In our previous post we took a look at the 9 most common reasons why international students discard one university in favour of another when choosing where to study abroad.
Today, we will take a slightly different perspective. We will show you the usual pattern students follow during that process. They go through 3 stages: research, narrowing down the list of viable options, and eventually choosing a university.
This pattern is a great checklist which you, as an educator, can use to measure up your own institution’s communication efforts and effectiveness as part of your international student recruitment strategies. The more you score, the higher chances are that students will choose you, and not the competition!
Emphasis on university curriculum for international students
One of the most common criteria students use when researching universities online is sorting them by the programmes they offer. Being in the top 500 universities in the world definitely builds a strong case. But even if you haven’t managed to make the cut, the programmes and courses that you are proud of should be presented in a way that will help international students find you, preferably among the top search results on Google. Consult with a SEO specialist or with a content strategist who will help you showcase your university’s best courses on the web in the most effective manner.
Visual representation of financial aid/scholarships
Simply listing out the scholarship opportunities for international students on your website is not enough. They will much better appreciate it if you provide clear, step-by-step explanations, video tutorials as well as infographics. Ideally, all this information should be readily available in more than one language. It may seem surprising, but often enough, international students are confused not about what scholarships they can get, but how to get them. Make it easy for them to study in your institution.
Well-optimized information about admissions
Think of all the steps students have to go complete during the admissions process at your university. Is there any weak point when they might have to call or email someone for more information or help? If the answer is yes, then it’s that one call or email too much. Focus on the process flow: is there any way to reduce the amount of steps the students have to complete? Optimize and try to make it possible for students to go through the process without external help.
Recommendations from other international students
Current international students are your best brand ambassadors. Their willingness to stand up and promote your university as a good place to be is an essential tool for attracting even more international students. Here you can act with freedom and creativity – introduce a contest that offers awards or bonuses for creating a video about life on your campus. Launch a gamified app that enables students to share experiences during their study. Encourage university staff to foster dialogue through extra-curricular activities. Become visible on social media, build a community and engage with it.
Culture and climate
International students love new experiences, but a cultural shock doesn’t go well with unrealistic expectations about the local natural landscape or surprises about the weather. From day one international students should be provided with open and precise descriptions of what is to be expected, ideally voiced by other students coming from the same region. Explaining how to prepare for snow to a student coming from Finland might be counterproductive, but a Taiwanese student will definitely appreciate the support.
Opportunities to meet professors before admission
Academic staff is the face of the university, so try and engage your brightest stars in the process of communication with prospective international students. Make videos, promote podcasts or introduce books written by professors at your institution. Help international students know their mentors way before meeting them and see how this will positively affect your enrollment numbers.
So, are you making it easier for international students to find you? Here is our checklist:
▢ A content strategy that highlights the best courses for international students
▢ Infographics and videos in different languages, providing information about financial aid and scholarships
▢ Optimisation of the admissions process: as few steps as possible, with none or just a couple of emails and calls
▢ A clear system for students to express their opinion and share their experience (contests, apps, events)
▢ Description of local climate (both weather and culture), presented by students from various regions
▢ Highlighting the biggest academic achievements through videos, courses, podcasts and books
How much did you score?
ETN Focus Workshops are educational events focused on diversifying your international student body. We connect local student recruitment experts with universities and institutions from all over the world.
If you are interested in recruiting international students from less explored markets, check out our events.