US colleges and universities are facing an unprecedented level of competition for international students. After several years of high growth, new international student enrollments in the US have been on a downward trend since 2016. Several factors have contributed to this decline which includes stronger competition from emerging study destinations like China, new policies in the US impacting visas, and reports of unwelcoming rhetoric.
Now more than ever, colleges and universities need to deliver exceptional prospective international student journeys to meet their international enrollment goals. Delivering international student journeys that convert requires an international recruitment operation that’s agile and scalable to meet the evolving needs of international students.
Based on our team’s 20 years of experience in international student recruitment, we compiled the competencies we’ve found to be critical in driving prospective student engagement and conversion.
There are plenty of CRM and marketing tools used for domestic student enrollment, but international recruitment strategies and individual journeys need to be approached differently. In order to create experiences that convert and capture data to continuously improve your strategies as the year progresses, there are many capabilities you need to have at your disposal:
- Customized international recruitment CRM and applications designed and integrated for student engagement and data collection
- Marketing data collection to track ROI
- A single view of the student journey, tracking all activity throughout the recruitment pipeline from prospect or inquiry to application on to accept and deposit through to enrollment
- Data tools to connect and visualize marketing and enrollment data
- Real-time access to data for student decision making (enrollment forecasting, marketing lead performance, conversion activities)
- Real-time access to quantitative and qualitative individual student data for effective relationship management
- Access to benchmarking data to understand the effectiveness of your efforts
- Access to customizable, real-time reporting and dashboards for all functions and levels of decision makers
Every enrollment office comes with a wealth of knowledge about domestic trends and dynamics, but getting a grasp on these same statistics on an international scale can be quite challenging. Having a knowledgeable team that understands enrollment trends on an international scale is key for any college and university working to improve international enrollment levels. Some knowledge and skill areas include:
- A working knowledge of market dynamics (country competitiveness, currency stability, political environment, labor data)
- A working knowledge of program viability by country (alignment of programs to market conditions)
- An understanding of the average decision-making timeline of an undergraduate and graduate prospect by country
- A working knowledge of study abroad concerns by country
- An ability to conduct primary research on market conditions and student behavior
Perhaps the most important part of creating international student journeys at scale is exceptional inquiry management as well as proactive, tailored communication along the full student recruitment journey to nurture interest to enrollment. This requires access to and knowledge about the preferred communication channels for students from key markets, and the ability to use those channels on the students’ time. Additionally, international enrollment teams should have:
- Ability to support and track inquirers across channels like live chat, email, online form, phone and instant messaging services — improving data quality and detail
- Ability to contact all admitted students by phone as they receive offers to study
- Ability to deliver follow-the-sun support to reach students from all time zones
- Language proficiency in all major markets
- Ability to deliver real-time student support with live chat capability and management
- Ability to manage agent, government, and institutional partnerships
Gain Access to All of the Above with UniQuest
When colleges and universities partner with UniQuest, they gain critical skills, technology and knowledge that together lead to major improvements in student conversion and enrollment. Acting as an extension of a college’s enrollment team, UniQuest uniquely combines the people, platform, and process needed to deliver exceptional recruitment journeys that convert.
If you’re not currently set up in-house to meet all of the core competencies discussed here, a partnership to help you engage and convert prospective international students at scale is worth exploring.