Guide to CollegeVine Student Personas

CollegeVine personas classify students into one of six distinct archetypes based on their college motivations. We use this data on our platform to provide better guidance for our students and enable our college partners to personalize their outreach and presentation to students.

→ Quick Overview

Students have substantial differences in what they want from their college experience, which has a strong impact on their ultimate college choices. In this post, we’ll go over the six CollegeVine student personas, what they’re looking for in a college, and strategies you can implement to communicate and build affinity with these students.



Students responded to our College Preferences Survey, allowing us to understand their goals and interests. Each student’s responses corresponded to a primary persona, which we use when analyzing the distribution across all personas. Each student has a percentage “match” with each persona, however. 

You can see an example of a specific student’s profile and their match with the personas below.

The most common primary personas may change over time, depending on the students who respond to the survey. That said, the current breakdown as of March 2022 is:

Striver Connector Activist Explorer Pragmatist Learner
21.5% 19.9% 18.2% 17.6% 13.1% 9.7%

Overview of the Personas


→ The Striver

The striver is looking for colleges that can help them achieve the lofty goals they have for their future. These students are looking for a college with a strong reputation, and want to build a peer network of students with similar aspirations. 

They particularly value a college with a strong base of successful and influential faculty and alumni within their region and the country at large. While on campus, these conscientious students are looking for opportunities for professional development, mentorship, and networking. At many colleges, strivers aim to participate in honors or advanced level coursework and access unique opportunities via special programs. 

They specifically value schools that have a strong track record of post-graduation student success, and the career advising, programs, and opportunities to help them on that path. And as they look forward to their future, they hope to use college as a springboard to a career in a high earning or competitive field.


Communicating with Strivers

Alumni spotlight: Showcase 2-3 alumni who have achieved a high degree of success after graduation. These can be more recent alumni who are on a strong trajectory, or older alumni who are at the very top of their fields.

Alumni network overview: Highlight data on your alumni network, including the types of industries they work in, their geographic distribution, and more. Visualizations and graphics can make this data more legible for your audience.

Student honors: Showcase any special awards or recognitions that students are able to achieve on campus. These can be purely academic or more holistically determined.

Building Affinity with Strivers

Set up an alumni panel: The best version of this session has successful alumni from different backgrounds and distinct fields.

Host a resume development session: A session for prospective applicants (run by career services) that walks through how to build a professional resume and LinkedIn profile.

Host a professional grad school pathway presentation: A session walking through the pathway that students will take through undergrad to a professional graduate program (e.g. med school or law school).

Facilitate a meeting with a career advisor: This meet will help prospective students understand the career support and resources offered at the college.

→ The Connector

The connector is looking for colleges that offer a well-rounded and enjoyable social experience alongside their academic journey. These extroverted students tend to value a campus environment that maximizes their opportunity to socialize with students from all walks of life, while still enabling them to pursue their academic goals. 

While on campus, they plan to build social connections through clubs and extracurricular opportunities, their classes, and their living environment. Connectors also value the ability to attend large sporting events and the associated social opportunities they present. 

While the social experience is paramount in their choice of a college, a meaningful academic experience and progress towards career goals are still extremely important. However, their preferences for academic and career development are much more flexible and varied. 

Finally, as connectors look forward to their future, they place a similar emphasis on the social environment; they value a strong relationship with their coworkers above other factors when choosing a career.


Communicating with Connectors

Gameday experience: Highlight the unique game day experiences and traditions for your strongest sports teams. This can include the success of the team, unique traditions, or rituals like tailgating.

Student groups and social life: Highlight 2-3 student groups (including Greek life if inclined) that serve a primarily social purpose. Share the perspective of students in those groups and how that helped them find community on campus.

Collaborative coursework: Showcase courses in different majors that are centered around collaborative work between students. Share the perspective of students in those courses on how that enhanced their learning experience.

Building Affinity with Connectors

Give away free tickets to a sporting event: The sporting event in question should be a popular spectator sport (football, basketball, baseball, or ice hockey at most institutions)

Host a student social life panel: The best version of this event has students with diverse interests and backgrounds, from athletics to niche clubs.

Put on a student group fair: This is typically held during an accepted students day and features tables with representatives from student groups.

Set up a virtual mixer for accepted or prospective students: Hold a virtual event to allow small groups of accepted or prospective students to get to know each other (similar to orientation).

→ The Activist

The activist is looking for colleges with a strong track record on social justice and inclusion. They value a campus environment with lots of ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity. 

These progressive students seek to create a welcoming and friendly environment for their LGBTQIA+ peers, as well as for students from other marginalized backgrounds. While on campus, they hope to find a community of like-minded peers and faculty with similar political values. 

Activists also seek coursework and student groups that reckon seriously with social justice regardless of discipline. And while this effect may dissipate over time, activists are currently deeply concerned with health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, and place a heavy value on support and resources for mental health concerns. 

As they look forward to their futures, the primary concern of activists is finding a career that allows them to have a positive impact on the world around them.


Communicating with Activists

Activism opportunities: Highlight 4-5 activism or social-justice oriented student groups on your campus. If you can, aim to spotlight unique affinity groups as well as the tangible impact student groups have had in changing policies, raising awareness, or driving charitable donations.

Welcoming community on campus: Share the perspective of 2-3 students from a marginalized background who feel that your institution has created a welcoming environment for students like them. Their stories should illustrate the formal efforts of institutional policy and faculty, as well as the impact of the broader student community.

