We all know that creating a sense of belonging and helping students see themselves on your campus are surefire ways to start building a solid foundation for enrollment and success. But unfortunately, internal barriers can often lead to missed opportunities to meet student expectations. According to the Connected Student Report, “Seventy-eight percent of students expect their experience to be personalized,” but “65% of staff report that it is hard to get the data they need to help students due to organizational silos/bureaucracy.” That’s why it’s so important to make sure you have the right tools in place (like a centralized CRM) to support a personalized experience throughout the student journey.
While we talk a lot about personalizing your active outreach, a tool that often gets overlooked is the student portal. The portal has the potential to engage students from application to graduation, so making it a place students want to go to access relevant, personalized content is key to successfully personalizing the student experience.
Ready to take on personalizing your student portal? Here are four tips to get you started:
Start with the basics
The first step in leveraging your portal is making sure first that you have the right technology in place. As you’re exploring options for your portal, you should ask a few basic questions — like “Can i customize it for every student?” “Does it allow for merge fields and conditional content and video and pictures?” (If you’re using the TargetX Student Portal, the answer is yes to all of the above!) And more importantly, do you have the data in the correct places to allow you to leverage what you know about a student?
Second, make sure you have students using your student portal. Of course, the better your content in the portal is, the more students will use it, but inviting them to the portal is a really good first step. If you can leverage the portal as part of the application and enrollment process even better. Students will come to know your portal as the place to go for relevant information and if you can keep that up throughout the student experience you’ve created a great channel for communication for your students.
Know your audience
Think through your student journey and ask “what kind of information are students looking for when they’re using the portal?” It’s helpful to think through a variety of ways to segment your student population and prioritize from there.
A few options to consider are segmenting by major, funnel stage, club interests or even location. But are there other ways you can split this group that are specific to your institution? Maybe scholarship recipients or an honors program? Knowing your audience, segmenting them, and understanding why they’re coming to the portal is critical in creating the types of content that will ensure students come back to the portal again and again.
Show them you know them
Now that we’ve got our audience segmented, and ideally some great content created for each segment, it’s important to make sure you’re properly populating your portal. Although it probably goes without saying, I am going to say it — leverage merge fields and conditional content whenever it makes sense.
Do you know what major a student is interested in? Include content specific to their major. Or are there specific messages just for commuter students or students living on campus? The Connected Student Report also found that “78% of students say personalized messages help convey that their college/ university cares about their success.” And if you’ve made a good technology choice, populating this type of personalized, hyper-relevant content should be an easy way to personalize your student experience and help your students feel supported.
Use Visual aids to share your campus story
Giving students the information they want is great, but giving it to them in a format they want is even better. In the 2020 Digital Admissions Report we found that “72% of students said that college videos had a major or some influence on their college search.”
Leveraging pictures and video is a great way to give students a sense of campus atmosphere, and helps them see themselves on your campus. It’s also a great way to familiarize your students with key people on campus in a way that meets students where they are.
I hope these tips provide you with a few quick ways to leverage your portal to personalize the student experience. If you’re looking for more, the team at USC Palmetto is leveraging their portal for current students to support their success. They gave an awesome presentation at the 2020 Virtual Summit and a recording of that session is available here.