Increasing Your International Student Applications…It’s Not as Hard as You Think

Carnegie Higher Ed Apr 17, 2018 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

As I’ve been meeting with clients this spring, the question of reaching international students has come up time and time again. From current feelings about the United States to growing competition with English degree programs in other countries, it’s no secret that US colleges and universities have seen a decrease in international student enrollment in the last year. Some flagship public universities and elite private colleges with brands that stand the test of time have not seen a decrease; it’s those schools that lack global brand recognition who are feeling the most pain.

If this sounds familiar, then let me be the one to tell you that not all hope is lost! The good news is there are options out there to help you not only increase your global brand recognition and international applications but international student diversity as well. According to Hobsons’ 2017 International Student Survey, 75% of students polled stated that teaching quality and a safe and welcoming environment were two key factors in their college decision-making process. Most surprising was that university rankings fell toward the lower end of importance. This is great news for the vast number of second-tier schools who might offer high-quality programs, a safe campus, and diverse student population but are not ranked as high. Other areas of importance that ranked high on students’ lists were a great student experience outside the classroom and a solid reputation via word of mouth from family and friends. Luckily there are tools you can use (and yes, they are affordable) to reach international students and promote the excellence of your institution while increasing your global brand!

Digital marketing

We have all reached the point where we don’t just go online—we live online. The best place to get your brand in front of prospective students and parents is through digital marketing strategies such as Display outreach and Retargeting; social media like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram; and paid search. In addition, you can incorporate tactics like Mobile Location Targeting to specific schools, as well as list-based targeting to international students living here in the US.

Each of these strategies can help you get those targeted messages in front of students and parents promoting the quality and safety of your institution and the strength of your programs. Because of the population size, they allow you to reach a very large audience without breaking your budget.

Digital marketing in action: We recently partnered with The College of Wooster in Ohio on a digital campaign to reach students at IB schools. I’m pleased to report that Wooster is not only on track to enroll their largest international class ever but their most diverse as well, with applications from all over the world!


With reach to over 2,300 locations in 173 countries and 180,000 students, the AC&U Platform is one of the easiest ways to get your school’s brand in front of those students and parents as they are attending college fairs and counselor visits. With consistent electronic communication, a full online presence on, and a profile in the AC&U print publication, there is nothing else like it available to colleges and universities. It’s the best way to get that conversation started and drive students to your website for more information. In addition, any students who request information about your school through CollegeXpress will be sent to you each week through our secure dashboard for easy download.

We recently received this feedback from a counselor in China regarding AC&U: As an International School in China, the AC&U magazine really helps students get started in their research for US schools. Especially since not all US university websites always load in China because of the internet connectivity to websites abroad.”

WhyStudyHere and Interactive Recruitment Guides

As I mentioned earlier, one of the things that drives students to look into your school is a recommendation from or reputation with their peers, family members, or current students. WhyStudyHere is an incredible tool that links prospective students to current students through testimonials, videos, articles, and more. Current students can share why they chose your school and what they love about it most, giving prospective students and their parents a look inside your institution they might not otherwise see.

Interactive online viewbooks help students engage with various aspects of your website, offering full integration with your social media profiles, maps, and even inquiry forms. With more students using mobile devices to search for schools, it’s important to have information available that is easy to navigate and mobile friendly. Online viewbooks do that and more (not to mention save you shipping costs!).

Most schools I speak with don’t know there are tools available to them that will have a significant, positive impact on their enrollment numbers without breaking their budget. It’s a common misconception that you have to spend a ton of money to grow international. It’s more important than ever to grow your brand presence with international students and parents, and there’s never been an easier time to do this with the tools that are available. At Carnegie, we like to say, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Take some time to reach out, and you might learn that increasing your international population isn’t as hard as you once thought!

Never miss an update.