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Recruiting Intelligence

The International Student POV...Intead Staffers Reflect on OPT

 

Tianyu Shen is a business analyst from China. Isabel Aucca is a digital campaign manager from Peru. These two members of the Intead team, both on STEM OPT programs through Northeastern University and Hult International Business School respectively, have amazing stories as international students, travelers, explorers, and knowledge workers here in the US.

Many of you already know Tianyu and Isabel through the conferences they attend for Intead and the work they do with our network. If you haven’t had that pleasure, be sure to introduce yourself to them at an upcoming industry conference (AIEA, NAFSA, AIRC, ICEF, etc.) These two super talents bring their skills to our work in their respective fields (market research, business and data analytics, digital campaigns development and optimization, and competitor analyses) along with incredibly valuable international perspectives.

Their comments below will quickly give you a sense of what it is like to be in their shoes and understand a bit more about what drives them. And since so many of you work to create fulfilling experiences for international students, we thought we’d use this platform to share words that will surely resonate with you and your team.


Opportunities to Meet In Person 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • AIRC Spring Symposium in Niagara, Canada, April 30, 2024
  • ICEF North America in Niagara, Canada, May 1-3, 202
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in LA, May 28-31, 2024
  • International ACAC Conference in London, Canada, July 08-12, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 


As you read the perspective below, consider what it is that drove their decisions to study and work outside of their home countries. Note the courageous decisions they made and the personality traits that are likely common to many of the international students you are seeking. It is these kinds of personal reflections that inform larger marketing strategies and help us create truly engaging content to attract future international students to our institutions.

Tianyu, who grew up in China, attended an English language institute in Boston before earning his undergrad degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and then his master’s at Northeastern University. As excellent as this background is, it does not provide andy indication of the genuinely joyful, energetic, and thoughtful person he is.

What he has to say about where he is now: “It’s human nature. When you receive something and people support you, you want to give back. For me, I feel so grateful for all of the education I received. It’s life-changing. And I’m grateful for all the people who helped me out along the way. Now, working at Intead I can help others who are standing where I once stood. I’m so thankful.”

The feeling is absolutely mutual.

Isabel, an undeniable dynamo from Peru who speaks three languages (Spanish, Portuguese, and English), earned her undergrad from the Universidad del Pacifico in Lima and her master’s from Hult International Business School in Massachusetts.

“Arriving at a place like Intead, it’s the purpose they have, it’s the type of company where you can be hands-on in every project – all of varying client scopes – and so many different ways to engage with the work. On one project I wear a digital hat, another I’m focused on research, and on others I get to be really creative about the overall marketing plan. That sets personalities like me up for success."

Isabel absolutely does her part to set us (and that means you) up for success, as well.

Following our recent #AIRC2023 full-day digital marketing workshop in December, both Isabel and Tianyu independently posted to LinkedIn about their experience helping others learn their craft during the workshop. This post brings their reflections to you.

Read on…

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Budgeting Framework for Student Enrollment Projects (and More)

 

Are you in a position to approve funding requests from others? Or are you the one asking for funds? We have some perspective that can help you either way.

Today, we are offering up a framework for evaluating budget requests based on your ability to achieve defined goals. Just in time for budget season. It's a quick one-pager.

Here's the thing: your budget is more than the sum of its line items - an idea that’s not lost on you. After all, numbers tell stories. Like the dollars that allowed your team to meet international students at the airport. Or, ensured your first-years first connected at your well-planned international student orientation. Or, that scholarship fund that changed yield results. Real stories. Important stories. Made possible, in part, by funds allocated through strategic planning with scarce financial resources. 

Because, where you allocate funds represents what you find most important. In other words: your budget is an expression of your values.

The budgeting framework we offer up today is there to help you conceptualize your budget requests with your goals clearly in mind. Your student-first goals.

Ensuring your budget holds space for these stories, these values, is so important. Because everything from your institution’s mission down to the smallest line item on your Excel spreadsheet should come back to supporting students. All this assumes you have the data that backs up those stories. We are not talking about one-offs and lovely but lonely anecdotes. 

Recently we caught up with our good friend and colleague Dr. Jill Blondin, Associate Vice Provost for Global Initiatives at Virginia Commonwealth University, who by the way was recently named SIO of the Year by IIE (Go Jill!). You may know Jill through the strategic budgeting workshop she runs along with Western Michigan University’s Dr. Paulo Zagalo-Melo, Associate Provost, and Annette Cummins, Assistant Director Global Education and Business Manager. Good news there: Jill and Paulo will be hosting a 2.0 version of their budgeting workshop all about revenue-generating strategies later this year. Watch for updates!  

