Here are 4 ways to hook more international students in a competitive landscape

Education agents recruited 10 to 25% of each surveyed college and university's international students, leading 92% to describe their services as "indispensable," Flywire reports.

International students apply to far fewer U.S. schools than their American classmates, making competition for that coveted overseas tuition even tighter, a new report contends. In fact, international students typically apply to no more than three schools.

Terra Dotta, a study abroad software provider, surveyed 356 international students to uncover why they chose the U.S. and the particular college they’re attending.

Strong reputation, quality educational programs and the prospect of working in the U.S.—combined with friendly U.S. immigration and university postgraduation work policies—are key ingredients to the States’ dominance in attracting students from abroad. However, these students were also concerned with social isolation, crime and safety, cost and employability.

Terra Dotta and Flywire (an international payment platform) shared some insights into how colleges and universities can better support international students and distinguish their campuses from domestic competition.

Expanding influence of education agents

While most students (65%) surveyed by Terra Dotta used university websites to learn more about their prospects, even more students (70%) sought personalized support from education agents and university recruiters. One recent survey of over 500 institutions by Flywire suggests that education agents are now an essential part of international recruitment efforts.

Education agents recruited 10% to 25% of the international students to the colleges that participated in the survey, leading 92% to describe the services as “indispensable,” Flywire reports. Nearly every respondent (98%) agreed that working with education agents expanded their global reach, and 82% expect to use recruiters more extensively.

Create a welcoming and stress-free environment

Social interactions, making friends and homesickness topped international students’ concerns about adjusting to U.S. culture. The most helpful services they described to help alleviate these concerns were orientation (73%) and welcome events (63%). Two other approaches that also help:

  1. Cultural and cross-cultural activities. Nearly half (47%) experienced or personally witnessed discrimination.
  2. Academic and educational initiatives. 46% were stressed about the amount of schoolwork, and 37% felt pressure to do well on exams and assignments

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Additionally, colleges should stress campus safety and well-being. Nearly 50% of international students reported a concern about crime on U.S. campuses before enrolling. Once students arrived, however, concern dropped 18 percentage points; 45% reported having no safety concerns.

Don’t slip on academic quality and costs

Academic programs available at your institution, as well as their cost and affordability, were the two decisive factors for international students to choose one U.S. institution over another. They are also crucial in deciding whether a student was to enroll elsewhere.

If students were to transfer to another institution domestically, 63% said it would be based on changes to affordability, and 35% stated issues with instructional quality or its related academic offerings.

Help international students find work on U.S. soil

Nearly 60% of international students plan to seek employment in the U.S. after graduation. However, 43% said it’s difficult for them to find an employer to sponsor them and 41% reported having challenges with obtaining work visas.

Additionally, when respondents were asked if they could change one thing about their university to improve the international student experience, the two top choices were 1) provide more support for finding jobs in the host country (42%) and 2) enhance support for international students to stay in the country after graduation (28%).

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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