The U.S. is home to the largest population of international students in the world. And, up until recently, the number of new international students arriving on U.S. college campuses each year has been climbing higher. However, it appears that the trend might be over.
According to the 2017 Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education (IIE), new international student enrollment in US was down 3.3% in Fall 2016. That drop was followed by a steeper 6.9% decline the following year (Fall 2017).
The most recent Open Doors report (2018) confirms that this is not just a blip:
“new student enrollments fell by 6.6 percent in 2017/18, corroborating findings from the 2017 fall enrollment survey and continuing a slowing or downward trend first observed in the 2015/16 academic year.”
What’s the reason for the reversal?
Analysis by the Migration Policy Institute attributes the decline noted in the 2017 fall enrollment survey to a number of factors, including: visa denials and delays, increasing cost of higher education in the U.S., an uncertain social and political climate, and concerns about securing a job after graduation.
That’s a lot of head wind. Add in concerted efforts by schools in other countries to increase their share of international students, and it’s easy to see that American schools are going to have to work harder to retain their international prospects.
So, what can your school do to better your odds of winning over students from other countries? Glad you asked.
3 Ways to Win Over International Students
As with any audience you are hoping to win over, you need a well-crafted, tailored marketing approach based on the identified needs of your audience members. So, what do international college students look for while skimming your higher ed website?
To begin with, they want to feel welcome and wanted on your campus. They’ll also benefit from an easy-to-follow, step-by-step application process that takes into account all the complexities of international education and travel. Last, but definitely not least, your prospective international students will want to know that there is a campus or nearby community that can give them a taste of home when they’re feeling homesick.
Personalize For Country/Region
Want to convince students from India, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil or anywhere else that your school is the one for them? A dedicated landing page for native students of each country or region could help you make your case.
Optimally, you’d want an optimized landing page for every country or region that sends a considerable number of students to your school. But, if you’re just getting going, start with your largest, most important international market.
Here are the most important elements you should consider in your page design:
Language – to really make your international prospects feel welcomed and wanted, it’s helpful to be able to speak to them in their language. As such, your optimized country/region page should be written in the native language of the targeted location. You may want to consult with or hire a native speaker to make sure that your page content is written in the vernacular and targeted for the appropriate demographic group.
Student testimonials – students trust their peers, at least more so than other groups. Hearing another international student, who has been through the same process, address common concerns can help prove that your school is dedicated to serving the needs of international students.
Infographics – sometimes numbers can tell a story easier or better than words. If your school has historically drawn a lot of international students from a particular country, make that a point of emphasis and present it in a visually appealing way. Matching great visual design with pertinent data points can help you enhance your pitch.
Videos – ultimately, you want your international prospects to picture themselves on your campus. So, don’t wait for them to find your campus tour videos – feature them prominently on your optimized country/region pages. Just be sure to have the narration translated to the appropriate language(s).
Make Getting to Campus Easy
After you’ve convinced your prospects that your school is right for them, you’ll want to help them with the application, acceptance and enrollment processes. Provide links to the appropriate content from your optimized landing page. If you have the resources, translate these important applications and instructions into students’ native languages. At the very least, provide a clear, step-by-step overview of the application process in the native language.
Providing information about student visas is another way to help your international students and their families. Immigration paperwork can be confusing. Having a clear set of instructions in a language they can understand can go a long way to clearing up concern and answering important questions.
You’ll also want to make sure that your international prospects feel secure about travelling to and from your campus. Make sure to include information about international airports near your school. You can even go as far as providing recommended airlines, routes of travel, etc..
Make Them Feel At Home
After getting in and getting there, fitting in is the next big concern for students coming from different cultures. You’ll want to make sure that you have good content to address these important deliberations. The aim of this content should be two-fold: 1) to assure your international prospects that they’ll be able to easily transition to life on campus, and 2) that a small taste of home is always readily available.
Information about the following topics can help:
International housing – the first dip into American culture can definitely be a bit of a shock. Navigating this unfamiliar territory can be easier with a buddy or a roommate who is going through the same thing. If your school offers special housing for international students, be sure to present them with the option.
Study abroad programs/students – students preparing for a study abroad experience and international students from the host country make for natural match. International students can teach the American students all about their culture, and the American kids can return the favor by helping international students navigate their new surroundings.
Expat communities – when you’re far from home, it can be reassuring to know that even a small taste of your culture is available nearby. Let your international students know if an expatriate community from their home country exists in proximity to your campus. Even better, invite the expat community to your campus for an event celebrating your new-arriving international students.
Beacon Knows Higher Ed Websites
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