The perspective Jill offered makes so much sense: “Align your budget with your strategy. Not the other way around.”  

Sage advice because as we all know too well, losing sight of our real goals is all too easy once we get deep into the budgeting weeds. We see numbers and things get tactical fast.  

This is especially true when the dollars we get aren’t the dollars we need. Or think we need. The truth is by keeping our eyes trained on creating a truly student-first experience, international recruitment and student services teams can often accomplish way more than we may at first realize when budget numbers fall flat.  

As Jill said to us, “The international office should not be the alpha and the omega of an international student’s experience.” Indeed, an international office cannot be everything to everyone. Middle ground collaboration is essential. Integrating international students into the full campus experience is the point anyway and your budget should reflect this. More on cross-campus collaboration in another post.  

For today, we offer a quick reboot of our popular “3 Essential Budget Questions: A Framework for Planning.” Use this as a guide to focus and prioritize your annual budget discussions this year.  

Our budget framework asks you to take a step back and reflect on whether your actual results are feeding your goals. This worksheet guidance is yours free for download. As you think through your budget needs and priority projects, keep in mind that you want your budget strategy to reflect your student-first approach.  

Read on to access this useful budgeting tool 

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The Changing International Enrollment Realities…and a nod to AIEA

 

A key driver for international students: the ability to gain hands-on work experience in their fields of study.   

If you’re paying attention to SEVIS stats, then you already know the demand for Optional Practical Training (OPT) has been steady for years now. Its numbers show that in 2022, the US pushed through 117,301 new OPT authorizations and 64,844 new STEM OPT authorizations for F-1 students. That’s up 87% and 307% respectively in one decade.  

The significant jump in the latter stat reflects improved opportunities for international STEM students. The STEM fields of study list keeps expanding and the length of stay upped in 2016 from 17-months to 24-months beyond the first year. All really good news for international students. Even better news for institutions like yours that recruit and support the students as well as employers like us who get to tap into their skills and drive. (Coming soon: A post about the journey of two of Intead’s very own and ambitious STEM OPT team members. Stay tuned!)  

The STEM OPT and how it plays out for international student recruitment and retention will be a big part of what we will be addressing head on next week at the AIEA conference in Washington, D.C.  


AIEA Is On! So many opportunities for idea exchange and learning. 

If you’ll be there (and we know many of you will be), sit in on our session, The View as a Data Analyst: International Enrollment Realities, on Feb. 19 at 10 a.m. featuring:  

  • Dr. Michael Wilhelm, Associate Provost for Global Partnerships and International Education at University of North Carolina Wilmington 
  • Dr. Khald Aboalayon, Academic Program Director, MS Data Analytics, SPS at Clark University 
  • Iliana Joaquin, Intead’s Senior Digital Marketing Manager 

Other sessions with Ben and Iliana will cover a range of important topics including global digital marketing, international alumni engagement, AI and enrollment management, and a fave: being an entrepreneur in a bureaucratic environment.  


While tapping into the STEM OPT student audience is not without its downstream hurdles (the not-so-small undertaking of building appropriate programs, training faculty, and developing employer connections come to mind), doing so feels like a no-brainer.  

We know your prospective students are eager to earn a quality degree and build a career. So, if your academics align with their goals, then you’ve already got their interest. Studies also show international students vying for STEM OPT are more likely to complete their degrees – fabulous on many levels. We’ll be diving much deeper into this topic later in the year. We’ll keep you posted. But you get the idea. 

The question now: how do you get them to your campus? Read on for the actionable insights… 

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Peer Check: How Edu Marketers Use Social to Engage

 

Don’t blame Gen Z, but their insatiable appetite for social media can create quite the content grind on the backend. We hear it from our clients. Why must engaging social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, which afford marketers all the playfulness and flexibility you could ever want, require so much time and attention? It’s the lament of the modern marketer. 

Content creation is not time intensive. You can use ChatGPT and crank out reams of it in minutes. (As if!) 

See last week's post for our perspective on the use of ChatGPT for enrollment marketing (or any marketing).

Engaging, authentic, effective content creation is highly time-intensive. 

Our advice: stay calm and scroll on. Sometimes, you just need a little inspiration from others who are playing in your same space.  


Opportunities to Meet In Person 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • 2024 AIEA Annual Conference in DC, Feb 18-21, 2024
  • ICEF North America in Niagara Falls, Canada, May 1-3, 2024
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in LA, May 28-31, 2024

Let us know if you’ll come share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 


So today, we invite you to pause for a quick competitor looksee. We’re not talking about fast-moving trends – those fleeting fads are here one day and gone the next, literally. Remember Wednesday’s (Jenna Ortega’s) dance on TikTok? 22 billion views in 2023. Loved it, right? Not so much on anyone’s mind today, though. 

