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Recruiting Intelligence

Ben Waxman and Reina Sekiguchi

Why Your Data Isn’t Getting You Where You Want to Go

With data becoming increasingly available and important to your team’s decision making, there’s more pressure than ever to keep up. New tools, better dashboards, queries—all in the name of working smarter and producing better, more efficient results.

But with all of this data at your disposal, it’s not always easy to identify which information to use and when…or how. At the end of the day, it’s about filtering out the noise and focusing on the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). But in any given initiative, what are the KPIs and where do you find them? Are they the right ones?

Pro tip: Your first pick at KPIs prior to a new initiative running are often not the ones you end up focusing on once your boots hit the ground. Ongoing refinement is an essential part of the process. Dashboards were meant to be adjusted.

Another key factor: How do you make those data point selections and refinements? And who is doing that all-important data analysis and interpretation?

We’ve seen more teams than we can count create operational data portals using one tool or another, all in the name of deeper insights and more informed strategic planning. However, those “deeper insights” rarely amount to anything more than an overcomplicated dashboard and maybe some slide deck fodder that the rest of the team struggles to understand. Hopefully someone on the team has the gumption to ask the presenter: Is 43% good in that scenario? Do we have any context for that? 

You may be wondering why your efforts to make more data-driven decisions don’t always produce the gains you are anticipating (or the gains required by the hefty price tag that many of these data tools and services command.)


NAFSA Update — for those of you attending, Intead sessions to help you move your global enrollment efforts forward:

  • Achieving Global Agility: The Flexibility of Global Campus Options
    A discussion on the challenges and opportunities of delivering your academic programs at turnkey remote campuses around the world. First-hand experiences will be shared. Tune in: June 4th at 9am EDT
  • Going from 0-60: Internationalization
    We’ll be talking all things internationalization with David DiMaria, Associate Vice Provost, International Education at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, focusing on how to build leadership buy-in and navigate typically slow-moving internal processes for rapid results. A Tune In Anytime event.

Back to our data discussion...For most organizations, data difficulties begin and end with the lack of a “data culture”, defined by McKinsey & Company in their 2019 Global Survey as “a set of practices that brings together data talent, tools, and decision making so that data become the default support for company operations.” 

Sounds simple enough, but in execution, defining, and more importantly, implementing that data-friendly “set of practices” becomes nearly impossible for many teams. Data interpretation skills don't always come naturally to everyone on your team. Data presentation skills are even less common. Decisions on when to use a pie chart vs. a bar chart seem basic enough, but there is a lot more to it if you want the data to inform and motivate your team and impress your leadership.

Read on for three common roadblocks that might be standing in the way of your team’s data approach and what you can do about it.

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Are You Ready to Think Big? NAFSA 2021

At the very least, we bet you have some great stories to share.

That’s not much of a silver lining from this past unnerving year. But it’s a start.

Let’s talk about opportunities to learn from each other and think bigger.

In the past year, our education community has collectively navigated some uncharted and very choppy waters. You may have emerged better for it, with new processes and contingency plans in place, cross-functional partnerships strengthened, remote work and learning infrastructure upgraded, and a renewed outlook on your institution’s long-term strategy.

Given this year of rapid activity and transformational growth, we’re more excited than ever to gather (virtually) with leaders and change-makers from over 100 countries at this year’s NAFSA conference from June 1-4th. 

Intead has been attending and presenting at NAFSA for more than a decade, and every year we are energized by the idea-sharing that takes place and inspired by the power of our global community.

This year’s NAFSA is all about thinking big about the future of international education — the latest innovations, strategies, and best practices shared from your peers across the field as we build for the next generation. Intead is honored to be presenting two sessions this year in partnership with our esteemed colleagues from leading academic institutions and global partners on forward-looking global strategies:

  • Achieving Global Agility: The Flexibility of Global Campus Options
    A discussion on the challenges and opportunities of delivering your academic programs at turnkey remote campuses around the world. First-hand experiences will be shared by Ita Duron, Executive Director of Global Strategies and International Programs at Massachusetts College of Health and Pharmacy Sciences, an institution that has already put this global approach into practice (and reaped the benefits).

    Also joining the conversation will be Seamus Harreys, Vice President of Global Enrollment at CIEE sharing how CIEE’s global campus models in Shanghai, Seoul, Legon, and many other cities around the world have helped institutions navigate student mobility challenges. Lots of info about how to adopt the global campus approach at your own institution. Tune in: June 4th at 9am EDT
  • Going from 0-60: Internationalization
    We’ll be talking all things internationalization with David DiMaria, Associate Vice Provost, International Education at University of Maryland, Baltimore County, focusing on how to build leadership buy-in and navigate typically slow-moving internal processes for rapid results.

    You’ll learn valuable team management and partnership strategies as well as how to establish global recruitment marketing programs that produce measurable enrollment results. This topic is a frequent discussion area on the NAFSA Enrollment and Leadership listserv forums. Join us for this as a Tune In Anytime event.

