As higher education changes, so are the kinds of students that are being attracted to graduate and continuing education programs. To really appeal to these kinds of students, colleges and universities need to incorporate multiple student personas into their inbound marketing strategy.
Graduate and continuing education students are becoming the new face of higher education. For this reason, enrollment marketers and admissions teams need to better understand the unique wants and needs of these new personas if they are going to attract them to their schools and programs.

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Below are three relatively new types of student personas that are higher education marketers need to become familiar with if they are going to better market their graduate and continuing education programs.

Second-Career Student

This student has already gotten a Bachelor’s degree that they’ve probably used to gain the job they have now. They are having serious second thoughts about their career, and have decided to earn second B.A. or B.S. in a completely unrelated field in order to pursue a new career.

Or, similarly, this student has their Bachelor’s degree, but wants to take their career in a different direction. Instead of getting another Bachelor’s degree, this student wants to earn a Master’s degree in a related field, or in something entirely different. If the latter is the case, that particular second-career student is likely researching jobs first.

Their job title search will lead them to question what combination of degrees will lead to the job that they want. This student persona is not shy about going after something specific. They’ve already paid (for or are still paying off) their first degree; if they’re going to get additional schooling, it might as well hit all aspects of what they’re searching for.

For example, a student who has achieved his or her BA in Geography might feel as if they have hit a wall in their career. They bounced around after school unable to find the right job, and ended up taking a research position at their alma mater. Now, realizing they need some sort of specialization, this student is looking into the field of economics in hopes that they can apply a new degree to the foundation of geography that they already have to achieve their new dream job.

This journey requires a very specific marketing approach to make this persona feel that they are securely on the path to their new career in economic geography. What a second career student is likely looking for, regardless of the new degree they’re pursuing, is a smooth transition back into the professional world.

Mature First Time Student

Although this student falls under the category of continuing education, they are rather unlike the previous persona. They have some people in their lives who have had the college experience, while they themselves have been in the workforce for a number of years, probably working a job that they aren’t passionate about.

Having matured over time, this persona has thought seriously about postsecondary education and is doing their homework on student financing options, ROI on different degrees and programs, and are likely planning to work at least part-time while earning their degree.

According to a study by Georgetown University, “about 40 percent of undergraduates and 76 percent of graduate students work at least 30 hours a week.” Plus, around one fourth of all working learners are full-time students in addition to also working full-time.

This population is driven, but cautious. An example of an offer that might attract this persona would be the ability to try out classes before committing to a program and payment plan. As a an enrollment marketer, you must appeal to their need for security and transparency.

Learning Parents

Parents attending college have an incredibly unique set of obstacles and motivations. They have the foresight to see exactly how earning this degree will affect them financially, personally, socially, and otherwise.

When a learning parent is continuing their education, it is not just them going back to school—it is essentially their entire family. Learning parents are diving in with the understanding that going back to school while raising a family is going to be one of the most challenging things that they will ever do.

Parents young enough to have children who will be affected by their decision to further their education are likely to be at least somewhat tech savvy, if not very. Taking this into consideration in tandem with their desire for a flex-time school schedule makes this student persona a great candidate for online courses. According to a U.S. News and World Report statistic (2012-2013) moms made up 54 percent of bachelor students in 147 online programs.

In the modern world of higher education, which is emphasizing completion not for graduation rates but for actual acceleration in the working world, programs designed for this student persona will want to focus on retention. The learning parent persona comes with it’s own set of risks, and showing high rates of retention will help the student feel comfortable in their decision to pursue a degree.

The Non-Traditional Advantage

This grouping of graduate and continuing education personas are a combination of working individuals seeking a career change, parents facing the challenge of going to school while caring for a family, and students over 25 who are making the informed decision to better their lives and prioritize their education. They want smooth transitions, flexible schedules, and a clear path from their program of study to their dream job.

By creating content that appeals to each of these personas in way that facilitates their different paths towards enrollment, your team is sure to appeal to a broader base of prospective students and increase your pool of applicants.

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