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4 Ways to Bring International Students Back to Campus

A growing number of American institutions have proposed a vaccine mandate for international and domestic students alike. Columbia and Boston University, two of the top 10 US universities with the highest enrollment of international students, are among them. 

An Ipsos sentiment survey of 15 countries determined that vaccine intent is on the rise. 85% of Chinese and Mexican adults who have not yet been vaccinated will seek out a jab, for example. 

However, in countries like Japan and France, the numbers are slightly lower, at 64% and 57% respectively. And if vaccine hesitancy is higher in parents as suggested, there is valid cause for concern.

Still, many reliable sources are predicting a huge boom in international enrollment come Fall 2021. Here are our top tips to give your recruitment strategy that extra boost, and ensure that this is the case at your university.

Sell international students on the US first

As Pace University President Martin Krislov writes for Forbes, “They’re recommitting to American colleges and universities because they know we offer what even those other English-speaking countries cannot: the world’s best education, and the world’s most desired job opportunities.”

Even so, earning an American degree is no small feat as a foreign student. Between securing a visa, shouldering the financial burden, and potentially navigating a curriculum outside of your mother tongue, the hurdles are tall.

The Trump administration and its policies also imbued the perception that international students are unwelcome at American institutions. The recruitment slump and demoralization have only snowballed during the pandemic, leaving no room for amends. The number of visas issued for newly enrolled international students declined 72 percent.

That said, you have to sell international students on the US as a country before you can sell them on your campus. As harsh as it sounds, what your particular school has to offer is not going to motivate them to cross borders if they aren’t sold on America as a whole.

You’ll need to remind them why it’s worth it and what they stand to gain from the experience.

They want to upskill and earn the best possible job qualifications during a time of economic turmoil. They prefer to study in a country where COVID-19 is contained and now waning. And they want to be in a place where remote learning is a tried and tested option, should the necessity arise. Keep all of these motivations front of mind.

Mitigate their worries

Many international students are currently worried that they won’t be able to obtain their student visas in time for the 2021 Fall semester, not to mention the possibility of prolonged travel restrictions. These are concerns that fall beyond the realm of either of your control. 

What you can do to quell their fears is put them in contact with a current student. While campus restrictions at some schools may limit their ability to meet and interact with peers, each situation is unique.

Every incoming student deserves to know how they’ll be able to form bonds with fellow students when they arrive on your campus.

The best person to assure them of the friendships they’ll still be able to forge would be a built-in-friend they’ve already corresponded with. This person will also go on to reassure them about every other aspect of campus life right now.

And if the news isn’t great, they’ll be able to frame it with kinder words than someone on Reddit will.

Do more using less

A tighter budget than ever or limited hands on deck is just added stress atop the mountain of international recruitment concerns you’re scaling right now.

Higher financial constraints don’t have to mean lower output. If you have a team of student ambassadors, you have a world of unlocked potential in your hands. Those that have already taken the journey before can be your most powerful tool.

Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Darren Grosch at LA City College even found that they had much more success with marketing emails when ambassadors followed up with prospects.

These responsibilities didn’t overload the students either. In fact, it was a mutually beneficial exchange for those who were feeling homesick. It also relieved some of the pressure on Grosch. 

“If you’re just a one-person department, which is the case for a lot of us at these smaller schools, and you’re wearing a lot of hats, you can use Unibuddy,” he says, “It’s like having an extra staff member.”

Utilize digital platforms built for international recruitment

61% of international students want to connect with existing international students. Unibuddy partners with some of the world’s most trusted providers of higher education advice to help you promote your ambassador program and make that connection possible.

By placing ambassadors on a central point of information for students around the world, you can reach them early in their decision-making process through websites like Study in the USA.

As Mackenzie Cushman, Associate Director of International Enrollment at Fisher College explains, “We’re a small, private school in an expensive city, and we’re very cautious about what we spend money on. We have to make sure something works before we buy in.” 

They were already a Unibuddy partner, but they signed on to become a full Study USA partner after the initial free trial with Unibuddy Discover.

That’s all the result of the undeniable quality and quantity of the leads they received, and the fact that they could even target specific regions.

Cushman is not alone. Grosch is also a Discover partner through Study USA. He reports: “I’m finding that my student workers are more engaged, and that I’m getting more traffic, more interest and more applicants than before.”

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Navigating the ‘New Normal’ – The 2021/22 report

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