International student recruitment: Key questions to ask for every country

While Higher Education is an international affair, there are still plenty of country-by-country differences that can mess up an international recruitment campaign.

At times, this translates in not getting traction at all, but it’s also common that it leads to your recruitment efforts generating sub-par applications: not your ideal student.

If you commit to recruiting from a certain country or area, it pays greatly to ask these questions to help focus your efforts and resources.

Student profile

  • What’s our ideal student from this country?
  • How can we reach them? E.g. where do they go to school, what media (websites, tv channels, social media platforms) do they consume, which events do they attend, which local celebrities do they pay attention to, where do they live, what are their favourite hangouts, etc.
  • What are their goals in life, and how do they perceive Higher Education to be linked to those goals? E.g. Singapore is a very degree oriented society, and many highly qualified employees find themselves unable to get promoted to a manager role because of not havin

    g a degree. This means there is a very serious opportunity to market adult programs and MBAs in Singapore, that might be considered too expensive or time consuming for adults in the West, who can get their promotion based on work performance alone.

  • How good is their English? Should you consider to offer pre-course English lessons to lower the barrier? The students who speak English really well aren’t necessarily the brightest students in the long run.
  • Which language should be used in communications? While you’re looking for people who can participate in your courses from the get go, it may make sense to have certain content localised for the benefit of parents and even to be more approachable for your target students.

Perception of your institution

  • It takes years to build a reputation. Do you have a blueprint of what you want your institution’s reputation to be in the target country context?
  • Does your institution already have a reputation in the country? If so, is it the reputation you want? Is it correct? Can it be corrected / enhanced?
  • What are the likely (local and international) competing institutions that you will be compared to? Which ones do you want to be compared to?
  • What can you offer / emphasise to stand out among the competition? Think broad: it can include specific courses / programmes you offer, your location (the city you’re located in, as well as everything that’s near it), housing, availability of financing, facilities for foreign students.
  • Do you already have any successful students / alumni from the target country? Telling a story about a person is way more inspiring than summing up a series of features that your programs offer.

It is crucial for your institution to develop a deeper understanding of your target country in order to achieve the best results from your campaign.

Each country has different student needs and preferences. You need to be well-informed about those distinctions.

These preferences are their motivation for studying overseas. You need to adjust your campaign strategy accordingly without compromising the standards you’ve set to select the well-suited students for your institution.

Therefore, by asking the right questions, and answering them with regards to the prospective student’s needs and preferences will consequently lead you to building the right plan for your goal which is to recruit the best-fit students for your institution.

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