International students are a crucial part of many colleges’ enrollment, and the past few years have been a bit of a wild ride because of worldwide travel restrictions during the Covid pandemic. As the demographic cliff looms, the number of domestic freshman prospects is expected to drop by up to 15% starting in 2025. The international student pipeline can be a lifeline for many schools that must keep enrollment up for their institutions to succeed.
The U.S. is the top destination for international students. International student enrollment numbers at U.S. colleges have been bumpy, with a 15% decrease in enrollment for international students in 2020-21, the first year after the start of the Covid pandemic. The numbers immediately rebounded for the 2021-22 enrollment and now seem on track to continue their rise. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) states that international students pursued about 1.25 million degrees at U.S. higher education institutions in 2022, on par with pre-pandemic levels.
International enrollments are indeed coming back, but colleges must use best practices to attract and retain international students to boost overall enrollment. Plus, the diversity and global knowledge that comes onto campus with students from around the world can be a boon to the campus environment, enlivening everything from class discussions to student extracurricular activities.
Increasing Your International Student Enrollment Numbers
Keeping international student registrations strong can help you smooth the fluctuations in enrollment over the next few years.
- Diversify Your Target Countries
While India and China currently send the most students to U.S. higher education, many forces can impact any single source of international students. These include political and socioeconomic trends, visa availability, safety and security concerns, and personal preferences. You could see wider variation in your international enrollment numbers if you depend too heavily on any country for your global student pipeline.
As the saying goes, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Look for opportunities in countries with substantial U.S. enrollments, such as Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. Seek to match your school’s strongest programs with interest from particular regions.
Also, consider that students seek the experience of an American campus but will be more comfortable if there are other students from their country or region. When you target areas for international students, bringing in even a dozen students from any region can give your campus a small but essential cultural home for your international students. Help your international students gain a sense of belonging in all your efforts.
- Offer a Smooth Process for International Students
Explore ways to make the application and visa process smooth and easy for international applicants. Devote resources and staff to communicating with global prospects, as they may need more personal interaction and help from admissions to choose your school for their study in the U.S. Explore programs to support international students, like those from the U.S. Department of State.
Minute details like waiting for a call or email can impact whether a student picks your school or turns to another university. Analyze your whole recruitment and admissions process for international students to see where you can make it easier and more efficient for your applicants from abroad.
- Enhance Your Curriculum and Career Supports
International students come to the U.S. for our high-quality schools, but they increasingly want to see a return on their investment through improved career prospects. You likely already have career center support for students, but you may need to make some tweaks to include international students’ needs in these programs.
Along the same lines, your curriculum can always use updating, and adding more experiential and focused programs where students prepare for the workplace can attract more students. Whether the programs use in-class assignments to solve real-world problems or offer externships with professionals and companies in the subject area, international students will take note of your concern for their career pathways after college.
- Clarify Your Marketing Messages for International Recruitment
Here are some tips to check your marketing and improve your international recruitment:
- Ensure that your website, email campaigns, and catalog contain the most up-to-date information for international students.
- Highlight programs of high interest to foreign applicants and link them to pages with information for international applicants.
- Describe your college’s global and diverse environment and student support.
- If you have virtual tours on your website, consider adding a specialized tour for students coming to the US from abroad, targeting their questions and interests.
- Develop and optimize your international student personas, helping you target these students more accurately.
- Utilize innovative social media strategies to reach interested students from around the world.
- Hold virtual events for international students, giving them a place to ask questions, see other prospective students like themselves, and provide a friendly experience that reflects well on your university as a home for them.
There are many benefits to including international students in your marketing for new students. You can bring in students to fill empty seats left by demographic shifts in the US, you add global character to your campus, and you can bolster your institutions’ bottom line with tuition revenue. Added all together, the advantages of attracting more international enrollment make it an essential part of your marketing.
To better target your most likely prospects, partner with AMG to leverage your data and improve your enrollment. Contact us to find out how.