Retaining International Students, Part 3: Advancement

International StudentsHow, exactly, can colleges and universities advance to successfully recruit – and graduate – international students?

We’ve focused, over the past two posts, on attracting and – even more importantly – retaining international students at colleges and universities.

We’ve labored under the valid assumption that all colleges and universities see the value and benefits of attracting a student body from all corners of the globe. But we’ve also pointed out how very often our college administrations fall short of ensuring international students advance, graduate and move on to productive careers.

In our July 15 post, we suggested student progression and graduate is the only true measure of any enrollment management program.

In our July 22 post, we looked at the difficulty faced by the new vice-president for international programs at Mythical University when presented with the task of developing a program to increase by 10 percent the enrollment and graduation of international students and to increase by 10 percent the number of Ol’ Myth students who, in turn, study abroad.

So, here we are in Week Three, one year later in the life of Mythical U., and the V.P.. for international programs was able to report to the university president and board of trustees: some major accomplishments, including the creation of an International Affairs Committee, a task force to oversee the recruitment and retention of international students.

International Affairs Committee

  • A monthly meeting of representatives from the admission, student affairs, retention services, career services, alumni and fundraising offices, was created. Between meetings committee members were asked to collaborate on how to integrate their administrative functions to provide better services to international students.


  • The offices of admission and student services determined who in the student services department would communicate directly with international students and parents after letters of acceptance were mailed. In effect, the action moved from admission to student services. The staff in that office is partially responsible for “closing the deal.”
  • The admission and student services departments shared information on the parents of current international students who have agreed to speak or meet with prospective international parents.
  • The alumni staff shared information with the international admission recruiters on international graduates.
  • The career counseling staff shared information with the international recruiters on the job placements of recent international graduates.
  • The director of retention services reported monthly on the progression of all new and returning international students. A specific staff member in the department was made responsible for coordinating outreach to any international student in academic difficulty.
  • The director of alumni affairs shared a list with committee members of all international graduates. International recruiters have this information when they travel abroad and whenever possible, meet with international graduates to seek assistance with recruitment activities and internship possibilities.
  • The admission office shared with the fundraising office information on potential “friends” of Mythical U. (This information is shared only after students are accepted and enrolled.) Plans are in place for next year for the vice presidents of advancement and international programs to meet with potential international donors.
  • The vice president for international programs created a database of all existing articulation and combined degree agreements. A standard protocol was developed for all future international agreements and everyone on the committee was given a set of the new guidelines. Mythical U’s legal department signed off on the protocol and all international admission recruiters were given copies to take on future international trips.
  • All agreements are now “housed” in the vice president’s office and no one, apart from the vice president, is permitted to sign off on future arrangements.
  • The same policy is followed with regard to future study abroad agreements.
  • The vice president created a database of all current international students and graduates and that information is shared with all committee members.
  • The vice-president’s research assistant compiled a list with the following international statistics: number and percent of current international students and countries of origin, number of international graduates and countries of origin, number of international faculty and countries of origin, and the number and names of all international courses.  This information is shared with all international recruiters.
  • The vice president created a Board of International Advisors, composed of local and international alumni. The Board meets once a year on the campus of Mythical U and is charged with helping the school recruit students, create international internships, and identify potential international donors.
  • An annual report of the committee’s activities is shared with the entire campus in January and June.

Not bad for one year’s work!

Applying for College: Stressed Out or Calm?

We should be honest: applying for college can become a stressful preoccupation.

Just relax, take a few deep breaths.

For those of you entering your senior year in high school – and your parents – you may be feeling the pressure of having to make a decision, filling out the applications. You perception is that time is running out.

You have an appointment with your high school guidance counselor the second week in September and you are tired of all the “road trips” and facts and figures.  Conversations at dinnertime focuses on costs and how your family can/will pay for college.

There was a wonderful article written by Doug Belkin, an educational writer for The Wall Street Journal on May 7th.  The article, Elite Colleges Don’t Buy Happiness, reported on a poll conducted by Gallup of 30,000 college graduates in 50 schools. The bottom line: it doesn’t matter so much where you study but what is important is what you study.

Earlier research by Stacy Dale, an economist at Mathematica, revealed that students accepted into elite schools but enrolling in less selective schools earned as much money as their elite counterparts.

So take a deep breath a re-read that sentence.  Do you really want the pressure of applying only to schools that admit less that 5% of all those that apply?  Is that you?  Maybe it is.  But maybe it isn’t.  Only you can decide.

The New College GuidePick up a copy (again) of my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, and review the following questions:

  • Question 1  –   School Location and Size
  • Question 2 –    Type of School
  • Question 3 –    Do I Know What I Want to Study?
  • Question 7 –    Who Will Teach Me?
  • Question 10 – How Many Freshmen Become Sophomores?
  • Question 11 – How Long Will It Take Me to Graduate?

Then take a break. That’s enough for today.

Today review the following questions:

  • Question 18  – How Safe Are the Schools on My List?
  • Question 22 –  Will I Fit In?
  • Question 25 –  Can I Afford This School?
  • Question 27 –  What Kind of Financial Aid Is Available?
  • Question 31 –  Does Everyone Get Financial Aid?
  • Question 34 –  How Do I Know If I Am Borrowing Too Much?

That’s enough for day 2.

