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Recruiting Intelligence

Prospective Students Seek a Career Network (Part 1)

Going to university remains a search for direction and a process of maturation. And yet, there is a culture shift that has been growing over the past few decades. That culture shift is around the value of degrees vs. short-term certificates. It is around the value of a traditional 4-year university education vs. acquiring the skills to quickly land a valuable job. Cybersecurity and data analytics anyone?

Before we dive in, how confident are you with your selection of international student recruitment markets right now? You, our blog subscribers, have first shot at this limited seating workshop.


Among our colleagues in this field, we see a tremendous thirst for gathering and evaluating our options, with time to really talk it through. The Intead/San Diego State University One-Day Workshop will be a hands-on opportunity to learn from an awe-inspiring international student recruitment faculty.

  • Come with questions, leave with a plan.
  • Two luminary keynotes
    • Luncheon on Social Justice with Dr. Jewell Winn and Adrienne Fusek
    • Dinner on Chinese Student Influencers with Dr. Yingyi Ma and Brad Farnsworth
    • A full day of international student recruitment strategy and execution discussion
  • At $200 for the day (inclusive of all meals), this learning opportunity is a steal. (Pricing goes up to $350 on October 24, 2022).

For most undergraduates, studying at a university is now the first opportunity to interact with and cultivate the network connections that are so vital to getting a job and building a successful career in the 21st-century global economy.

In their recently published book, The Real World of College: What Higher Education is and What It Can Be, authors Wendy Fischman and Howard Gardner note the shift in attitude and expectations among students from ‘we’ to ‘I’.

“The prevalence of ‘I’ over ‘we’ gives insight into what we believe is a troubling problem for the sector of higher education—students’ preoccupation with ‘self,’” Fischman notes.

Now we can debate if this shift is troublesome. Maybe. Maybe not. But we can’t deny the shift in attitudes toward it and how this new mindset should influence your recruitment strategies.

Read on to learn how a shift in strategy can help you secure stronger enrollment among the so-called ‘I’ generation…

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You Mean My Opinion Matters? The Power of International Student Internships

Does your institution work hard to develop employer connections?

Due to the pandemic, Intead paused its international student internship program. We are so glad to have it back as we return to the office.

As a rising Junior from Germany studying at UMass Amherst, Klara Lehmann thinks a lot about her future. She jumped at the chance to intern at Intead over the summer break. We were lucky to have her thoughtful and thorough approach to our work.

The level of effort most institutions put into developing career-shaping opportunities for their students typically underwhelms. Students, like Klara, who push for opportunities are far more likely to succeed than those who do not. So many students require additional motivation and support from their institutions to develop skills through internships.

Yet, skills development may not be the most valuable aspect of internships. From what we have seen, the real value is in how students develop an understanding, outside the classroom, of what they would like to develop into, what they would like their future to be. It is all about learning in a different environment. The networking and resume content doesn't hurt, though.

Learn with us:

  • Recruiting from Bangladesh: The Intead team will be presenting an AIRC Webinar on Wednesday, October 12, 2022. The process and results of our recent digital campaign recruiting international students for Truman State University will be on full display. Register HERE.
  • Global Marketing Strategy & Campaign Analytics: Ben and Iliana will be presenting on a range of marketing strategy and analytics sessions with colleagues from Northeastern University, Clark University, Central Connecticut State University, and University of New Hampshire at the NAFSA Region XI Conference in Manchester, NH, Nov 18-20, 2022. Click HERE to schedule a time to meet us.

Read on for a firsthand look at Klara’s reflections on her internship experience. Consider who, on your team, from career services on up, needs to hear this message. Internship experiences and the student stories you can share with your prospective students will go a long way toward differentiating your institution in a competitive market. Klara’s story makes the case for your institutional investment very clear.

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When Traditional Student Markets Weaken, Look to Africa: Part 2

All eyes on China is not a winning international student recruitment strategy today. Not that it ever was. The stronger approach: diversifying the pool of countries your institution pulls from. We’ve been saying this for more than a decade. Institutional budget allocations have not always heeded the advice.

We get it. Student volume and confidence in achieving enrollment targets have driven academic CFOs and others who manage risk to take the more conservative path. Over the past decade+, our clients are typically those interested in pushing beyond the conservative global recruitment path. They are the institutions that recognize the value of building a broad range of relationships to feed their student enrollment.

This diversification, both domestic and international, provides for more long-term stability. That strategy is becoming far more attractive to many more institutions today. And that strategy takes time and investment to execute well, to build a reliable and diverse supply chain as it were.

