2020 may go down as the most challenging year in college recruitment history, but international recruitment professionals are always up for a good challenge. Between travel bans, social distancing, and virtual connection issues, engaging and nurturing prospective international students has not been easy. To help your institution prepare for the year ahead, we have gathered a few useful tips in this article.
Provide COVID-19 updates
What will in-person classes look like? How is your university prepared to sanitize and maintain campus safety? Where can international students live, and are they allowed to leave campus once they arrive? Your university’s administration may not have all the answers, but by providing updates to your international prospective student population, you will make them feel more connected to your community.
Unlike domestic students that live a couple of hours from campus, international students have a lot of steps to take just to get there. By keeping them informed about all campus procedures and being fully transparent about the international student requirements, you can help ease the stresses of traveling during a global pandemic. This may, hopefully, help enroll even more students once this is all over.
Develop a video content/ social media team on campus
Because you will be meeting with fewer students face-to-face this year, you must turn to alternative channels to show off campus. A study from the business website The Manifest reports that 89% of Gen Zers use Youtube and 74% use Instagram. Last year also saw an uptick in TikTok users, and this year, the short-form video content platform Instagram Reels is predicted to take off.
The good news is these platforms are all free marketing channels for your institution. The bad news: they require a lot of time. However, the video content experts are likely enrolled in your communication, fine arts, and business departments now. Recruit your video-minded students to develop content to share with prospects. They will need to sign a waiver to ensure content is fun, engaging, and appropriate. They should be geographically, racially, and ethnically diverse. They may also require some form of compensation so they treat the task like any other important job.
Invest in a virtual tour platform
Whether COVID-19 disappears tomorrow or in 2023, international students require options. While an interactive campus map may have worked a decade ago, prospective students of today are digitally native, authenticity seekers, who crave interactive video content and real-life student interaction. Solutions to consider: CampusTours and YouVisit.
Boost your YouTube presence
This strategy ties into virtual tours and developing more video content. When you can’t fly to international recruitment events or welcome traveling students to campus, it is vital to have content inclusively available on YouTube. Each month for the next year, record one video relevant to the international student journey and post it on YouTube. Remind viewers to contact your office for support and ask current international students to help out by appearing as guests or providing testimonials.
One of the best parts of pre recorded content is that it can be easily edited. The content does not have to be perfect on the first take, but it does have to be relevant and informative. With students from all different time zones, it can be challenging to get everyone together for a live stream information session; that is where pre recorded content will fit your schedule and budget.
Upgrade virtual learning infrastructure
While the students are at the heart of every campus, faculty are the brains behind the operation. COVID-19 learning has proven colleges and universities around the world can adapt to rapid change. Within a few short weeks, traditional learning transformed to fully online learning for thousands of universities, and some were more prepared than others when making the switch. For younger, technologically savvy faculty members, virtual learning may have been a seamless transition, but older, tenured faculty that spent decades crafting their high-level teaching ability struggled with the change. Make life easier for your educators (and the students they teach) by investing in smarter, useful virtual learning tools.
Collect more student data
To create relevant and readable messaging, you need to track student behavior and engagement. While higher education recruitment marketing is more competitive than ever, today’s technological advancements also make it easier to get to know your students before they even step foot on campus.
Collect your leads from the institution’s website, Microsoft Excel records, social media, or digital ads and learn what grabs attention based on marketing success. The more you analyze student data based on crucial factors like country of origin or major of interest, the more informed your marketing strategy will be for years to come.
Create a university messaging guide
With thousands of universities throughout the world, how does yours stand out? More importantly, how are you telling your story to prospective students? Clearly identify your unique value proposition and messaging in your brand standards and guidelines.
Most institutions clearly state their mission and vision statement in the “About Us” section of the website, but many fail to develop a unified voice and tone throughout all marketing channels. Identify your ideal student market by developing student personas at every level. From first-year international students to transfer, graduate, and doctoral students, brand messaging allows recruiters to understand their target audience better.
There is no perfect formula for international student recruitment, but there are many ways to make progress. COVID-19 has created industry-wide recruitment challenges, but in our increasingly digital world, we have the power to enroll (and educate) students as we adapt to the “new normal.”