Private schools: International students boost enrollment, bridge cultural divides

Carnegie Higher Ed Apr 10, 2012 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently reported that the number of Chinese students attending U.S. private high schools soared from just 65 in 2005-06 to 6,725 in 2010-11, attracting the attention of media outlets like Bloomberg and The Atlantic.

It’s a mutually beneficial relationship: ambitious and future-oriented parents in other countries treasure the sterling reputations, college preparatory academics, and vibrant student life found in American boarding schools, which look to students from China’s budding middle class to fill enrollment gaps left by the sputtering U.S. economy. Even some private day schools have tapped into the international market by purchasing residences or arranging host family accommodations.

Participating in overseas school fairs and working with educational consultants or agencies can help raise your school’s profile among international families. The most successful schools will tailor marketing strategies to fit each country’s traditions, build and maintain regular correspondence with a network of international contacts, and translate admissions materials and web pages into other languages. Whenever possible, conducting in-person or webcam interviews can help ensure that prospective students are a good fit for your school—this also helps to avoid application fraud.

Enrolling too many students from one country can backfire if students feel segregated from their American classmates and don’t experience the full benefit of attending a U.S. school. Intensive English as a Second Language courses—either during the academic year or a summer program—are vital to fostering interaction between international students and their American peers, both in academic and social settings.

The benefits of increasing your international student population go beyond the bottom line of tuition dollars and enrollment management. Living and studying side-by-side with foreign-born classmates exposes American students to new cultures and traditions, and relationships with other countries can lead to opportunities for sister-school partnerships, student or teacher exchanges, or even overseas travel where natives lead American students on tours of their home countries.  What better way to prepare your students for today’s increasingly global economy?

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