Last week we wrote about the three key things to look for in markets ripe for international student recruitment: a growing youth population, rising incomes, and employment opportunities for returning graduates. And a growing list of countries in Africa is meeting the short(er) list for institutions seeking international students. It may be time you take a closer look at this region.

Here’s the link to Part 1 in this 2-part series (in case you missed it). Today we offer student recruitment insights for Ethiopia, South Africa, Morocco, and Tanzania.

And for more African student recruitment insights from our pre-Covid research (still highly relevant as you develop your recruitment plans), check out:

With a nod to last week’s post (with many useful links for the careful planner that we know you are), important to note that there is competition for these students from attractive and less expensive institutions in Russia (before the Ukrainian crisis), France, Germany, China, and some Middle Eastern countries.

In our discussion of 7 African nations, we cite a variety of useful sources to demonstrate how varied information sources will add to your country and cultural perspectives. Hopefully through this post and the next, you will find some new research sites to support your planning. (We love participating in that broader teaching mission as well).

Read on for tips on recruiting students from Ethiopia, South Africa, Morocco, and Tanzania

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When Traditional Markets Weaken, Look to Africa: Part 1

The best markets for international student recruitment have three key things going for them:

  • a growing youth population, 
  • rising incomes, and
  • employment opportunities for returning graduates.

The African continent has a number of under-utilized recruitment hubs that boast all three.

The three bullet points above are useful generic perspective applicable to pretty much any institution – higher ed and private high schools. But what about your specific institution?

How do you make headway in the new(ish) student recruitment markets that African countries represent? Will your differentiators resonate there? Which channels will reach your ideal student segments?

Perhaps start with some of our analysis with helpful, still valid insights compiled prior to Covid. You’ll appreciate the discussion of recruiting agents, creative partnerships, and other valuable recruiting channels:

To be clear, African countries, as sources of international students will not replace the flow of students coming out of China. So, if your enrollment goals are all about achieving target numbers and not about diversifying your campus, you may hesitate to invest here.

And yet, the thing about hitting your enrollment goals is that you win by building strong relationships and pipelines. Clearly, China and India have the volume and the larger accessible market size, but your institution needs student recruitment opportunities where you can be truly competitive. And diversifying your campus has rewards that speak directly to your institution’s broader teaching mission. Seeking less common sources of international students is one way you do all that.

An increasing number of institutions are approaching the Intead team to explore further afield. A welcome and important mindset. While regular readers of our blog know we continue to share perspectives on, and implement recruitment strategies for, traditional student sources (China, India, Vietnam, Brazil, S. Korea). With more institutions seeking new markets, it is a good time to revisit the approach to Africa as a valuable source.

Obviously, the pandemic slowed the inflow of international students from all parts of the globe, and Africa is no exception. But now, as pandemic restrictions ebb and economies recover, smart institutions are bringing Africa back into their awareness as a prime source of engaged, qualified students.

In fact, more than a few African countries have achieved the World Bank’s “middle economy” status and are expanding their leadership in sectors such as agriculture, oil and gas, and tech. These industries offer promising careers but tend to demand higher education degrees. Foreign degrees draw attention to job candidate resumes. Many US institutions offer long-established degrees and certifications that African higher education institutions are still developing.

Important to note that there is competition for these students. While the US has a strong draw (the US brand and all that), Russia (before the Ukrainian crisis), France, Germany, China, and some Middle Eastern countries have been courting students from African countries for a while with less expensive degrees than are typically found in the US.

Also interesting to note that over the past 5 years, both the US and China have each invested in the African continent at around $40B annually. Much of the investment has gone toward construction (roads/transportation) and mining.

According to The Brookings Institute, “China’s influence goes beyond the trade relationship: It is also the top investor in infrastructure, and now is the first destination of English-speaking African students, outperforming the U.S. and the U.K.” (source cited below).

In our 2-part blog post about 7 African nations, we cite a variety of useful sources to demonstrate how varied information sources will add to your country and cultural perspectives. Hopefully, through this post and the next, you will find some new research sites to support your planning. (We love participating in that broader teaching mission as well).

Read on to evaluate some of the strategies that we have found effective for recruiting students from the African continent.

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For Chinese Students, Authenticity Counts

Let’s talk about specific tactics for mid- to lower-funnel marketing communications. And specifically, what do Chinese students really want? And how are they making their decisions? For those in our line of work, it’s on everyone’s minds right now. A lot.

