Personas for effective Student and Alumni Engagement

Personas for effective Student and Alumni Engagement


In recent years, the use of personas has become a common practice embraced by leading companies in the corporate sector for effective communication and marketing.  Colleges and universities can also greatly benefit from the use of personas to facilitate customer acquisition – in this case, student acquisition – as part of marketing, and recruitment initiatives. Outlined below are likely personas in higher education and how identifying and segmenting them based on your individual institutional needs would focus and strengthen your overall student engagement efforts.

Colleges and universities also have opportunities to use personas in contexts beyond traditional marketing to recruit student. Persona-based messaging can be used to maximize enrolled student success and then to smoothly facilitate alumni engagement.

Personas in higher education – How are they defined?

Defining Student Personas in higher education

In Higher Education, there is an opportunity to gather information from a group that is very close at hand – current students. Student records, one-on-one discussions, focus groups, and surveys of current students can be easy and inexpensive ways to collect input on personas.

Existing historical and pre-college data can also be very useful. For instance, analysis of socio-economic demographics, academic testing performance, high school grades, and other known information about students who were a great match for the school can provide important insights into characteristics that are common among successful students. International students further based on the country of origin, physically challenged students etc. need also to be segmented into personas for specific communication, tracking and performance metrics.  One student can belong to more than one persona.

Once the first set of personas are identified you can get your segmented data for business intelligence.  You may want to occasionally review the personas and add or remove a persona depending on the situation.

Recommended approach: Start simple

One advantage often enjoyed by colleges and universities is that distinction between different student types and alumni are often well-established at the institution. Most schools are already keenly aware of characteristics and behavioral patterns among student subgroups. Some of the sample student personas in higher education are as follows:

  • First-Generation Students
  • International Students
  • Student Athletes
  • Military Veterans
  • Adult Learners
  • Online Learners

Alumni is the most valuable constituent of the institution and it is important to leverage their strengths for the benefit of current students from mentoring to fund raising.  Alumni, based on your specific needs, may be categorized as those in research or corporate employment, seniority levels in the organization, employment by industry, entrepreneurs by industry etc.

Student personas in higher education

These higher education persona groupings can be a great starting point for an institution interested in taking a persona-based approach to student engagement in different stages of the student lifecycle. By starting with some of these groups, a school can be assured that the personas are relevant and commonly understood across the campus by staff and faculty. If necessary, the groups can be expanded in the future as staff members acquire experience and understanding of how persona campaigns can be used most advantageously at the institution.

Tracking success, progression and retention of students belonging to each student persona reveals invaluable information for feedback to the marketing and recruitment department.  This gives them great insights into proper allocation of the scarce marketing budget for overall recruitment success and student success, thus building a strong brand equity for the institution.  Mentoring and participation of alumni can easily be understood by tracking alumni persona performance metrics.


Personas in the higher education sector can play a valuable role in the institutional success, in all phases of the student lifecycle be it applicant phase, student phase or alumni phase.

A real-time 360 view of the applicant, student or alumni in a student lifecycle CRM may be the best place to view the student or alumni persona with accompanying dynamic reports that reveals necessary insights for management and staff on where and how they should direct their efforts and budget for the best outcomes.

Student Lifecycle CRM

Engage2Serve is a company based in Austin, TX and Singapore that offers a unique SaaS CRM for colleges and universities and is installed in premier Singapore universities.