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How can alumni help international students?

interstride logo by Interstride
January 12, 2023

Alumni represent an underutilized resource for university admissions offices. They have more to offer their alma mater than just financial donations. Alumni are uniquely positioned to engage with prospective and current international students. They can share first-hand experiences, provide insight and guidance, and help admissions teams support students in the admissions process and throughout their entire academic journey.

When leveraged effectively, alumni can also have a positive impact on the university’s reputation, enrollment rates, and student retention rates. This blog explains how alumni help with student retention and provides concrete ways to engage alumni to boost international student enrollment.

Who are alumni?

University alumni are former students who have graduated from the school. Former students of the university include those who have:

  • Completed an undergraduate degree
  • Completed a graduate degree
  • Completed a non-degree program
  • Earned a certificate or credential

Alumni often have access to certain benefits and resources through their alma mater’s alumni association. An alumni association is an essential part of any growing or established institution to keep alumni connected to the university. These associations can organize events and networking opportunities for former and current students, as well as manage fundraising through alumni donations.

Why is alumni engagement important for universities?

Not only does engaging alumni provide a means for fundraising, it also offers incredible value for the university’s brand. Consistently engaging with alumni in positive ways can boost the university’s reputation globally. Proper alumni engagement can ultimately lead to more efficient support for international students throughout their entire student journey, from admissions to graduation. 

1) Recruitment

The evolving state of international student recruitment is becoming more competitive, and recruitment costs are increasing. International students and their families have voiced that they want to connect with existing students and alumni to help them understand and weigh whether a US college degree is worth the high tuition costs, immigration challenges, and career outcomes. In other words, does an American education provide a high return on investment?

Alumni can take an active role in the international student recruitment process to help prospects and families see the value of choosing a university in the US. They are uniquely positioned to resonate profoundly with students and to make a positive impact on their experiences. However, universities must actively engage alumni and identify the best representatives to include in the admissions process.

Learn more recruitment strategies for increasing international student enrollment from Interstride’s blog.

2) Representation

Diversity and inclusion are becoming more prominent selling points for prospective university students. Engaging alumni is a powerful tool to showcase your university’s diversity, but if you don’t stay connected with alumni, you won’t have much to show! One of the biggest challenges for international students studying in the US is lacking a sense of belonging. Alumni can represent the best references and most relatable people for international students to connect with. They can demonstrate the career outcomes of studying at your institution to convey the true value and quality of your university in a real way.

3) Retention

Low retention rates due to dropouts and transfers to other institutions decrease revenue for a university and damage its reputation. Engaging and leveraging alumni to support international students throughout their student journey can be very impactful. Alumni can provide mentorship and guidance on acclimating to American university life, offer advice on their academic journey, and even provide professional connections or opportunities in the future. By keeping alumni engaged, you can ensure that they will be available and willing to support current students when they need it. This can prevent international students from leaving your university when challenges arise.

How alumni can help international students

Admissions offices need to work with alumni associations to be actively in touch with the school’s alumni network. When alumni are engaged, they can take action to support international students in various ways depending on where students are in their higher education journey.

Prospective Students (Admissions Stage)

We already know that prospective international students want to connect with existing students and alumni. When universities do not effectively facilitate those connections, prospective students will seek out information themselves through informal or personal networks (e.g. friends, family, classmates) and social media (i.e. LinkedIn). With these methods, students may have a difficult time getting the accurate information they need or even come across negative reviews of your university.

Additionally, admissions teams miss out on key insights regarding what prospects are asking about. Having this information available to you can help you tailor a more effective recruitment strategy. Admissions offices can bridge these gaps by actively connecting alumni with international prospects. Focus on opportunities for authentic interactions through student ambassador programs and online messaging and engagement platforms.

Here are some ways that alumni can help prospective international students:

  • Provide advice on how to prepare a strong application
  • Share about their own experiences as international students
  • Speak honestly about the challenges of being an international student and how to overcome them
  • Share information about specific degree programs
  • Share their positive career outcomes as a result of studying at your institution

Existing and Graduating Students

Existing international students often need support navigating university services and adjusting to life in a new country. Alumni can share practical recommendations for housing, insurance, building community, and more to help ease the transition of coming to the US for the first time. Alumni can also support international students academically by sharing useful resources and services on- or off-campus.

International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) and Career Centers at the university should work collaboratively and help connect current international students to alumni who work in the industry they are interested in. Alumni are valuable sources of job market information. They may have insight into how international students can leverage their US education to gain more career opportunities, and even help them build their professional networks by introducing them to their colleagues. In the best case scenario, alumni can potentially refer current and graduating international students to internships and job opportunities.

Leverage alumni more effectively with Interstride

Interstride’s engagement tool helps you leverage alumni to boost recruitment and retention of international students. The platform provides prospects with opportunities to connect with alumni ambassadors, ask questions, and access expertly-crafted resources. International students can choose to speak to alumni from their home country, ones who majored in a field of study they are interested in, or speak directly with admissions officers. Contact Interstride today for a demo to learn how you can engage alumni to help international students through their higher education journey from admissions to graduation.