We know from our stealth applicant research that prospective international students are relying more on college websites than on any other channel to get to know institutions before they apply.
Developing and optimizing a competitive website presence is a massive undertaking, but there are some relatively simple tweaks you can make to your existing website that will drive a meaningful improvement in how it engages your prospective international student audiences.
Our student engagement team at UniQuest perform web audits for our partners every six months to offer insight into areas on our partners’ websites that may either cause confusion, frustration, or just fail to capture student interest. The UQ student team talks to students every day, so they have a strong understanding for the information that students are looking for. With intel from students in mind, our teams are on the look-out for points on a higher education website that may cause drop-off.
We recently reviewed more than 55 higher education websites across the US and spotted some common areas that need improvement to better support prospective international students. Here are some of the quicker-fixes we recommend to better support international prospective students through your website.
Signpost a dedicated page for prospective international students from your homepage
Your website serves a broad audience – e.g. current students, alumni, parents, your local community – so it’s easy to pack a lot of information on your homepage and for your international landing pages to get buried within other tabs on the homepage.
Even so, it’s worth considering how you can make room to signpost a section for prospective international students directly from the homepage. Don’t make students dig around for the prospective international student section of your website and clearly mark pages that are specific to them versus current international students.
Keep things practical
We came across a number of really beautiful and exciting website designs. But, when it came to finding the information we wanted, it took a bit of work to get to where we needed to go.
Make your website easier to navigate with clear directions for international students to access the information they need.
The top frequently asked questions we hear from international students early on in the recruitment process relate to:
- Majors offered
- Application/admissions requirements
Place this information either above the fold (where the user does not have to scroll down) on your international page or provide well-marked links to this information above the fold of your main international page.
Differentiate your college as it relates to the international student experience
Make sure your unique value proposition continues to feature within your international pages. We see a lot of international pages that open with something along the lines of “At University, we welcome X international students from Y countries” followed by some more demographic information about the University.
As you do on other pages of your website, be sure to show why your community and the international student experience at your college is special. Part of this is accomplished in your copywriting but bring the international student experience home with content like video testimonials from current international students, news from student organizations and clubs, virtual tours of both your campus and your college town or city.
Avoid Americanisms in the copy on your international pages
Communicate clearly with your international audiences by avoiding phrasing that may not translate outside of the US.
At UniQuest, we’ve seen our fair share of blank stares at company outings when our American and British colleagues use local terms or phrases with each other that don’t make sense on the other side of the pond. So, even where the language spoken is the same, how it’s used matters.
When you’re editing your copy, check that all your phrasing translates for a global audience.
Make it incredibly easy to contact you
Place call-to-action buttons on your international landing pages that direct students to clearly listed contact details. Minimize the number of phone numbers and email addresses you’re listing so there’s no room for uncertainty about who best to reach.
In 2017, we saw inquiries via Live Chat grow 108% year-on-year. As international student demand for this channel climbs, integrating Live Chat into your communication mix will make you more competitive.
The long and the short of it is, creating a better user-experience comes down to signposting, clear communication, and prioritizing information on the page that is top-of-mind for prospective international students.
If you’re interested in receiving the occasional email from us with more insights from our work with prospective international students, subscribe to our insights email.