You can always check TikTok’s Trending Intelligence for the latest. Instead, let’s focus on more lasting ways to use social media in your digital marketing. And yes, we will be checking on what your peers are up to. 

So, read on to get an edge in your social media strategy and draw inspiration (or perhaps critique) from a few real-world applications.  

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The Questionable Use of Shortcut Tools – ChatGPT and Templates

 

Until Threads, ChatGPT was the fastest-growing consumer app in history taking a short 2 months to amass 100 million users. Though Threads’ frenetic growth has tapered (and then some), interest in the AI tool has more than 1.4 billion visitors actively engaged with it each month.  

Today, it’s all about the tools we use that offer us shortcuts to our work as marketers. While ChatGPT is the latest shortcut tool, it is not so different in so many ways from the old school marketing template that saves us time and if misused (like ChatGPT) reduces, even eliminates, our creativity and effectiveness.

On the surface, we can point to a plan well executed, right? Our starting point has already been legitimized based on past performance (ChatGPT or some previously used design or report template). So, it stands to reason that using those tools will produce similar results. Uhm, maybe…

But probably not.

It is basic human nature. Use of shortcut tools often means we slack off on scrutinizing the details of what we are producing. Less scrutiny of what we produce and deliver to the world, less customization of our messaging and content, means we are prone to error. Some of those errors can be hugely damaging.

There goes our credibility with our target audiences.


Opportunities to Meet In Person 

The Intead team is gearing up for some amazing presentations and we hope you can join us. 

  • 2024 AIEA Annual Conference in DC, Feb 18-21, 2024
  • ICEF North America in Niagara Falls, Canada, May 1-3, 2024
  • NAFSA 2024 Annual Conference and Expo in LA, May 28-31, 2024

Let us know if you’ll share a cup of coffee and a conversation about all things global and digital (info@intead.com) 


Looking particularly at ChatGPT, its ability to read and synthesize the entirety of the internet is amazing, staggering. Searching and understanding for complex information and analysis of huge datasets - what a time savings. Useful with even not so complex information. If only it provided reliable results without blending information inappropriately and even fabricating results out of thin air. Recent ads we've heard from AI service providers include the claim, "hallucination-free AI." Uhm, what?

Can you truly promise that? How did we get to a place where you need to promise that? 

When even the experts cannot explain to us how and why AI is producing falsehoods, when we get information that might have completely fabricated results and basic users (non-subject matter experts) cannot identify which pieces of information are accurate and which are not, we are in serious trouble.

Read on for perspective and our actionable what to do checklist. We want to help you, as a marketer, use shortcuts like AI and marketing templates wisely and avoid falling into the banality of functionality – the death knell of any marketing effort and potentially, the killer of a brand's soul. 

Important Note to Readers: This is not another article on how to master ChatGPT prompts to get ‘genius’ responses.  

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Yes, You Should be in Vietnam, but here’s the thing…

 

With the very real concern of declining domestic enrollment numbers, US institutions are right to broaden their recruitment strategies, including their international reach. Thinking beyond traditional student markets, like China and India, is old news by now.  You’ve diversified your draw and Vietnam has been on your list, right?

Don’t get us wrong, China remains an important market and neighboring India is clearly a recruitment stronghold. Learn more about these sending countries in recent posts here (China) and here (India). Today, we focus on Vietnam and why this country offers value to institutions looking at best practices and diversification in their international student draw. 

When we run our global marketing workshops, more than a majority of the institutions attending identify Vietnam as a student market they've targeted as a growth opportunity. The competition for students coming from Vietnam is only growing.


We’ll be at AIEA in DC in about 4 weeks and participating in 3 great presentations: 

  • AI for enrollment management  
  • Entrepreneurial leadership in bureaucratic environments 
  • A discussion around International Student Points of Entry and a new publication to be released later in 2024 

And of course, we will be presenting at NAFSA in New Orleans in late May. If you’d like to schedule time to chat over coffee instead of over Zoom, please be in touch (info@intead.com). 


According to the latest numbers from Vietnam’s Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), approximately 190,000 Vietnamese students study abroad, the majority focusing on post-secondary institutions. That was for the 2019-20 academic year, though it appears the numbers are as strong or better today. Globally, Vietnam ranks as a top 10 sender of outbound student mobility per the ICEF Monitor. 

