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The state of international student recruitment in higher education

interstride logo by Interstride
December 1, 2022

A report released by CISCO shows that international student recruitment in higher education is in flux as we continue to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and changes in student behavior.

Prospective international students are becoming less open to traditional marketing. Instead, they want to interact with universities on their terms when choosing a school. Professionals working in university admissions must find a balance between virtual and in-person recruitment and engagement activities.

While the CISCO report covers the state of recruitment for both domestic and international students, we have pulled out the information most relevant to international recruitment. If you’re interested in learning about a new admissions tool to engage international students and boost enrollment, contact Interstride for a free demo.

What university admissions need to know

  • The cost of recruiting undergraduate students at private and public institutions in the US has increased by 32%. These costs may continue to increase as the college-age population decreases, and universities are forced to compete for a smaller pool of prospective students.
  • With the increase in non-binding early-action admissions, colleges and universities have a longer courtship period. This means more time after sending out acceptance letters to show prospective students that their school is the best choice. International students have not committed to the university yet. Failing to effectively engage admitted applicants during this period could cause universities to lose potential students. Focusing on courting admitted students can improve yield, which is the proportion of admitted students that enroll.
  • More than ever, applicants expect quick responses to their questions about the university, the specific programs they are interested in, and the admissions process. Universities can rise to meet this need by adding an online chat or engagement feature to their website and updating departmental and academic program web pages with prospective students in mind.
  • Prospective domestic and international students are more likely to use websites, social media, and word-of-mouth to gain information about your institution than they are to engage with official marketing materials or recruitment staff. They are also more informed than they were five years ago, so there is increased pressure for universities to step up in how they’re engaging with prospective students.

“Students have a wealth of information at their disposal, so they are far more informed than they may have been five years ago. Somehow, though, some of that information is in the form of misinformation, so they may be drowning in information, starving for wisdom.”

– Satyajit Dattagupta, chief enrollment officer and senior vice chancellor at Northeastern University

  • College Board and ACT are no longer the main sources of leads for admissions offices. This is due to the decline in test-taking and the uptick in the number of students opting not to release their information. Privacy laws are also making it more difficult for colleges to collect student data and contact information. Colleges are responding to this shift by seeking out new and creative ways to generate and engage leads.
  • More colleges and universities are focusing on digital interactions in their marketing strategies and analyzing online behaviors in order to effectively market to prospective applicants.
  • Smaller colleges are also forming partnerships to recruit international students collectively. This gives each college in the collective a wider range of students to market to. For example, Colorado College works with 13 other liberal arts colleges to attract students to this type of higher ed institution in the US.
  • The cost of higher education in the US is at an all-time high, so affordability is a key factor in many families’ decisions about college. Therefore, rewarding more financial aid can be an effective way to recruit international students and boost enrollment rates. Make sure to clearly market your financial aid packages to international students online to signal to families that the institution can help offset the higher tuition rates.
  • Universities are starting to use student ambassadors to engage prospective students. Ambassadors are current students who can share real-life experiences about what it’s like at that school and provide unscripted answers to applicants’ questions. Who better to advocate for the school to potential international students than its current international students? Leveraging university ambassadors is a great way to sell your institution’s value to international students throughout the entire application process.

A new solution for boosting international student enrollment

With the fluctuating state of international student recruitment, traditional recruitment methods are no longer enough. Prospective students want fast access to information and a meaningful connection to the school. 

Interstride’s new tool empowers university admissions to seamlessly connect and engage with international student prospects. Admissions staff and university ambassadors can share accurate information and quickly answer questions from international students around the world. Leveraging our portal helps you identify the most engaged candidates and make data-informed decisions to best recruit them. Reach out today to learn how Interstride can help you boost international student recruitment.