Listen up college recruiting and marketing pros: The number of international students attending college in the U.S. hit record levels last year. As many colleges and universities struggle to increase enrollment, recruiting eager foreign students is a promising way to grow your student bodies. But since many of these prospective students do not travel to the U.S. to visit schools before they enroll, digital recruiting and marketing is key.
For the 2012-13 academic year, 819,644 foreign students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities, according to data from the Institute of International Education. That was a 7 percent jump from the previous year when 764,644 international students were enrolled in U.S. higher ed.
Nearly half of the international students come from three countries, China, India and South Korea. The number of Chinese students is burgeoning, up 21 percent last year with 235,000 students studying in the U.S. The number of students from Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Spain, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam also increased last year.
Most international prospective students rely solely on a school’s digital marketing and social media portfolio for their college search. Here are some digital marketing strategies to reach prospective foreign students:
A robust mobile presence
Most teens are tethered to their mobile phones and international students are no different. A school looking to attract foreign students must have a strong mobile product, either a mobile website, app or responsive website that adapts to any screen size. Key information should include campus life, academics, tuition, contact information and the ability to download and print forms.
Blanket social media networks
Your social media pages are a great entry for prospective international students. From there, generate rich content to draw visitors in deeper. Create groups for your school’s international students on social network sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Pinterest. Post photos of campus life and student events on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook. Hashtags on Twitter and Facebook can attract interested students as well. Encourage current international students to post about campus life so their networks in their home countries see their school life.
Virtual tours and connections
Since many international students do not have the opportunity to visit, they want to see as much as they can online. Interactive campus maps and video tours help bring campuses to life. Photos of campus life and videos of events are also key. Offer online chats with current students, faculty and alumni. Shoot video of students speaking about their majors and faculty discussing their departments and course offerings.
Embrace social media on your main website
Your main website is the first destination for many prospective students, so make it as rich an experience as possible. Embed social media, such as your Twitter feed and Instagram photos, into the home page. Showcase Facebook posts about your school news and events prominently on your site. Embed video from YouTube directly on the home page. And display all your social media badges in a