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International Student Recruiting

About the International Student Market

It is estimated that 3.5 million students are presently enrolled in a course of study outside their home country and this number grows by an average of 5% per year. A rising level of wealth across the world has allowed a growing number of families to consider education options outside their home country, a trend that shows constant growth.

The United States has been at the center of this desire for generations and today it remains the country with the largest number of foreign students (nearly 700,000 according to Open Doors). National initiatives like EducationUSA, and the Commerce Department’s Commercial Service education delegations and expositions help boost the image of Study in the USA, but it is an increasingly competitive market not only from the English speaking world (UK, Australia and Canada), but from countries like China and Malaysia which have seen rapid growth in their international student enrollments.

Graduate school and its related research enterprise, driven by initiatives like the Fulbright Program have fueled much of the success of the US in the global market. 20% of the international students in the USA are at 25 schools, all are classified as “Research One”. Nine of these top ranked schools are in the Big 10 athletic conference, four in the Ivy League and three in the Pac 12 conference. Nineteen of the 25 play Division 1 football, 24 of 25 play Division I basketball.

Beyond this tier, Open Doors identifies that 50% of the international students in the USA attend 125 schools and 80% are at just over 350 schools. There are over 2,400 regionally accredit colleges and universities granting bachelor’s degrees and above, 4,000 awarding two year degrees and above.

Building a Brand for Your University

If your institution is not in this elite group of 125 schools, you have some work to do. You are not a recognized brand overseas and you are in markets that are much more competitive than those of your local community. You are not only competing with schools across your state and across the US, you are competing with schools from around the world.

If you have attended a NAFSA or other international education conference, you have seen the choices for advertising and marketing seem endless. There are magazines, guidebooks, web sites, tour operators, fair promoters and advertising agencies all that will each provide you access to their slice of the world market. It is quite possible to spend millions of dollars and only scratch the surface of the global opportunity.

A growing number of institutions have sought the help of a partner to forge their international brand, either through English Language programs, Pathway programs or through agent representation. International student recruiting agents can provide a very cost effective way to build a brand from the ground up, or to reinforce a relatively unknown brand. In many cases, institutions that are reluctant to use agents for direct admissions find that using agents for the ESL institutes is a viable alternative.

An international brand is very different from your domestic brand. What drives international students to schools in the top tier is not the same message or the same image that drives to domestic population. Read Mark Shay’s essay on “How to build an overseas brand name for your college or university“ for more on this topic.

How to Build Winning Strategies for International Student Recruiting

Got a minute? Visit your institutions web site and pretend to be a prospective international student who has only recently heard of your institution. If your International Student web page begins with some statement about application requirements, TOEFL/IELTS scores and having transcripts evaluated, you need help. 

Mark Shay can provide that help with a thorough review of your international student recruiting practices, from the first impression to the first day on campus. He'll look at each step in the enrollment funnel which begins with understanding and establishing and declaring your brand, which then grows to generating awareness and interest, which results in an opportunity to capture leads, which are developed into candidates, which are then qualified as desirable applicants to draw them as enrollments and ultimately converting them to starts.

In the past, most foreign students have been so determined to come to US universities that they overcame all these institutional roadblocks and fought their way through the funnel. As competition increases today, success in foreign student recruiting needs as sophisticated and as engineered a process as your domestic admissions. If your funnel is clogged, has leaks or is just not cutting it, contact us we can help.