The common theme lately in the world of international student recruitment has been budget cuts. In many cases, recruitment professionals reported the biggest blow was to their travel funds, a key factor in maintaining relationships with agents and building brand awareness. Higher education institutions have also endured reductions in staff, limiting their recruitment resources even more. Ironically, as we see the numbers of international students choosing the U.S. as their study destination declining, the enrollment goals for international students seems to be climbing. Perhaps, if we did the research, we might find an uptick in the number of job searches performed by currently employed international student recruitment professionals looking to jump ship before the enrollment season ends!
Well, we’re here to give you some hope. Are you familiar with the term “touchpoint”?
“Hank Brigman defines a touchpoint as an influential action initiated by a communication, a human contact or a physical or sensory interaction. Each touchpoint is a message that literally ‘touches’ a customer in some way. Collectively, touchpoints create the customer’s experience.”
Making multiple touchpoints with your customers – anyone internally and externally who could attend your institution, recommend your institution or promote your institution, should be a part of your recruitment strategy. There are things you can do now, small things, on an even smaller budget, that can make a big impact later. We recommend you consider trying all 10 of our recruitment tips for under $10 and then do them again…and again…and again.
The first tip in our list of 10 under $10 is what I consider the most important and worthwhile. It lays the foundation for successful recruitment. Research continues to prove that response time directly impacts the decision-making process for students. If there are bottlenecks in your application process and delays in your communication to applicants, you are very likely losing students. Whether you spend $10. or $10,000. on recruitment efforts, if your applicants are not having a positive customer experience when applying to your institution, you’ve wasted your money. So, here’s the first tip:
Tip # 1
Pick up a pack of multi-colored post-it notes and map out your application process, every last detail, and step (including the estimated time for each task), on a blank wall.My good friend and colleague, Megan Prettyman, Director of International Admissions and Services for the University of Findlay, is a pro at this simple, but effective technique.She suggests we look for ways to eliminate repetitive, unnecessary steps. She encourages us to find the black holes that may be contributing to a delayed response. Are there things you can do to improve your communication? The more details about the process you can provide to an applicant, the more reasonable their expectations will be, providing them with a better, smoother, application process. This is a simple, but a very effective solution.
Tip # 2
Offer a $10 gift card to a current international student who is willing to submit a “Why I chose this university”, self-produced video under 60 seconds. Be sure to provide them with some basic questions to help them get started, such as: Where are they from? What are they studying? Why did they choose your university? What advice could they offer another international student? Genuine, unscripted, off-the-cuff student videos are fun, shareable, influential, and meaningful. Not only can you use the video for email marketing and social media, but you can encourage the students to share their video with their connections (you probably won’t even have to ask).
Tip # 3
Be sure to take a look in your own backyard for international students already studying here. Use online resources like The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) to find out which private high schools in your region are hosting international students and reach out via email to the high school guidance counselor. According to a 2017 survey by the National Association of College Admissions Counselling (NACAC), guidance counselors are underprepared when it comes to assisting international students with the college admissions process. A quick introduction along with some helpful information they could share with their international students is a great place to start building this relationship.
Tip # 4
And, don’t forget about your colleagues from the other side! Reach out to a colleague from your university’s domestic recruitment team and treat them to coffee. Ask them about their plans to visit private high schools and talk about ways you can equip them with enough knowledge to help them when speaking with international students. Make sure they bring a stack of your business cards with them on their next visit to a high school.
Tip # 5
While on the subject of private high schools, keep in mind that many of these schools offer 6 to 8 week summer immersion programs. Contact the school to find out how your institution can be added to their college tours. An alternative would be to offer an early morning in-person session for their students to introduce them to your offerings. If you can arrange a current international student to come along with you, even better. And don’t forget the $10 bucket of donuts!
Tip # 6
According to the 2015 open doors data, there are 91,648 international students studying at community colleges in the U.S. Pick a community college in your area and pay a visit to their advising office with business cards, marketing materials, and chocolates to ensure you’re welcomed! Make a connection with the person who directly advises international students for future reference.
Tip # 7
Utilize your alumni to expand your reach. You can find international alumni working in the area on Linkedin (www.linkedin.com/alumni). Once you find them, invite them out for coffee and learn about their career experience. What advice would they offer a current student? Landing a job after graduation weighs heavily on the minds of international students. Where are your international alumni finding jobs? You can use these stories along with the statistics from your alumni search on Linkedin in your marketing messages to potential students.
Tip # 8
Are you working with agents? Take 10 minutes to send an email to the agent responsible for sending you one of your current international students. Tell them about the student’s success at your institution and how much you appreciate the referral. Point out some of the qualities the student has that contributes to their success and ask the agent if they have any more students like them. This simple gesture with a minimal investment of time will leave a lasting impression and serve as a “best fit” guide for the agent.
Tip # 9
Invite two current international students from different countries to have a pizza lunch with you (look for 2 for 1 pizza deals in your area and invite 4 students). Talk about their experiences so far with the university. Are they happy? Ask them to submit an online review of the institution on Google, Facebook, Niche or Yelp. Be sure to provide them with links to these review sites to make it easier for them to complete the task. If you’re not convinced that boosting your school’s online reviews will help you recruit more students, think again!
Tip # 10
And, before we go, did you know that you can run a Facebook targeted advertisement for as little as $10 a day? You may want to consider using all that new video content you’ve collected from your students to get in front of potential students by using lookalike and custom audiences. Connect with your school’s social media manager to find out how.
Repeat tips 2 through 9 over and over again.
So little money…so many ideas!