Six Virtual Strategies to Recruit International Students

With a projected 8 million students enrolling in higher education institutions outside of their home country by 2025, the time to solidify an international student recruitment strategy is now. International students bring invaluable cultural diversity and perspectives to campus, enriching the learning experience for all students and preparing them to engage with a diverse future workforce.

Traditionally, these students have been difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to reach. However, with more people tuning into the virtual world, there are more recruitment opportunities than ever before. Here are six virtual strategies you can use effectively with recruiting international students and increasing student diversity.

  1. Optimize Your Website & Consider Language Barriers
    The average website user’s attention span is eight seconds. Therefore, your school’s landing pages need to communicate relevant information in a quick, attractive, and digestible way.

    For international students, making the information quickly readable means recognizing and accommodating potential language barriers. Minimize your use of complex language and colloquialisms to make the information as accessible as possible to those for whom English is not a first language. Also consider adding visual elements like infographics and videos to further simplify important information like degrees, tuition fees, and how to apply for financial aid for potential international college students.
  1. Dedicate a Webpage for International College Students
    Going a step further, you can welcome international students specifically by creating a dedicated landing page just for them. Some schools, like the University of Cambridge, have created a hub on their website featuring content, resources, and events specifically geared toward international students.

    Organizing these pages can take a variety of forms, but one way to accommodate language differences is to do what the University of Michigan did and use a subdomain for the different language versions of its website. Ultimately, no matter how you present the information, making the extra effort to welcome international students and directly address their unique needs can be the difference between their decision to apply to your school and looking elsewhere.
  1. Attend Virtual College Fairs
    One of the best ways to promote your school to international students is to attend a virtual college fair. Virtual attendance is now the norm for many events, and students are increasingly turning to virtual college fairs to access information about universities that are far from their homes—a perfect choice for international students.

    Of course, not all virtual fairs are equal. GoToCollegeFairs provides a custom-built virtual college fair platform that mimics the in-person experience while adding resources and capabilities that are missing from a traditional college fair but are particularly useful for international students.

    When students enter the virtual lobby, they can use customized filters to identify participating colleges, presentations, and education sessions that interest them most. Once they hit the exhibition floor, they can bookmark and engage with select colleges in one-on-one or group formats, watch videos, and even apply on the spot.

    These engagement features create high usability for international recruiting. And just like the in-person fairs that use the GoToCollegeFairs system, every student’s activity and preference expressed before, during, and after the virtual fair are tracked and analyzed to support your follow-up recruiting efforts.
  1. Set Up Virtual Campus Tours
    Web presence is of utmost importance because international students rarely have the luxury of visiting the campuses of prospective universities—a factor that carries considerable weight in a student’s final decision. However, with a virtual college tour, you can share the feel, look, and culture of campus with these faraway students. Even better: have a variety of current students lead the tour to help international students better envision themselves on your campus.

  2. Host a Free Online Masterclass
    International students make up a large part of the U.S. graduate student cohort—in 2019, they earned half of all master’s and doctorate STEM degrees, totaling 117,000 degrees. To capture the interest of these individuals and persuade them to apply to your institution, offer a free online masterclass. Taught by faculty and easily accessible around the world, these classes help to make your university more discoverable and give prospective students a taste of what they can expect if they enroll.

  3. Reach Out Through Social Media
    Given its wide reach and popularity, social media is a great medium for attracting international college students. Just make sure to create dedicated campaigns that directly target their unique needs and concerns, which will be different from more local applicants.

    Additionally, be sure to consider which social media platforms are available and popular in the regions you’re targeting. Students from different countries use different social media sites, so you may need to branch out from Twitter and TikTok to other sites like WeChat and Sina Weibo. If you’re unfamiliar with these platforms, enlisting help from current international students or even alumni can be a good start.

Ultimately, international college students will go to the university with which they cultivate the closest connection. These connections can be difficult to form in the virtual world—but by adopting these strategies, you’re off to a good start with working to increase student diversity.