Every student on your college campus is unique. But once you take a step back, you can sort your target audience into distinct college student personas. That step, in turn, can go a long way toward building a better event marketing strategy.

If you’re even passingly familiar with higher education marketing, you know that identifying your target audience relies largely on demographic information. But it also pays to go further. By defining the personas of your current students, your marketing team and everyone around campus can better focus your efforts to speak directly to their motivations and desires.

Hooking directly into your students’ decision-making process increases student engagement. That, in turn, raises your retention, ultimately helping your entire institution succeed. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the why, who, and how behind building college student personas.

The Importance of College Student Personas

A long-time staple in inbound marketing across industries, buyer personas are an attempt to go beyond formal demographics. They seek to define your audience’s preferences and pain points, ultimately making the audience you’re trying to reach more approachable.

They’re still based on market research like focus groups and surveys, of course. But digging deeper into their internal characteristics allows you to build better and more focused marketing campaigns.

Higher education institutions are just beginning to leverage this concept for their own enrollment marketing efforts. But college student personas can go far beyond the college search. Personas for higher education can also help you build in-depth profiles of who the current students you want to attend your campus events are, enabling you to build more relevant events and better marketing campaigns.

The positive returns for your college will be immense. Studies show that engagement in campus life and events directly connects to higher retention rates, ultimately helping your institution’s graduation rates and tuition revenue.

Identifying 7 Common College Student Personas

Group of college friends, each of whom represents different college student personas

You can find student persona examples almost everywhere. The key is identifying the personas that make the most sense for your institution. Traditional labels like ‘transfer students’ and ‘international students’ are a good start. However, you can also go deeper and identify your ideal student profiles and marketing personas based on a few characteristics they might share.

Below, we’ve identified seven common personas that offer a great start. Whether you use these or other profiles, download a persona template and use what you know about each group to start building that profile. That way, you can build your user experience for events from decision day all the way to graduation-related festivities, specifically with your ideal audience in mind.

1. The Go-Getter

Perhaps the most common attendee at any higher ed event, the go-getter is self-motivated. They seek out opportunities to engage and will respond to social media posts that match their interests. You’ll most likely find them at student club fairs and anywhere that can stimulate their extroverted and forward-looking personality.

2. The Scholar

Think of this persona as your academic achievers. The degree program they’re a part of is likely to be the most important part of their college journey. These self-motivated learners will respond particularly well to self-actualization messaging and events like lectures, guest speakers, alum panels, and more.

3. The Non-Traditional Student

Non-traditional students are taking on an increasingly important role on college campuses. As largely second-career students who may not be studying full-time, they might also be one of your more difficult college student personas to build.

Non-traditional students care less about high school connections and more about fitting events into their already busy schedules. Communicating both the convenience and the relevance of the event through your digital marketing efforts and elsewhere is key to driving attendance among these students.

4. The Athlete

Don’t think of your student-athletes as the stereotypical jocks. Especially beyond Division I levels, they’ve chosen to play a sport to better integrate into the campus community. They’ll be likely to attend athletic events of their own and other sports. But don’t underestimate their desire to participate in other event formats. Similar to non-traditional students, however, their busier-than-most schedule makes convenience a key selling point for any type of event attendance.

5. The Part-Time Student

This persona is closely related to, and may even overlap with, your non-traditional student profile. But in some ways, it’s also broader. Part-time students may still come right out of high school, but they’re also likely to be commuters, making it more difficult to attend after-hours events. They might also feel less integrated into campus, so events specifically designed for your commuters that match their schedules could go a long way toward reliable engagement.

6. The Activist

Studies increasingly show that Gen Z, today’s college students, are more likely to have intrinsic learning motivations than any generation before them. They also want to make a difference in the world and see college as an opportunity to do so. Activist students will be actively involved in events like voter registration drives and other events that have an outcome other than their own enjoyment. They’ll also look to have a voice in planning these events and can build a strong sense of ownership when allowed to do so.

7. The Social Butterfly

Finally, a not-insignificant part of your student body looks forward to college as a socialization opportunity. From the time they’re prospective students, they look to connect with others, make friends, and spend some quality time together. These are the students most likely to participate in sanctioned parties, dances, field trips, and activities like bingo or eSports tournaments with few other goals beyond building community and having fun.

Creating Persona-Based Messaging

Each of the above college student personas likely encompasses a significant part of your student body. While they might overlap, each of them will also look for different types of campus events to stay engaged and ultimately remain with your institution until graduation.

Crucially, not every event is for everyone. The same is true for your event messaging, which needs to be uniquely built for each of your personas to drive attendance. You won’t get many activists at eSports tournaments, just as you won’t get many scholars at your athletics events. Sure, there is some overlap. But ultimately, building more specific messaging for the students most likely to attend each event is a core part of a successful higher ed event communication strategy.

That starts with building comprehensive profiles for each of your college student personas. The profiles should include a few core components, including:

  • Basic demographic information
  • The types of campus events they might want to attend
  • The reasons why they might attend these specific events over others
  • An overview of their decision-making process when it comes to attending campus events, including the pain points that might prevent them from attending the events that are theoretically a good match for them

Based on these profiles, you can begin to build out very intentional messaging. Your event descriptions, social media promotions, website postings, and even your posters can all build on the same messaging and visuals. Each time you plan and promote a new event, you can tap back into the same profiles to ensure you promote it the right way to the right people.

Determining Your Success Criteria

Of course, building personas and optimizing your messaging is only the beginning. To this point, you are only operating based on theoretical information. Your profiles might be based on your research and existing knowledge. But you also need to validate that your assumptions will actually benefit your events in the real world.

That means you need to put an event success measurement strategy in place before you begin to promote your events.

Start by defining your event success criteria. What would make the event successful? Are you looking for attendance, engagement, or some next steps your audience would take after the event? Are you able to measure these outcomes reliably to ensure that you can actually build learnings from them?

Once you’ve identified these criteria, devise a plan to measure them. Then, once you begin the promotional process, you can ensure that you’re working toward the same goal. Once it’s over, the same criteria can help you ensure that you’ve targeted the right personas with the right messaging at the right time.

Engage Students and Promote On-Campus Happenings Using Localist Events

College student personas are an immensely powerful tool. When done right, they can define not just your messaging but also your entire event planning process. While still relatively new to higher ed, they can become a core tool helping you toward improving your student engagement and retention efforts.

Of course, you still need the right tools to promote your events and optimize your messaging. That’s where Localist comes in. It helps you centralize your events calendar and integrate it into your website while also enabling you to build categories based on your personas. Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo today to get started.