Personalization at Scale: Tailoring to Gen Alpha in Higher Education

by Noor Mah-E
Elgin Community College
Elgin, IL


Last week, I chatted with Shahwar, my cousin-sister, who is still finalizing her college plans. She was excited to tell me about her encounters with AI-driven chatbots on some college websites. She couldn’t stop talking about how these smart bots were responding to her queries promptly and customizing the information to fit exactly what she was looking for. It made me ask myself if we are engaging with Gen Alpha in this way at our institution.


Defining Generation Alpha

Who is Gen Alpha? They can be defined as forward-thinking digital natives­ – the first generation born entirely in the 21st century. From their first breath, they are intertwined with a hyper-connected digital world – where boundaries between virtual and real blur. This generation has become the primary focus of community colleges.


Personalization with AI Driven Chatbots

As I think of students like Shahwar, who have plenty of questions about college and want to receive answers in real time, I ask myself, “how can we be available all the time?” If we don’t answer a question while we have their attention, we may miss out on that one person enrolling in college. As the virtual assistants who can ‘talk’ to students online 24/7, AI chatbots are changing the game in higher education.


Gen Alpha expects to get fast answers online, and these tools do just that. With AI, chatbots can give personalized answers quickly, whether it’s about different courses, what life is like on campus, or help with applying to college. And it’s not just cool tech – it makes students feel like the college gets them and cares about their questions. It’s no surprise that more and more colleges are using AI chatbots to connect with students in a modern and meaningful way.


How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Can Drive Personalization

AI is revolutionizing the way colleges connect with their audiences. By sifting through large datasets, AI can pinpoint patterns and preferences among prospective students, offering a deep dive into their digital footprints. This capability allows us to tailor communications, course recommendations, and even student support services to match each individual’s unique needs and interests.


Personalization Beyond AI Chatbots

Personalization has undoubtedly become a linchpin in higher ed targeting Gen Alpha. However, AI chatbots are not the only tools leveraging this approach. TikTok, for instance, is known for its uncanny ability to display content that precisely matches user interests, employing similar personalization tactics. Furthermore, the flood of personalized emails we receive daily highlights how marketers strive to tailor content and information to individual users.


Is your institution meeting Gen Alpha’s expectations by advancing personalization? If not, it might be time.


Noor is the digital marketing specialist at Elgin Community College in Elgin, Illinois. He is a certified digital marketing professional with a bachelor’s in marketing and an MBA in business analytics.

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