On average, international students are receiving 3-5 admissions letters. What they do next to select their top institution has everything to do with the information they have available to them. This is no time for institutions to let go of the recruitment communications.

With all of the turmoil and enrollment fluctuation with Chinese students in the US, when we publish on this topic we see a significant uptick in our blog and site traffic. What to do about Chinese student enrollment is a popular topic. See our latest relevant insights here:

While recent declines in Chinese enrollment in the US have a range of reasons (slow visa processing, political tensions, Covid response disparities, US violence, economic turmoil), the past decade has also brought increasing global competition for Chinese students. The intensity has only grown in the past few years.

Look, beyond all the headlines about this decline in Chinese student changes of heart, we are willing and able to predict the future. Similar to Warren Buffet’s prognostications about the stock market (it will go up, but we don’t know exactly when it will go up), we are extremely confident that China as a source of international students will not struggle forever. Over time, it will return in strength. In the meantime, it continues to be a dominant source among all international sources.

The institutions ready to take advantage of global recruiting opportunities will be the winners. That’s why when we ran across a handful of new student handbooks written by current US-based Chinese students for prospective Chinese students, we wanted to learn more.

Sure, the handbook idea is nothing new. What really intrigued us was the fact that so many institutions don’t actually have this tool in play. Seriously? We all know how meaningful personalized, authentic, and tailored communication is to international students. Going the extra mile takes your recruitment and retention efforts so much further.

Truly, it’s the small authentic gestures that count.

So we did a small thing. We took a minute to review the handbooks (they are written in Chinese for incoming Chinese students). It’s always interesting to see what current international students think is important for the newbies. And it’s important you know, too.

Read on to learn what these handbooks have to say and how they are being used.

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Getting Started with Snapchat Marketing for Universities

In an era where most social media platforms focus on curating an aesthetic feed, Snapchat stands out. It launched in 2012 as an app where messages “self-destruct” within seconds and has since added a variety of formats and filters. The platform quickly attracted young teens.

We published tips for academic institutions to make the most of this social tool back in 2016 (we waited to see if their ad platform was going to stick around). Since then, a lot has changed. You've noticed that too, we bet ; -)

Important to note, this social channel has a history of trend setting. SnapChat developed one of the original AR (augmented reality) filters and they continue to lead in many aspects. This is their lane and universities and private high schools using the platform should keep in mind that SnapChat tends to set the trend periodically in this area. Good to watch and learn here.

Overall, Snapchat's impermanent nature nurtures casual, free-flowing conversation, making it an enticing way to connect with students. Done well, it’s your ticket to getting in on prospective students’ conversations. And that’s precisely where you want to be.

Snapchat is where you show off your culture -- the feel of your campus as opposed to the specific features (programs).

Why your institution should be on Snapchat:

  • It’s young. 59% of Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 use Snapchat.
  • It’s global. 58% of Snapchat daily active users are based outside of North America, with India, France, and the UK leading the pack.
  • It’s growing. In Q2 of 2022, Snapchat had 347 million daily active users worldwide, a 22% growth year-over-year. Almost of all of that growth has been in international users while US users have remained fairly steady.
  • It’s unique. Not many high schools or universities are using Snapchat (yet), making it a way to stand out to prospective students.
  • It’s authentic. Snapchat offers a personalized way to share content and interact with students.

Ready to snap it? If so, read on to learn how you can incorporate this popular platform into your recruitment game plan and differentiate your institution. Be where your audience is.

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Insider Take: Chinese Parent/Student Priorities, Now

With Chinese student numbers in serious flux in the US, we thought we’d check in with our colleague Sally Zhu who is currently working with international students in Ningbo, China. Our goal: find out what’s working in recruitment for institutions across the Pacific.

Sally, a contributing Intead Marketing Data Analyst and US PhD aspirant, grew up in China and acquired her post-secondary degrees in the US, returning to her home country in 2020 where she landed a job with a sino-foreign university. Today she’s working as an international student support advisor there. She has a front-row seat to what is on Chinese students’ minds. 

We know this topic will be part of the hallway and session chatter throughout the NAFSA regional conferences coming up this fall. Intead will be discussing a range of student recruitment and marketing topics at Nafsa Region XI in Manchester, NH in October. If you will be there, be in touch to set up a coffee date with Ben or Iliana. We can also meet folks in California in December when AIRC and ICEF fire up. Look for some big news very soon about the learning opportunities coming up.

A couple of weeks ago, Sally sat down (virtually) with the Intead team to give her boots-on-the-ground account of how Chinese students and parents are evaluating their options today. Read on for some valuable perspective on the student recruitment market everyone is fretting about.

