SparkThink@JAM Snapshots

Month: July 2024

Whether or not you were able to join us for this year’s SparkThink@JAM, we certainly hope you’ll make room for us in your travel plans for the cycle ahead. Please mark your calendar and plan to join us in Nashville, TN for SparkThink@JAM 2025 from Wednesday, May 28–Friday, May 30, 2025!

In the meantime, we’re still reminiscing about our favorite moments from this year’s event. We’ve included some of the best memories from this year’s gathering below. Flip through the photos to catch a glimpse of your colleagues who were there, and then tap into your FOMO to make sure you don’t miss next year’s event. We can’t wait to see you there!

The Value of Graduate Applicant Personas

The Value of Graduate Applicant Personas

Identifying the Unique Needs and Motivations of Today’s Graduate Students

Matt RetchlessBy Matt Retchless|July 9, 2024

Understanding the unique experiences, expectations, and challenges of individual graduate students is critical for building a successful recruitment plan. Graduate student persona modeling — the process of identifying the key characteristics and differing needs of various types of potential students — helps graduate admission departments see the prospective student enrollment journey through a nuanced lens, making it easier to target the right students with the right messaging in order to motivate them through the enrollment funnel.

Through the development of detailed personas, everyone from faculty to administrators gets a clearer picture of what will motivate these students to act. This insight helps stakeholders throughout a college or university to tailor support both inside and outside the classroom, ensuring every program, policy, and piece of communication not only resonates but also enriches the student’s academic and personal growth.

Identifying Graduate Student Needs

Motivations to return to school or to matriculate directly to graduate school from undergraduate will differ for every prospective student. Career goals, personal fulfillment, and research opportunities are just a few of the reasons students may pursue a graduate degree.

Along with those goals come challenges and concerns. Financial considerations, balancing commitments, and choosing the right program are common concerns among those considering graduate studies. Persona modeling can help institutions meet the prospective student’s needs as well as address any objections the prospective student may have in taking the next step into graduate school.

Graduate recruitment persona modeling also helps institutions make data-driven decisions. It provides institutions with a strong base of information to make evidence-based decisions in not only marketing, but also program development and student services. This alignment enables the crafting of stage-specific strategies that effectively guide prospective students through their decision-making process.

Augmenting Messaging for Specific Personas

Let’s take a closer look at a commonly known persona, the career changer. Generally speaking, there is usually a wide age range for this persona, but let’s call it 35–50 years old. This group is making a life-changing decision by pivoting from their current field to another in a later stage in their life.

When speaking with career changers, the institution needs to understand the challenges facing this prospective student. The key to reaching this group is empathetic and supportive messaging that recognizes the challenges and stresses of such a significant life transition. Communicating about program structure, timelines, and institutional resources that will be available to them early in the cycle will be critical to help best address their needs.

Journey Mapping

After persona models are developed, the following phase typically involves charting their path through the enrollment funnel, an approach that is referred to as journey mapping.

Journey mapping can complement the persona modeling process by helping to improve marketing strategies, the student experience, and retention. It helps institutions gain better insight into what graduate students are looking for throughout their enrollment journey and how to tailor messaging to them in each distinct stage of the funnel.

When journey mapping is combined with persona modeling, it can be a powerful recruitment tool that can better help institutions maximize their resources. For additional insights on persona modeling and journey mapping, please see our previous blog on the topic.

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Building student personas for graduate recruitment is critical for institutions to hit enrollment goals. It not only supports the process of developing a market strategy, but also helps us better understand the psychological aspects of the student the institution is recruiting, while having data-driven metrics to help develop a target audience. Developing these personas can set up both the institution and student for success as they make their way through the enrollment funnel.

When you’re ready to discuss how to develop and operationalize personas for your specific graduate programs, don’t hesitate to reach out. Spark451’s enrollment and marketing strategy pros will be happy to walk you through the process.