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!

Reinventing Your University

university studentsReinventing your university may be the only way it can move forward in the 21st Century.

In the book, Reinventing the University – Managing and Financing Higher Educationeach of the 14 contributors emphasize that the successful university of the future will be the one which has the capacity to create new structural paradigms which will direct how it conducts business and how it delivers its educational product.

The newly structured enterprise will be both seamless and transparent in the systems and administrative structures used to deliver services to students.

This week’s message, similar to the one of last week, celebrates those innovative colleges and universities with dynamic leaders who are willing to initiate change in an attempt to make the college experience a better one for those who attend, who teach and who administer.

Over the course of my administrative career, I had the opportunity for a brief period of time, to manage both the enrollment management and alumni and fundraising departments for my university.

The reporting structure was unique and would not work in today’s environment but it did, for a time, reveal that hardened “functional silos” could become more flexible and transparent.

The lack of bureaucracy made it possible to respond quickly to enrollment demands and donor requests. There was a consistent and integrated marketing message from the time of a student’s application to the time after graduation. The internal and external messages were consistent, reinforcing the school’s image among its key constituencies. The systems from student enrollment to alumni involvement were both seamless and transparent.

Consider the similarities between the advancement and enrollment functions:

  • Both are labor intensive and customer service directed
  • Success for both functions is measured in concrete numbers.
  • The image of the institution heavily influences the work of both departments
  • Both are revenue driven
  • Both departments require staff with good analytical, organizational and people-oriented skills
  • Both are subject to the economic realities of the day.

I am not suggesting that this model would or could be adopted by other schools. But I am suggesting that changing administrative responsibilities and reporting structures should be considered.

In 1998, Spencer Johnson wrote, Who Moved My Cheese,The popular bestseller championed the need for change. The author stressed that change involves setting different rules, making the work environment uncertain and unpredictable. How much of what Mr. Johnson wrote 16 years ago would apply to many colleges and universities today?

Four Practical Suggestions for Recruiting International Students to Your Campus

International College StudentsRecruiting international students to your campus has become very competitive and, as a result, a full-time task for many colleges and universities.

When I was a full-time administrator, I spent the months of June through August planning for the following recruitment cycle. I examined all of the past year’s enrollment results and adjusted the outreach to international students based on what worked and did not work in the previous year.

Those of you who regularly read my blog postings know that I am, if nothing else, very keen to give practical advice based on past experiences. That is what I will give you in this week’s blog: practical advice.

Consider the following recommendations as you plan your next year’s strategic international recruitment plan.

Partner with a Local High School

It isn’t just Chinese parents who want to enroll their children in a high school for one year and then transfer to a college or university. Many international parents have enrolled their children in high schools with the intent that another year of high school will improve their child’s English skills and help with the adjustment to the American way of life.

I would create an “articulation” agreement with a local high school to accept high school students before they enroll in your school.

Bring Along a Career Counselor

This will upset many admission counselors who, up to now, “owned” international recruitment trips. I am not suggesting that counselors stop making international trips but I am recommending that they bring along someone from the career counseling staff who can speak with prospective college students and parents about what your school can do to help graduates get jobs after graduation. How many of your competitor schools are providing this service?

Act on Your Social Media Analytics

I sometimes changed recruitment sites based on a careful analysis of what Google analytics revealed about who was visiting our website, the pages reviewed and how long they stayed on the site. I was fortunate to have a staff person charged with monitoring all of our social media sites and reporting back to admission counselors and recruiters the sites producing the best results. This information was factored into all future recruitment plans.

Take Your Orientation Program Abroad

Marketing is all about differentiation. If you have a number of students accepted from a particular city or region, why not send a student service staff member to the area to conduct an on- site orientation program for students and parents?

I am not suggesting eliminating the on-campus orientation program that will take place in late August or early September. Rather I am recommending supplementing the information international students and parents receive as part of your holistic student services. Are any of your competitors providing this service?

What about the cost? I know from experience that this kind of service will result in parents telling other parents that your school is different. This international on-site orientation program is setting the stage for your next year’s recruitment plan.

And don’t forget to get the names and contact information of the parents who attend this orientation program and ask them to help you recruit next year’s class.

I think this is an investment of short money than can produce big results. More to come on recommendations on ways to increase your international student population.

College recruitment: from or to Asia?

Students from AsiaWithin 10 years, Asia will be the home to three of the world’s four largest economies and what that means for higher education is profound.

I’m not here to argue one way or another any kind of shift in international higher education migration away from Europe and the U.S. to Asia. But any college or university who recruits international students in Asia will be interested in the following trends:*

  • Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea are emerging as contenders in attracting international students from other Asian countries.
  • China plans to host 300,000 students by 2020.
  • According to IIE, in 2012, there were more foreign students in China than in Australia and Germany.
  • An increasing number of students from Korea are enrolling in Chinese colleges and universities.
  • Malaysian students are opting to study in Indonesia.
  • An increased number of students from the Middle East are enrolling in Malaysia  schools to study.
  • International student enrollment is increasing in the Philippines with students from South Korea, China, Taiwan and Iran.
  • Education Singapore is a newly-created agency charged with promoting and marketing education in Singapore to help meet the government’s target of enrolling over 1 million international students by 2015.
  • Japan has set a goal of hosting 3 million students by 2020.

*Source: Student Mobility and the Internationalization of Higher Education, Project Atlas.

Implications for Future Asian Recruitment

  • As Asian colleges and universities improve in rankings and services, students in the region are more likely to enroll in Asian schools.
  • Colleges and universities who are recruiting in Asia should consider developing international partnerships, as opposed to establishing branch campuses. Combined degree programs and carefully constructed articulation agreements are ways of strengthening ties with Asian schools.
  • Developing hybrid programs and online programs with schools in Asia is one way to continue enrolling students from the region.

If colleges and universities want to maintain current international student enrollment numbers the regions most fruitful may be the whole of Africa and the nation of Iran. 

Updates: The New College Guide

Update: 4/8/2014
The New College Guide is now also available in a Spanish Edition. Subscribe to our eNews to get newest updates!

How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job

100 Questions to Ask About  College

by Marguerite J. Dennis

The New College Guide: How to Get In, Get Out, and Get a Job is a different kind of college admission and financial aid book because it offers the reader information to consider before college admission, to financing college with manageable debt, to graduating in four years and getting a job after graduation.

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With the hope that some of the questions in this book will help you to select the best college for you and for your family and will help you to better guide the students you counsel.

Early Reviews

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