By the time you review and write down the answers to these questions for all of the schools you are considering, some clear “winners” will emerge.


  • You can be admitted to a school of your choice and your choice may not be a “designer” school or one even rated in a college guide book.
  • You want to know before you apply, that you can afford this school.
  • You have a plan to manage your debt.

Next week I will write about employment and jobs after graduation.



College statistics you should know

Numbers often give us the big picture of challenges facing us and college statistics give us a picture of the state of higher education today.

I don’t know if you read The New York Times, but if you do not, you will want to read the following statistics listed by David Brooks on May 5, 2014:

  • 1974 – 77% of all college students enrolled in their first choice school
  • 2013 –  57% of all college students enrolled in their first choice school
  • 1976 –  50% of all college students went to college to earn more money
  • 2006 –  69% of all college students went to college to earn more money
  • 1966 –  42% of college students reported being well off financially was important
  • 2005 –  75% of college students reported being well off financially was important
  • 1966 –  86% of college students reported going to college to develop a philosophy of life. In 2013, the percentage was less than 50%.
  • 1985 – 18% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do
  • 2013 – 33% of college students felt overwhelmed by all they had to do.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you know why you want to go to college?
  • Is a good job after graduation, doing meaningful work and earning a decent salary, important to you?

The New College Guide

If you read and follow the principles in The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job, you will enroll in your first choice school.

You cannot fail!

Retaining International Students

international studentsAny experienced enrollment manager knows that enrolling students, U.S. students or international students, is just the first step.

Student progression and graduation is the true measure of the success of any enrollment management program.

According to the Institute of International Education, there are 40% more international students at American colleges than there was a decade ago. It is no surprise that a study of the enrollment and transfer patterns of this group of students would be a topic of great interest.

At a recent conference of international educators sponsored by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NAFSA) , the results of a nationwide survey on international student retention was shared with conference participants. Responses were obtained from 500 educators and 500 students at more than 100 colleges.

Among the findings, as reported by Dr. Rahul Choudaha, the project’s lead researcher, are the following:

  • U.S. college administrators and educators maintain that the primary reasons for international students dropping out were related to finances, academics, English language problems, and a desire to attend a college or university that was somehow considered a “better” fit.
  • The students who were surveyed cited employment, internships and scholarships as the chief reasons for dropping out.
  • Clearly there are different expectations on the part of college officials and international students.

There are many reasons for this, including:

  • Few international recruitment programs include information on what a college or university does to keep the student after acceptance and enrollment.
  • Few international recruitment programs are tied to international student services, international alumni or career counseling programs.
  • Few colleges and universities have separate offices or staff to administer specific student progression and retention services to international students.
  • Too often, prospective international applicants are not given enough information before they apply and too often international recruiters do not have the proper information to share.

This will surely change as more and more institutions continue to reach out to an international student population.

So what could and should change?

The following practical suggestions are based on the strategic international recruitment
plan I have shared with several colleges and universities and also from the practical suggestions I offer in my book, A Practical Guide to Enrollment and Retention Management in Higher Education, and the suggestions offered to international students in my book, The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out and Get a Job.

Let’s begin with the questions I ask international students to ask before they apply to any College GuideU.S. college or university:

  • International students should know the number and percentage of international students and the countries of origin. Who are the “typical” international student and graduate?
  • Is there an international student organization that can provide information to prospective international students?
  • What institutional aid is available to international students? How many international students receive scholarship or on-campus employment?
  • International applicants should have a list of international alumni and job titles to contact for information.
  • Each college or university on the student’s list should provide a complete list of all student services for students from abroad.
  • Housing and roommate assignments can be a deal breaker for many students and can wreck a student’s first semester. How are rooms assigned?
  • Is there a special orientation for international students and parents?
  • Counseling services and how the school handles issues of homesickness and campus safety should be clear.

As a former vice president for enrollment, retention and international programs, I had the good fortune to be able to streamline administrative functions while simultaneously providing specific retention services to international students.

More about that in next week’s blog. Stay tuned.

Who Will Teach Me at College?

College GuideIt doesn’t not occur to most college-bound students to ask the simple questions, “who will teach me at college?”

Nearly everyone assumes – certainly a reasonable assumption – the teachers at college will be fully tenured, college professors. Or, at least, graduate students on their way to becoming college professors.

But we can no longer make that assumption.

If you have read The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get  a Job, you will know that one of the questions you should ask before you apply to any college or university is who teaches first year students.  Are the instructors full-time, tenured faculty, or are they adjunct teachers or graduate assistants?

According to a recent report, the majority of professors are now adjuncts, teaching part-time in several schools.  They are often given little advance notice of what course they will be teaching. They may not even have an office or office hours, making it difficult for a first year student to get advice outside of the classroom.

There are many excellent adjunct professors and graduate teaching assistants. But I do not believe that they are the best instructors for first-year students.

Schools that use adjuncts do so to save money. The interests of the students, in my opinion, are secondary to the monetary benefit of using part-time instructors.  Adjunct faculty cannot provide the same kind of educational experience and academic advising provided by a full-time professor.

I believe the classroom professor is the most important factor in student success, especially in the first year.

The best schools in the country put their best teachers in first-year classrooms.  Be certain you know who teaches first-year courses before turning in your application.