How to Recruit International Students in 2018

March 7th, 2017 by

How to recruit international students in 2018.

No there is no typo in the headline of this article. I believe
that because of the referendum in the UK, and the election
results in the U.S., many international students in 2017 will
walk away from both countries and consider others, like
Australia, Canada and China for their undergraduate and
graduate education. Already there are signs that the Indian
market, looking for stability and a pathway to employment
after graduation, are seeking alternatives to studying in the
UK and U.S.
In his most recent book, Thank You for Being Late the
New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, quotes Lin
Wells who teaches strategy at the national Defense
University and who describes three ways of looking at
problems: inside the box, outside the box, and thinking
“without a box.”
This blog post, and the one that follows, is my attempt to
look at future international student recruiting “without a
box.” My recommendation is for international college and
university deans and recruiters to begin now to
strategically plan for recruiting international students in
To begin, I suggest you research new opportunities. Read
everything you can on the geopolitical and economic
changes taking place around the world because sooner or
later these changes will impact international student
mobility. My research includes reading The Economist, Ian

International Students Past & Future

February 28th, 2017 by

Group of Asian StudentsInternational Students in the United States: Past Statistics and Future Predictions

Almost every day some announcement from educational organizations and U.S. colleges and universities predict fewer international students will enroll on U.S. college campuses in the future. While fall enrollment statistics are not yet available, I think it is safe to concur with that prediction.

Those of you reading this blog know that in marketing perception becomes reality. And the perception is that the United States no longer offers a welcoming environment for international students, professors, conferences.

Many of my future blogs will provide a chronology of how policies are impacting international student recruitment. But this blog is not about what will happen in the future but what has happened in the past.

There is ample evidence that the U.S. has been losing market share of the worldwide international student market for several years.

Consider the following:

In 2015-16 international student enrollment in the United States increased by 7 per cent from the previous year. But that was down from a 10 per cent increase in the previous year.

In 2001, 28 per cent of all international students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States. By 2014, it was 22 per cent.

In 2014-15, there were 304,040 Chinese students studying on United States’ colleges and universities, a 10.8 per cent increase from the previous year. However, in 2013-14 the increase was 21.4 per cent.

There are many more statistics to support the premise that long before the election of President Trump the United States was losing its dominance in international student enrollments.

I predict this will be a very disruptive year for international admission deans and recruiters. I recommend discarding current strategic international plans and prepare new plans that include the political and economic realities of 2017.   

International Student and Parent Communication Plan for 2017

February 14th, 2017 by

Depositphotos_36345411_s-2015International Student and Parent Communication Plan for 2017

Most colleges and universities who recruit international students have a communication outreach plan; an admission “funnel.” Traditional communication plans are management tools, not the tools for understanding market behavior. Few schools, for example, have communication plans for parents from the time of application to the time of enrollment, even though multiple research reports indicate that parents often have the final say in which school their child enrolls.

Because so much information about colleges and universities can be found on-line by prospective students and parents, I am recommending a communication plan that focuses on outcomes, not features.

Suggested Communication Plan for 2017:

Pre-Application  Stage


Send information about career counseling, job placement rates, graduation statistics


Letter from current international parent

Application Stage


Send information about student services for international students, organizations, clubs, athletics

Letter from current student


Letter from alumni parent

Accepted Applicants

Letter from faculty advisor

List of first semester courses


Letter from president, board chair

Deposited Students

Roommate selection


Counseling services for international students

Contact information for school administrators and services

In 2009 Twitter posted 300,000 tweets a day. Today 500 million tweets are posted every day. In 2009 Facebook had 1150 active users. Today there are 1.79 million users. In 2009 Uber, Airbnb, and Instagram did not exist.

Change permeates nearly every facet of life. The dark alchemy of disruption and unpredictability demand a new way of thinking and planning in recruiting international students. Beyond the corridors of today lie new educational delivery paradigms and different ways of communicating with prospective international students and their parents.


Oh Canada

January 31st, 2017 by




Oh Canada!



Several weeks ago, on this blog site, I predicted that one of the countries that may realize an increase in international students since Brexit and the results of the U.S. election was Canada. There is now some proof that this prediction may become reality.

Consider the following:

The University of Toronto reported a ten- fold increase in website visits from the U.S. one day after the election.

The University of British Columbia received more than 30,000 visits to a single graduate program on the evening of the U.S. election.

“Times Higher Education” reported a significant increase in readers of their article on the best universities in Canada.

There are several reasons to account for an increasing interest in studying in Canada including:  

Canadian recruiters have conducted effective and efficient recruiting campaigns not only in the U.S but also in China, India and Pakistan.

Canadian officials have changed application, visa and employment regulations, making it easier for international applicants to apply, get a visa, work and remain in Canada after graduation. Perhaps Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada, put it best: “We must be an open society-one that welcomes new ideas, creative ways of thinking, and different cultures and people.”

Canada’s affordable cost of living makes it a more desirable destination, especially when comparing tuition and living costs in the U.S.

Safety and deportation concerns, according to some international recruiters and agents, are impacting interest in the U.S.

We will not know until fall enrollment numbers exactly if Canada’s national approach to international student recruitment and enrollment will have on enrollment in other countries, especially in the U.S.

I, for one, am betting on Canada.




Quartet of Questions

January 24th, 2017 by

The dude 3D character and colorful question marks.

Quartet of questions to ask before implementing international student recruiting plans

Colleges and universities who want to successfully recruit and enroll international students will find it necessary to use the basics of big data and predictive analytics to create evidence-based international recruitment strategies based on analytical databases that can provide administrators with speedy, actionable information to make smart decisions, re-align and re-allocate staff time, financial resources and prioritize international markets. Asking the right questions is essential.

I would begin with asking the following four questions of prospective, accepted and deposited students and their parents.

Before Application

What made you apply and when?

Instead of basing future recruitment plans on what happened last year, international recruiters should know what part of their branding proposition prompted prospective applicants to apply and at what point in the application process they decided to apply.

After Acceptance and Deposit

Ask accepted and deposited applicants when they decided to accept your school’s offer of admission and what were the deciding factors.

What communication did your school have with accepted and deposited students that contributed to their acceptance of your admission offer?

Prospective applicants and accepted students who did not enroll

While it is critical for any successful international recruitment plan to know why and when applicants enrolled, so too is it essential to know why prospective students and accepted applicants chose not to enroll. Information from this group of prospective students can shed light on the parts of your branding proposition that are ineffective.

Questions for Parents

Most colleges and universities do not have a communication plan for parents from the time of application to deposit. But parents can, and do, weigh in on where their child will enroll. International deans should communicate directly with parents to determine what part of the branding proposition prompted parents to support acceptance of admission.

The value of getting this information in real time allows international strategic plans to be adjusted, not after the recruitment year, but during the active stages of the recruitment year.

The value of getting this information in real time can alert international strategic planners as to which parts of their branding proposition are resonating with prospective students and which parts are not and make the necessary adjustments.

The value of getting this information in real time allows strategic planners to create data-driven hypotheses that can strategically guide strategic recruitment decisions.

The old planning process based on reliance on agents, random attendance at international fairs, and the use of international view books are not the elements of successful strategic plans in 2017. The competition is too tough and the moving pieces are moving too fast.

The dark alchemy of disruption and unpredictability demand a new way of thinking and planning.