4 Strategies for Connecting to Prospective International Students

Carnegie Higher Ed Jun 13, 2023 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Attracting international students to your US-based institution isn’t always easy. Depending on the area of the world you’re looking at, there could be geopolitical realities (from wars to visa restrictions), cheaper tuition from international competitors, and language barriers standing in your way. And that’s saying nothing of the fact that, no matter where in the world you’re from, it’s almost always easier to attend a more local institution than one that’s thousands of miles away.

None of this should stand in your team’s way, of course. International marketing in higher education is very doable. Here are four strategies for connecting to prospective international students!


#1: Make your brand story come alive

When international students attend schools in the US, they’re leaving behind their friends and families, not to mention colleges and universities that are closer to home. So, if you want them to notice you—and ultimately attend your institution—you need them to see something special in you. 

If you’re just starting with international student recruitment, we recommend consulting teams across your campus, from admissions to marketing to academic departments. Get a sense of the stories you’re telling and which ones are resonating most with international students. Figure out what sets you apart. Do you have a state-of-the-art medical program? A research initiative that’s making the news? A top-ranked co-op program that’s helping students, especially international students, build career-ready experiences in the US? Hone in on these stories to show that you care about the international student experience!


#2: Use testimonials strategically

Student testimonials are a great way to showcase your institution’s international community and commitment to top-notch education. Right now, video testimonials show amazing promise and versatility. Remember: you want international students to picture themselves at your institution, and what better way to do that than through video? We recommend filming interviews or day-in-the-life-style videos with international students on your campus. Here are some ideas:

  • Ask them where they’re from and why they chose the US as a study destination
  • Encourage them to share why they picked your school over others
  • Inquire about academic and social life in their new school/town
  • Discuss cultural commonalities between the US and their home country

In time, these students could become international student ambassadors. If they blog/vlog about their experience, for instance, you could feature this content in your recruitment marketing, including your paid social media ads, as well as your school’s social pages, landing pages, etc.


#3: Showcase available financial aid

Unfortunately, international students aren’t typically eligible for federal grants, loans, tax credits, or federal work-study. And not because they don’t want it. According to a report by Keystone Education Group, financial considerations ranked among the top factors international students have in mind when selecting a college or university. Here’s a breakdown of the findings: 

  • Roughly 50% of respondents required full scholarship funding to study in the US 
  • 48% said their ability to work and study at the same time played a role in selecting a school
  • 44% cited affordable tuition as impacting their ultimate choice of school

Additionally, when asked about what concerns them most when deciding whether to attend school in the US, an overwhelming majority (81% of respondents) listed tuition fees and living expenses as key concerns. 

If your institution offers merit-based scholarships and aid that international students can access, you should promote it. However, if international student aid isn’t available at your school, a good strategy would be to focus on the value of your degree(s) and the value of your educational experience. Has your school or program been recognized for extraordinary ROI? Include it! Are you near a metropolitan area with loads of opportunities? Get it down!

#4: Speak to students’ concerns

Of course, while affordability is a primary concern for prospective international students, it’s not the only thing keeping them up at night. 

When addressing student concerns, it’s important to remember that they indeed run the gamut, from crucial information like visa requirements to what to pack before move-in day. International students may also have safety and wellness concerns. We suggest you meet these issues head-on by developing content that’s tailored to your audience and answers their questions.

While international students have specific points of interest and obstacles to enrollment, they will also have similarities to your current student base. Therefore, to get a better idea of what troubles prospective students might face, ask your student body. You never know what you might learn!

If you’re still unsure where to start your international admissions campaign, our team of skilled and dedicated strategists can help. Contact us today!

This blog was brought to you by Grace Crowell, Senior Digital Strategy Specialist and Luke Hanshaw, Senior Digital Copywriter. 

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