are Personas?
A persona is a representation of an ideal family you want to enroll based on real data about your existing families and market research.
Your school may have anywhere from five to ten or more personas. The fictional representations you create represent the different segments of your current and potential prospective families and may be separated into student and parent personas. As all schools are different, most schools will have different personas.
Your school may create personas like “Techie Tom”, “Selective Susan”, or “Social Samantha.” Each of these individuals is looking for something different. Techie Tom may place the highest importance on the available STEM courses at your school. He wants to be communicated with via text or email. Meanwhile, Social Samantha is looking for a school with lots of extracurricular opportunities. She may have a big family and thus financial aid opportunities will influence her school decision. You can start brainstorming your school’s parent and student personas by .
Personas can be used to develop segmented messaging in advertising, email campaigns, and so much more. You may have a good idea of who you want to market towards. However, developing personas can help you uncover a wealth of insights. Personas help you get in the headspace of your families so you know how they think and what your team can do to inspire them to enroll.
Information to Include For Each Persona
This covers a parent’s or student’s background, such as their age range, level of education, neighborhood, the number of children at home, marital status, and income bracket. Demographics can play a key role in shaping both your messaging and your focus for on-campus events.
For example, Horace Mann School hosted an LGBTQ Parents Admissions Reception to create a welcome environment and show families they encourage diversity on their campus.
Challenges & Objectives
Personas also cover the psychographics of your ideal families. Psychographics often include families’ values, interests, and goals.
Consider what their biggest pain points are and how you can solve them in your communication. By fully considering their challenges and goals during the creation of personas, you can identify opportunities that align with your school’s strengths.
Include some of their key decision factors to help you design your lead nurturing campaigns. In initial conversations with a prospective family, they may share their concerns with specific things, like classroom size, the curriculum used, or student-teacher ratios. Make sure you address each of their concerns in follow-up communication and school tours to alleviate any burden or worry and instead help them see what your school can specifically offer them. Another way to help them feel more comfortable is to have a student ambassador lead the campus tour.
Do they value STEM or religious-based programs? Is the prospective student interested in developing a particular athletic talent?
Let’s say they submitted an inquiry and demonstrated interest in your STEM program. One of your follow-up emails could contain a story from a successful student and why they love the STEM courses at your school.
Some personas also include a quote summarizing the parent’s or student’s attitude towards education or deciding on a school.
For example, “I want my child to be future proof and prepared to take on whatever job roles look like by using technology and completing advanced STEM courses at school.”
Reading Habits and Other Factors
Where do your prospects check for information about your school? What influences their decision to enroll? Do they prefer to hear from your team through email, text messaging, or phone calls?
Through your persona research, you can discover what social media sites and online publications each type of family spends time visiting. Then you can have a better sense of where to allocate your advertising budgets as well as each type of family’s preferred communication method.
Research to Develop Your Personas
Before you can sit down and put together your personas, you’ll need to gather data and research your ideal prospects.
If you use a student enrollment management system like SchoolAdmin, you can quickly analyze your contacts and fill in vital information and demographics to create personas. Your dynamic inquiry forms can also be optimized to gather insights including information about a student’s current household, and how parents heard about your school.
Another great resource for gathering information is your interviews. Having time with current and prospective families can help you uncover more about the different people interested in or currently attending your school. Creating personas and reaching families involves taking the time to understand their goals, interests, concerns, and values. Take time to talk to some of your biggest parent advocates along with a few more critical parents. This will allow you to get a true understanding of how families feel across the board. These families may provide some of the most surprising insights into a persona’s goals and challenges with enrolling.
Questions to Ask During an Interview
Here’s a list of some good questions to ask in your interviews. You may even be able to incorporate some of these questions in your admission interviews with prospective families.
- Tell me more about you and your current household (eg. ask their age, whether they’re married, number of children, what zip code they live in).
- Describe your educational background. What level of education did you complete, where did you attend, and what did you study?
- Tell me about your career. How do you think your education helped shape it?
- What school programs and activities do you value as a parent?
- What does a great school look like to you?
- Where does your child need to improve academically or socially and how can a school help with that? What are/were your biggest challenges with identifying the right school for your child?
Habits and Influencing Factors
- Do you use the internet to research schools? If so, how and where do you search for information?
- What publications and blogs do you read? What social media do you use?
- How do you prefer to interact or stay in touch with school officials?
- Describe your last (or current) experience enrolling at a school. What was the evaluation process, and how did you decide?
Persona interviews can also help you find out what websites your school should actively monitor to encourage retention.
If you receive vague answers during interviews you can always follow up with a “why” or “tell me more about that,” to gain additional information.
After reviewing how each persona responds to segmented messaging through both your email response rates and student enrollment numbers you can continue to fine-tune and grow your K-12 admission funnel.
Once you’ve researched more about the families at your school and created your personas, you can use them to enhance lead nurturing and make your communication plants more effective. Knowing more about the different types of parents and families at your school will help you implement segmented and personalized messaging at every stage of the admission process. It will also make families feel heard and known, strengthening your relationship. And ultimately, using personas can help you increase your Enrollment Management Maturity.
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