The majority of these students head to South Korea or Japan for university. Depending on who you ask, either 66,000 Vietnamese students studied in South Korea in 2022 per Capstone Education or just over 37,000 according to Korea Educational Development Institute. Less disputed are Japan’s numbers, which Study Japan puts at 49,000 incoming Vietnamese students in 2021. 

The third most popular destination is the US, hosting nearly 22,000 Vietnamese students in 2022-23 per the latest IIE Open Doors data. A distant third, yes, but considering the literal distance (8000+ miles between LA and Ho Chi Minh City as the crow flies), the numbers are encouraging. The reasons for choosing a US education we most often hear when speaking with Vietnamese students: 

  • A US degree is strong 
  • Classroom instruction encourages creativity and develops critical thinking 
  • Soft skills are taught 
  • Access to a multinational job market

That all makes sense from a prospective student perspective. But, why should your institution choose to actively recruit in Vietnam? What might make these students interested in your institution? And will it be a worthwhile effort for your institution’s enrollment growth? 

Below we share 3 big reasons why we find Vietnam a top student source for markets around the world and offer an insider’s take on the Vietnamese student mindset. To shape our thinking, we tapped our long-time colleague Hien Dao, founder and CEO of Golden Path Academics Vietnam, a Hanoi-based program that preps Vietnamese students for global academic and professional environments. She’s a great resource for any Vietnamese student recruitment initiative. Read on for insights. 

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Omnichannel Marketing 101


If something isn’t online, does it even exist? We jest, and yet, without a strong online brand presence, many prospective students and their families really won’t know you exist. Because let's face it, prospective students today are basically born with smartphones in hand and earbuds on. If something isn’t online, it’s next to invisible in their world. 

That’s why institutions across the board have spent the past decade+ ramping up digital marketing budgets, perfecting their Insta image, and all the rest. A recent Washington Post article claims some well-funded universities are spending upwards of $1-2 million per month on digital ad campaigns alone. (Emphasis there on "well-funded!")

While that number is not industry average, most institutions do not have a Barbie budget, that figure is still a clear indication that digital is mission critical to higher ed marketing. No surprise to you or your finance team.  

But here’s the thing. The newest crop of students and their tag-along Gen Alpha siblings are at once more immersed and less smitten with social media. It's certainly no longer novel. Social media is life as they know it and they are adept at downloading ad blockers and avoiding sales pitches. So take note. Authenticity rules, while overproduced and slick messages are generally ignored.  

Our recommendation is to keep honing your digital marketing game, with this caveat in mind: your digital approach works best in tandem with other channels. We are talking out-of-home, print, in-person, and the like. In other words, the best-bet strategy is omnichannel.


We’ll be at AIEA in DC in about 5 weeks and participating in 3 great presentations: 

  • AI for enrollment management  
  • Entrepreneurial leadership in bureaucratic environments 
  • A discussion around International Student Points of Entry and a new publication to be released later in 2024 

And of course, we will be presenting at NAFSA in New Orleans in late May. If you’d like to schedule time to chat over coffee instead of over Zoom, please be in touch (info@intead.com). 


Read on to better understand the importance of omnichannel marketing and how you can use it to engage your target audience and grow your enrollment numbers.  

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AIRC 2023 Reflections: Slides Now Available

 

As I headed to Phoenix for the AIRC 2023 conference, I wondered if the window had already closed for education institutions just now considering starting up with commission-based agents as an international student recruitment channel. Happy to tell you, that window has not closed at all.  

Yet, there is a lot to consider for those institutions just starting, and those having been at it for years. 

With the largest AIRC conference to-date (480 attendees), more than 200 first timers attended. Clearly there is demand to learn more about how effective university-agent partnerships work. And having been part of the AIRC community for 14 of their 15-year history, I can tell you that AIRC is one of the best places to learn about international student enrollment growth. 

From sample contracts to efficient agent engagement policies and practices, AIRC’s documentation and counsel are outstanding. This year, 7 members of the Intead team traveled to Phoenix to attend, in part because the learning opportunities and global connections at this conference are among the best in the industry. The other part was the opportunity to share our own expertise with the attendees at our full-day Global Marketing Workshop. That was a hoot. The Intead team just loves this stuff. 


We’ll be at AIEA in DC in about 6 weeks and participating in 3 great presentations: 

  • AI for enrollment management  
  • Entrepreneurial leadership in bureaucratic environments 
  • A discussion around International Student Points of Entry and a new international student-focused publication to be released later in 2024 

And of course, we will be presenting at NAFSA in New Orleans in late May. If you’d like to schedule time to chat over coffee instead of over Zoom, please be in touch (info@intead.com). 


