International students enrolling in U.S. graduate institutions tend to flock to a small proportion of universities. In fact, the doctoral granting institutions in the U.S. who enroll 11% of all U.S. students enroll 44% of all international students, according to Dr. Rahul Choudaha, Global Higher Education Strategist and blogger at DrEducation.com.
How can you take advantage of the growing international market to increase your enrollment? In a webinar sponsored by Liaison and hosted by University Business, Dr. Choudaha recommended strategies and best practices for developing sustainable international recruitment, enrollment, and retention.
Focus on Sustainable Strategies
While the international student market is essential for growing enrollment, its complexity makes it difficult with limited resources to achieve international student enrollment goals.
According to Dr. Choudaha, the biggest improvements in international enrollment strategy will come when institutions move away from quick-fix strategies that are reactive and disjointed and replace them with proactive, integrated, and evidence-based strategies. It’s not as important to enroll the greatest number of international students as it is to focus on the quality, diversity, and fit of the students. When you enroll the right students—the ones who are most likely to be satisfied and report positive experiences about your institution—you increase your credibility with future applicants.
And don’t forget the importance of helping international students succeed beyond the application process; to retain them, you need to put processes in place to help them navigate the student experiences on campus.
Identify the Right Applicants for Your Institution
Before you can effectively implement sustainable strategies, you’ll need a clear value proposition that defines the prime strengths of your institution and an understanding of which of your strengths are most appealing to the segments you’re trying to reach.
Figure out both feasible and aspirational students segments in both emerging and mature countries to target with your enrollment efforts. A great way to determine your institution’s strengths is to conduct research with current and prospective students to see what matters from their perspective.
Focus your message to them on the ways that your institution can provide what they’re looking for. Is your institution likely to attract students who have vast financial resources and high levels of academic preparedness? Probably only if you happen to be at the top of the rankings and located near one of the more appealing metropolitan areas. But even if you have neither of those attributes, you may want to target students who have either lots of financial resources without as much academic preparedness or fewer financial resources but high levels of academic preparedness, depending on the core value proposition of your institution.
Your message and brand can assure international students—most of whom do not visit U.S. institutions before applying to them—that you understand what they need and that your institution offers them the best value. Your best bet is to differentiate and emphasize what is unique about your value that maps to their academic and professional goals.
However, students need to know that your message is more than just a sales pitch, and you can offer them that reassurance by providing credible networking opportunities with admissions officers, faculty, current students, and alumni. For example, create virtual panels with these members to offer Q & A sessions with prospective students.
You can also offer mentorships with current students as well as internship and coop programs based in their own countries. When you show that you are willing to invest in providing a comprehensive academic experience that will prepare them for career success, students are more likely to want to enroll in your institution.