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Spontaneous Learning

I need this couch moved to our second floor sitting area. Clearly this is going to take both of us working in tandem.

“You want to go up first?” You ask.

“Sure,” I say.

I reach for the bottom and the side. You find your handholds as well. We lift in unison.

I need to adjust my grip as I navigate the first stair. You feel the couch shift and adjust accordingly. We make eye contact over the bulky thing and nod to each other. We are innovating as we climb and adapt to the shift in weight and the angle of the couch with each step.

Innovating together in real time. Communicating with words and body language. Collaborating on our way to achieving our goal.

I have to give credit to my friend and colleague Dr. Michael Mascolo, Professor of Psychology at Merrimack College for this metaphor I’m employing. During a recent conversation with Mike, I was making observations about the debate over remote vs. in-office collaboration. We’ve all seen it: the loss of innovation and spontaneous learning when the whole team is working remotely.

As much as we want to leave the commute behind, put a quick load of laundry in after the 9:30am Zoom call is done, even bake a banana bread mid-day, because, why not? Look, I’ve been running virtual teams since 1993 (mmm hmmm, that’s when I started consulting, dinosaur that I am). The power and efficiency of remote work is undeniable.

And yet, and yet…also undeniable is the loss of opportunity for us to learn from each other (even at my dinosauric age, I am learning from the team here). What we all need is much, much more face-to-face interaction – from the fresh graduates entering the workforce to those with decades of experience. We grow and learn together in different ways. We innovate in real time.

Over the past few years, we’ve been growing significantly here at Intead. More universities, high schools, rising edtechs, and established academic providers have been tapping our expertise. So, we’ve been hiring more talent. The talent market has shifted and there are a lot of folks looking for greener pastures right now.

Read on for a bit of perspective that I am surprised far too few current job applicants seem to grasp...

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Get Started with Instagram Marketing Strategies to Boost Enrollment

The last time we wrote about Instagram marketing was in 2016. A lot has changed since then. But not everything. It resolutely remains a visual communication tool. But is it still relevant? (It is.) Aren’t kids these days on TikTok? (Yes, that’s true, too.)

Here are the facts: 57% of Americans aged 12 to 17 use Instagram each week, and 63% use TikTok according to Forrester. Just as important are the 48% of 30-49 year-olds and 29% of 50-64 year-olds – many of whom are your prospective parents – who use the platform. Anyone still wondering if it’s relevant for student recruitment and enrollment? Didn’t think so.

If your institution is only doing organic posts to Instagram, or your Instagram paid campaigns haven’t reaped the return you’d hoped, read on for a look at how your team can use this platform to boost enrollment. This post will be beneficial for those ideating and managing your campaigns. That means, pass it on to others on your team responsible for this stuff if that's not you.

As with any social platform, there are two ways to work it: the free way or the pay-to-play way. We’ll take a look at both.

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Not Rocket Science

Global student recruitment, finding student segments domestically and abroad, is simply not rocket science.

We know the processes and don't need another generic report about what students are thinking and how important parents are to the process. If new student mobility trend data of significance emerges (thank you IIE and National Clearinghouse), you can count on us to evaluate it and report on it. But, most of the reports we are seeing right now from marketing agencies (like us) are rehashing everything we already know.

And annoyingly, they are somehow pointing to their nothing new findings as revelatory. Wut?

So, let’s get to work plotting out the work and bringing the successful results we all want.

The Formula: custom research on your differentiators, your strongest recruitment options (countries/regions), and messaging that engages your target audience on the channels they use.

That’s really about it. That’s what we need. Oh, and to do it successfully, that actually requires investment, technology, and expertise.

So...yes, trend analysis because decision making actually did change since 2019 - safety, cost, the value of education overall, visa issues - all much more significant. These factors existed before the pandemic, before the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, and the ever-horrific state of gun violence in the US. Not new info. All of these factors have been on students’ and parents’ minds for a while. Yours too, right?

And yet, international students continue to find value in a US education and the experience of living and studying in the US. And as they make their decisions, all the things we see in the latest reports and infographics about student mobility trends say essentially the same things we’ve seen for more than a decade.

Reputation matters. Rank matters (more in some regions than others). Career connections matter, parent opinions matter, etc., etc., etc. Tedious findings touted as new, ground-breaking, must-have trend analysis.

Read on for a few student influencers that are actually rising to the top of students' decision-making criteria, and more importantly, what all of this means for your institution's recruitment planning. 

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