At AIRC 2023, we gave our full-day Global Marketing Workshop with half a day devoted to an interactive lecture on the fundamentals of the strategy that drives a university’s tactical execution. After lunch, we dove into 1:1 consulting with participants to address the group’s self-identified greatest needs.  

It was fascinating to see how our workshop attendees debated and decided amongst themselves what the second half topics should be. Here’s where we ended up: 

  • I need a marketing budget, what do I do to get it approved? 
  • I have a marketing budget. Now what? 
  • Identifying and filling resource gaps 
  • Processes for nurturing and converting leads 
  • Creating authentic and powerful recruitment content 

Do these topics resonate for you? Be in touch and we can share what we know and how we have helped institutions like yours succeed.  

During the AIRC conference, Intead’s Sr. Digital Marketing Manager Iliana Joaquin joined Dr. David DiMaria, SIO at UMBC, for a practical discussion about how AI and ChatGPT are being used today in enrollment management and what we can realistically expect in the next year as AI-driven tools evolve. Short answer – it ain’t there yet, but it very likely will be in the next couple of years. So much more to talk about on this topic. There are definitely some gains that can be made in some areas, but the hype from the vendors is creating so much noise. Very frustrating.

Later at the conference, I ran a session with Vanessa Andrade about staffing challenges that so many institutions are facing today. The discussion about what skills and tasks to hire for and what to outsource was dynamic with so many additions from the folks in the room. This is what we absolutely love about the AIRC conference.

We are making these insightful presentations available to blog subscribers for free. Download them here.

Below we summarize 3 key take-aways from the conference. Please read on… 

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Intead’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2023: Chosen by Readers

 

2023 ushered in some much-needed numbers. Enrollment rose among undergraduate (+2.1%) and graduate (+0.7%) students. And while freshmen enrollment trended downward (-3.6%), interest in shorter-term credentials was on the rise (+9.9%). All this per National Student Clearinghouse figures. 

Likewise, IIE Open Doors data showed a 12% increase of incoming international students in 2022-23. And the more up-to-date SEVIS data indicated 2023 fall enrollment maintained this welcomed momentum. All good news in aggregate. As we parse all these data sets, there are interesting findings and nuanced opportunities to be sure. 

Yet, all news was not good. The chaos of the world at large continued to make its way onto campuses across the nation. Safety continues to be a growing concern, and your prospective students and their families are unsure what to make of it. More admissions inquiries shift from campus life to safety and mental health support services. Also important to note: social justice activities influence an increasing number of applicants. 

In the midst of it all, we do our best to use this blog to weigh in on topics that matter to enrollment teams like yours. So, it’s always interesting for us to look back and see which posts were your faves for most valuable content from the year. There are always a few surprises. 

In 2023, there was a ton of interest in all things internationalization – especially around how student activity in India and China is changing. But that’s not all.

We were told our posts on student career prep, social media trends, and budgeting framework were also really helpful. So, with that, we share our top 10 posts from 2023, as chosen by you, our readers. Plus our staff pick for the most valuable post of 2023. If you missed any of these top pieces, you’ll want to read on…  

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The Most Useful Stuff from Q4 2023

 

From the annual CIEE conference in Paris to Pie Live in Boston then AIRC in Phoenix and a super quick turnaround to ICEF in Miami, Q4 literally flew by. You, too? We wouldn’t change a thing, of course. It’s hard to replace the simple act of togetherness. It’s how ideas come to life. Cliché? Fine. But it’s so true. 

Sharing our research and student recruitment campaign results with our community always feels great. We’re here to make you more effective (and have interesting insights to share at your team meetings).  

A few key Q4 takeaways we will absolutely be bringing into the new year: 

  • The global competition for international students is stronger by the day, and institutions need to be increasingly smarter in their approach to international education, including recruitment. Can you be? (hint: it has to do with the skill sets you access to do the work) 
  • China and India are hot topics as always, especially India’s dramatic rising numbers of incoming graduate (and undergraduate) students.  
  • Enrollment departments are eager to leverage AI. The question is: how? And, is it ready for us? 
  • More must be done to support student mental health. So much more. 
  • And how about the new IIE Open Doors report?! Lagging data that points toward the future. 

Just a few notes we’re thinking about. Clearly there’s no lack of issues for our industry to address. So, if in the midst of this really busy few months you didn’t have time to read all of our posts, we understand. That’s why we’ve compiled this quarterly at-a-glance post. It covers all our news from how to navigate TikTok’s ad platform to what’s going on with higher ed in India and so much in between that you and your team won’t want to miss.Read on… 

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