Keeping students safe from COVID-19: Showcase the approach your institution has taken to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you can, point to the track record of your school in minimizing cases, vaccinations, and keeping the community around you safe as well.

Building Affinity with Activists

Set up a student diversity panel: The best version of this panel features students that highlight the ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic diversity of your campus.

Host an affinity group presentation: This can either feature a single affinity group or representatives from multiple affinity groups.

Set up a faculty panel: This should feature faculty members discussing how social justice is built into their curriculum and teaching philosophy.

→ The Explorer

The explorer is looking for a flexible college experience that is tailored around their specific needs. They value smaller colleges that offer a close-knit community, or a smaller community within a larger university with similar properties. 

Explorers need the freedom to investigate several different academic and career paths before making concrete choices about their major and career, and prize flexibility in switching majors and managing prerequisites. While on campus, they want to build strong relationships with professors and advisors and get value out of smaller, discussion based courses with those faculty members. 

Outside of the classroom, explorers also look to investigate different academic and career tracks via accessible clubs and extracurricular opportunities. They also tend to lean on college-provided resources for emotional and mental support. 

While explorers do have loosely-defined aspirations for their career, they plan to use college to identify the right path for their future.


Communicating with Explorers

Student case studies: Highlight the story of 2-3 students who ended up changing their majors and figured out their intended career thanks to the flexibility offered by your institution

Professor mentorship: Showcase 2-3 professor-student mentorship relationships that helped the student overcome obstacles or achieve their intended goals. Try to feature perspective from both the students and the professors

Campus community: Share the perspective of 2-3 students who feel that your institution has created a strong community for students like them. Their stories should illustrate the formal community structure like housing communities, as well as the impact of the broader student culture.

Building Affinity with Explorers

Facilitate a presentation from an academic advisor: This should highlight academic flexibility and advising, and can be part of a broader info session or a discrete session by itself.

Set up a student panel: Invite students from diverse backgrounds to discuss the campus community and culture.

Host an experiential learning info session: The best version of this info session features both students and faculty members associated with experiential learning opportunities on campus.

→ The Pragmatist

The pragmatist is looking to use college as a springboard into their future career. They value a college that has a strong track record of helping students like them find internships and good jobs in their field. 

Due to that lens, pragmatists place heightened value on the finances of their college journey, carefully considering both the cost of attending a school and the ROI they can expect after graduating. 

While on campus, they are looking for a strong program in their specific intended major. Beyond reputation, their major program and department need to serve as a launching pad for graduate education and professional development. 

They also value opportunities for experiential and practical learning, with a bonus if they can translate those opportunities into course credit. Because so many pragmatists have immediate career or educational aspirations, they are often explicitly looking for an academic environment that allows them to earn strong grades.


Communicating with Pragmatists

Student outcomes spotlight: Highlight the success of your graduates by presenting metrics and information regarding graduation, job placement, and ROI at the institutional and major-specific level. Visualizations and graphics can make the data more legible for your audience.

Career advising: Showcase the story of 2-3 students who leveraged career development resources on your campus to find a job in their field after graduation. Try to highlight both their use of career services and advising resources, as well as programs and opportunities on campus that helped them build experience and their resume.

Experiential learning programs: Showcase opportunities on campus for experiential learning. Be sure to highlight the ways practical learning is woven into the classroom experience while also surfacing supplemental opportunities and programs such as co-ops, externships, and more.

Building Affinity with Pragmatists

Set up an alumni panel: Invite successful alumni from distinct fields to speak about their professional paths.

Host an experiential learning info session: This event should feature both students and faculty members associated with experiential learning opportunities on campus.

→ The Learner

The Learner is looking for colleges that allow them to deeply explore their academic interests and passions. They are looking for a university and program(s) of study with a strong academic reputation. 

Their ideal campus culture is deeply intellectual, and they prize opportunities for scholarly debate, enrichment, and research. Learners are looking for a roster of courses that enables deep exploration of key themes in their field and interdisciplinary applications of knowledge. These students want to maintain strong relationships with their professors and teachers, and place a lot of value on a faculty research experience. 

At the same time, they are looking for an engaging classroom experience and are not put off by rigorous coursework and academics. Through their work in college, learners aim to develop a deep and passionate understanding of their field. 

After graduating, they plan to build on their undergraduate experience in grad school and beyond with a future career in academia or research.


Communicating with Learners

Courses: Highlight 4-5 interesting courses that your school offers in their major program. Focus on unique or interdisciplinary that are relatively unique to your school and department.

Faculty spotlight: Showcase 2-3 faculty members in the department associated with the student’s intended major. Highlight that faculty member’s research, work outside of academia, and teaching philosophy.

Grad school pathway: Showcase how your school positions students for phd programs and a future career in academia. If available try to highlight specific statistics like placement rates, the number of students who move on to grad school, etc.

Building Affinity with Learners

Facilitate a conversation with a student or professor: Connect the prospective student(s) to a current student or professor in their major department. This can be one-on-one, or in a small group.

Host a major-specific info session: The best version of this session has both an admissions representative and a faculty member or department head.

Allow a prospective student to sit in on a class: This can be done live or via a recorded session.

Final Thoughts

Leveraging CollegeVine personas can help you personalize your recruitment efforts and better connect with students.

To explore prospective students, sign up for CollegeVine’s free recruiting dashboard, which allows you to view student profiles and build one-on-one connections with our diverse student base. 

And for more college enrollment insights, subscribe to our mailing list below, where we’ll send weekly updates! 

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