Tapping into the international student market is on the admissions plan – so it better be in your 2013 marketing and communications plan. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, international students contribute more than $21 billion to the U.S. economy, through their expenditures on tuition and living expenses. College communicators can, and should, take advantage of the international market by making a few small tweaks to their communications strategy.
Get In The Game
If your college or university is among the top eight host states, California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio or Indiana you’re up against stiff competition. But you can’t compete if you’re not in the game.
If you don’t already have a strategy for recruiting international students in place, you need to get up to speed fast because you’re losing revenue and making it harder for admissions offices to meet the goals that tie their efforts, and yours, to your institution’s strategic plan.
Here is a list of colleges that have launched new international recruiting programs:
The State University of New York System is using international student tuition revenue to fund rapid expansion of scholarships to students, and grants to faculty.
Purdue University is increasing diversity by setting a goal to double international enrollment by 2015.
Cornell University has a team of ambassadors frequently email and host special instant messaging sessions for prospective students in China and other parts of Asia.
Cornell is right on track with targeting China. U.S. colleges and universities experienced a 43 percent increase in undergraduate students from China in 2011. China sends more students to the US than any other country, 157,558 to be exact. India is the second largest student population studying on the U.S.
Promote Your Programs
Colleges are seeing the number of international students choosing schools in the U.S. rise over the past five years. More than 723,000 international students enrolled in U.S. universities in 2011. In spite of efforts by countries like Australia, Canada, and the UK, America remains the top choice for students looking to expand their education.
Start leveraging your programmatic strengths to target key audiences. You need to communicate how valuable and flexible your programs are and you have to do more than write about it on your website. The top three most popular fields of study for international students in the U.S. are business management, engineering, and mathematics and computer science. But the number one reason students choose a college in the America is because we offer programs with strength, expertise, and diversity.
If you’re looking to increase your international enrollment, develop brand communications that showcase how your university is at the forefront of technology, research, and leadership. Showcase faculty thought leaders, research funding opportunities, and state-of-the-art facilities.
Being The Guest Not The Host
The marketing channels you choose are just as important as the programs you choose to highlight. According to Internet World Stats, about 70% of Facebook’s 835 million users are outside the U.S., making a strong case for using Facebook and other social media channels to connect with prospective students.
Traditional marketing initiatives invite students to read their content and engage. But, smart campus communicators are finding ways to be invited to the, searching for a college, party. Universities are getting creative and finding ways to bring international students down the admissions funnel skipping right over prospecting and going straight to flooding the funnel with direct inquiries.
Colleges are reengineering their content and social media strategy using readMedia, a platform that makes it possible to enter prospective students’ social networks. Campus communicators are creating personalized content for current students and handing those relevant and customized stories over to students to share in their social networks – and it’s working. Here is perfect example of a student taking his schools branded message into his international network in Quito, Ecuador.
This word-of-mouth marketing endorses Berklee’s program, value, and its rich opportunities for international students to thrive and succeed. In this example you can see that two of Pablo’s friends, still living in Ecuador, one an obvious aspiring musician, have really engaged with Pablo by way of his Berklee branded achievement. When Gaby and Mauricio start looking at U.S. colleges, you can bet Berklee will be top-of-mind.
Burn The Midnight Oil
Noel-Levitz reported that 69 percent of students and 72 percent of parents have had online video conversations using a Webcam. In addition, both groups showed interest in communicating with campuses via Webcasts, but who would they want to talk to? More than 75 percent of high school students and parents prefer interacting online with current students and admissions representatives. That means, you have to make yourself available when they’re available.
If you’re looking to target prospective student rich countries like China and India, you’ll need to assign someone the graveyard shift. Miami University has had great success with hosting late night chat rooms for international and transfer students. Going the extra mile to make time for students when it’s convenient for them is a strategy that will give your school bonus points – ask Cornell, international students make up 20 percent of their total student body.
Ann Stock, assistant secretary of state, remarked, “Young people who study abroad gain the global skills necessary to create solutions to 21st Century challenges. In turn, international students globalize our campuses and communities.” International recruiting is not getting easier. Revise your communications strategy and ramp up your international recruiting activities, and it’s critical that you do it now and do it better than competing institutions.