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Recruitment strategies for international college students

interstride logo by Interstride
November 27, 2022

As universities are seeing an increase in international student enrollment following COVID-19, it’s an ideal time for universities to revisit their recruitment strategies. The Institute of International Education reported that online recruitment strategies and international student ambassador programs as having the highest impact on increasing enrollment.

It’s no surprise that international education is competitive. With rising tuition costs, international students want to know how they will be supported along their entire student journey – from admissions to graduation to post-grad work. Universities must prioritize international student recruitment and go the extra mile to provide prospects with a positive recruiting experience. Trying to meet recruitment and enrollment goals can be complex and overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this post on the most effective recruiting strategies for international students in the US.

Challenges of recruiting international students

Universities are already doing a lot to recruit international students. In order to get high school students’ contact information, universities leverage college fairs, PSAT or PACT scores and contact information, and even buy email lists. According to a report by David Wheeler and CISCO, “the College Board and ACT Inc., were the dominant sources for names of prospective students for many years.” However, in recent years, there has been a shift in which less universities are requiring these tests and less students are taking them. Students are also opting not to release their contact information to colleges which impacts recruitment and subsequently enrollment numbers.

As a result, less international students are being reached through these traditional marketing efforts. Instead, international students are using a variety of sources to gain information about potential colleges and universities in the US:

  • Social media
  • Websites
  • Online news sites
  • Friends and family

International applicants, now more than ever, have the power to choose when and how to connect with universities. Prospective students want to connect early and often throughout the recruitment process. Decision making is on their terms and admissions offices must step up if they want to recruit more international students.

“The rise of early-action admissions, which award non-binding decisions to applicants early in the recruitment cycle, means admissions officers have a long courtship period in which they must entice admitted students to enroll.”
– David Wheeler in the CISCO report

Best practices for recruiting international college students

To get the best results, no matter what student recruitment strategies you use, you need to know your intended audience and their needs. Tailor your student recruitment strategy based on the international prospects that you want to attract. This requires understanding what international students are asking about so that you can effectively guide them throughout the entire recruitment process.

International students are not only concerned about finding the right education. They also want to know they will be supported along the international student journey from navigating the complex US immigration system to academic and career support. Here are two student recruitment strategies you should implement to best engage and convert international prospects to boost enrollment:

1) Use student ambassadors

Student ambassadors are current students who proactively engage with prospective students from around the world. University ambassadors help recruit students by advocating for their university through genuine peer-to-peer interactions in-person and online. They can speak to the international student experience in a way that an admissions or enrollment officer cannot.

International students want to feel welcomed and accepted by their university regardless of where they are from. Research shows that universities can cultivate this sense of belonging through meaningful peer mentoring to nurture international students’ needs. Instead of matching ambassadors with who you think is a good fit, give international students, prospects, and parents the power to select and connect with a university ambassador of their choice. This allows prospective students from any country to connect with current international students on their terms which helps foster a positive recruitment experience.

2) Optimize university and academic web pages

Whether for the university, department, or academic program, web pages are typically designed for internal use (professors, students, etc) rather than for marketing purposes. This represents a missed opportunity for recruiting international college students. One of the biggest challenges that prospective students face is choosing the right program, and they are turning to university websites to help them make the best choice. Because university and academic websites are not tailored to them, international students often struggle to find the crucial information they need and end up feeling discouraged and frustrated.

Interstride research shows that providing clear information about academic programs and admissions processes can increase international student enrollment. However, re-designing a website can be costly and time-consuming. Interstride makes it easy for universities to engage and support international students with a dynamic, easy-to-navigate portal that can be plugged directly into your university’s website so that you don’t have to do any website overhaul. Improve international student recruitment and schedule a free demo to learn more about Interstride’s new tool created specifically for international students.

A new solution for boosting international student enrollment

Take your international student recruitment strategy to the next level with a digital student ambassador program. As a leader in the international student space, Interstride can help you identify, engage, and convert international student prospects. We make it easy for you to guide international students throughout their entire admissions and academic journey. Using our state-of-the-art technology to foster genuine peer-to-peer interactions online, you can show prospective students that they are valued and cared for at your institution before they even apply.