Alexandre Looten

How to improve your strategy for international student recruitment? 

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International students recruitment

Each year, thousands of universities compete to recruit highly motivated students, who can add value to their institutions and who have the required qualifications to succeed further.  

But how can they manage to appeal to the best students? And how can they spot the highest return on investment, in an increasingly challenging and changing market, oversaturated with diverse tools and channels? 

With an outstanding marketing strategy outlined by Studyportals, the university’s decision makers can refine and advance their recruitment process by answering a few questions about their audience:

  • Do you know who your target audience is and where to find it?  
  • Is your website optimised for international student recruitment?  
  • Can you identify your most effective promotion channels?  
  • Do you have the data you need to guide you?   
  • Can you put that said data to good use?  

In order to help you answer these points, we created a list of helpful tips, that can take you in the right direction.  

       1. Get to know and understand your target audience  

The students you want to reach are part of Generation Z (GenZ, for short). In order to understand what motivates them, you need to ask questions and dive into their mindsets and habits.  

A first and key major step is analysing their habit of conducting all their undertakings online, including searching for a degree (according to Google, 80% start their search this way). This creates a great opportunity for universities to reach and connect with prospective students worldwide.  

You can set focus groups with your current students, in order to understand why they chose to study with you, and how you added value to their journey. Factors like common trends and characteristics should play a huge part in your strategy of finding like-minded future students. You can also read this previous report on GenZ, which details how they stand out from the other generations.

It is also important not to simply rely on your institution’s website; heavily promote your content, so you can guarantee that students will find it easily.  

        2. Optimise your website for online student recruitment 

Assuming students found your organisation and are interested in pursuing a degree here further, it is crucial to make sure that your website is easy to use and ready to receive them.  

You can be sure to achieve this by following a few key steps: 

Make sure your website is user-friendly  

The goal of your website is to offer concise and useful information regarding your courses and institution. Keep in mind that the average attention span is approximately 8 seconds (Statistic Brain, 2015), which means that all the information needs to be easily reachable on all devices and that the content has to be well-planned.  

You can monitor this by minimizing the number of clicks it takes for the users to reach what they need, and by keeping the content short and simple.  

Engage with your audience 

In order to make your website as appealing as possible, you will need to focus on the more visually oriented elements at your disposal. Use video content or infographics to showcase the points students might be interested in, like tuition fees, accommodation options, degrees, and subjects.  

By offering a clear picture of the experience that awaits them on campus, students will be more inclined to recommend and share your services with other students, making their decision-making process favourable towards you. 

Leverage landing pages and contact forms  

There’s no question that the two key pages you should have for incoming students are a landing page, full of the most important information about the course, and a contact form. By directing traffic to these strategic pages, you can convert more anonymous web visitors into leads. 

The contact form is probably one of the most important features you should develop and optimise. Based on our internal research, students would rather fill in a form to get more information, than send an email separately, so, by making it accessible and easy to use, you can ensure that no question goes unanswered and no student leaves confused or unsatisfied by their findings.

In order to create the perfect landing page and contact form, consider the experience from a student’s point of view, while also answering a few logistical questions, like who will be responsible for answering the incoming leads? And how can you make sure that the leads will be contacted as fast as possible? 

        3. Start online promoting and in varied ways 

There is a huge variety of media channels out there that can help you promote your institution. According to a study conducted by Google (Ines Ruesda, 2018) prospective students will make a shortlist of between 3 and 4 universities quite early on in their journey and 75% does not deviate from it. That’s why being able to reach the student early in the discovery phase is crucial.  

As an example, Studyportals publishes on a number of platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, where a total of 36 million prospective students each year are searching for their next study opportunity. By connecting higher education institutions with users in the initial stages of their journey, we helped an estimated 640,000 students to enrol in their dream programme.  

You can read more about us by checking this case study. 

      4. Collect and understand your data 

International student recruitment should have very clear goals. The means to reach those goals should be sufficiently flexible, though, as to be changed by the incoming data, generated after the launch of the very first campaign of the study year. 

Asking the right questions, setting the right goals regarding data, and finding out which promotion channels work the best is challenging, but also rewarding. This is how you will get to know from where your international students are coming from and which is the best way of scaling up your results.  

That’s why an optimised website, landing page, cookies, Google Analytics, as well as accessing data about market trends and your competition’s strategy are so important. By understanding the value of reliable data, you can start shaping the future of your marketing strategies, decide if you should open new programmes or scholarships, and which disciplines should be promoted on which territory. 

If you are looking to boost and/or diversify your international recruitment, it is important to keep it current and relevant. It all starts by understanding what the student funnel looks like, how the younger generations search for, and how they make their decisions.  

Now that you know how to reach international students worldwide, it’s time to make your mark on global education and help pair ambitious students to their dream studies at your university.

If you liked this article or would like to discuss some of the points in more detail, please leave us a message via the form below:

Written by Alexander Looten, Business Development Manager EMEA and Marianna Niemi, Business Developer EMEA

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