Read on to for a few preview tips on how these sessions can help move your global strategy forward.

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Student Recruitment Mistakes of the Desperate: Part 2

This week we are continuing our two-part series on the all-too-common mistakes that happen when recruitment professionals are caught between increasing strain on limited budgets and rising enrollment demands. Didn't get the chance to read part one? You can do so here.

As you read this series, you might think, "yep, I've been there..." or "hey, I would never do that!" ... Either way, as you and your team navigate the uncertain waters of 2021, there is value in strategizing around these common pitfalls as you keep your eyes on enrollment growth.

And if you’re looking for more resources and perspective for your team, we hope you’ll join us for our two virtual sessions at NAFSA 2021 in June.

  • In Achieving Global Agility: The Flexibility of Global Campus Options, we’ll be joined by Seamus Harreys from CIEE and Ita Duron from Massachusetts College of Health and Pharmacy Sciences for a discussion on the challenges and opportunities of delivering your academic programs on remote campuses (think: Shanghai). First-hand experiences shared.

  • We’ll also be presenting with David DiMaria from University of Maryland, Baltimore County on strategies to help your institution’s international recruitment efforts thrive, even during challenging times, in Going from 0-60: Internationalization. We’ll be talking all things strategic partnerships, team management strategy, techniques for building that all-important leadership buy-in, and the global marketing efforts that pay off.

Let's get into it — Part 2 of recruitment mistakes of the desperate... 

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Student Recruitment Mistakes of the Desperate: Part 1

Many enrollment leaders are reporting terrific application rates for fall 2021, which is certainly welcome news. Campus enrollment numbers look promising for a number of reasons, primary among them:

  • Campuses are planning to open this fall with in-person learning as an option — highly desirable after this past year’s Zoom school.
  • Prospective students look like they will find summer jobs (unlike last year), suggesting they can afford to return to university.

However, there is plenty we do not know as we write this post in early May 2021.

Where India looked like they had successfully kept COVID-19 at bay, more recently, the country has become inundated. As of this writing, many areas of Canada are taking significant precautions to stem the spread. Here in the US, there is a common expectation that the country is on a positive trajectory with regard to the pandemic, and yet, India and Canada thought they were in the clear not too long ago. Our point: the future is murky.

With ambiguity, comes fear and inaction for some; for others, opportunity.

Let’s assume that as summer 2021 hits, your enrollment numbers are not where they should be. Budget dollars are extremely tight. And yet, growth is demanded. What to do?

Often (more often than we all care to admit and especially in times of crisis like we’ve experienced in the past year), we are approached by academic leaders from institutions around the world who are desperate and seeking student recruiting advice.

More often than not, institutions are hung up on the common challenges of people, tools, and budget. This is true of most service industries (and, in fact, product driven industries as well). There is no lack of ideas and opportunities. The only thing holding them back is the difficulty of aligning the team (people) and willingness to risk the funds (because there are no guarantees of success).

Note, an A-level team with B- or C-level tools will still crush it. B-level team with A-level tools? Not so much.

Back in 2018, we published a two-part “Mistakes of the Desperate” series, discussing the all-too-common mistakes we witness academic leaders making as they navigate enrollment challenges. Those who have been in the industry for a number of years have seen this state of affairs at different times: the pressure to produce without the time and resources to do it right. And looking back at those times, we all know what the result was: ineffective and disappointing.

In this particularly dynamic time for student enrollment and with so much ambiguity around what will happen next, we think this series deserves a second look as your team gears up for the next recruiting cycle. 

And for additional resources for your team navigating this challenging year, we hope you will tune it for our two sessions at the upcoming annual NAFSA (virtual) conference in June:

  • Achieving Global Agility: The Flexibility of Global Campus Options on the value of global campuses and how to implement them in a nimble, flexible way (presenters: Intead with Seamus Harreys from CIEE and Ita Duron from Massachusetts College of Health and Pharmacy Sciences University); and
  • Going from 0-60: Internationalization about the challenges and successes of taking your university’s internationalization efforts to the next level (presenters: Intead with David DiMaria from University of Maryland, Baltimore County).

Read on for three common mistakes academic leaders make when desperately trying to improve student enrollment numbers and how your institution can avoid them.

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3 Tactics to Refresh Your Student Marketing Approach, Right Now

You don’t need to be a CMO to know that there’s more to attracting students than coming up with a pithy headline for your Instagram ads and postcard mailers.

And yet, what we often see are institutions full of creative minds doing the same marketing initiatives year after year, not really realizing how they appear to their target audiences.

At the end of the day you want your institution to stand out in a field of sameness, ubiquitous blather, and endless repeats of campus images and smiling students with backpacks and laptops. You want to highlight your institution’s differentiators and deliver the right message to a targeted audience at the right time.

But we get it — whether it’s lack of budget, time, or most likely, both, swapping out last year’s campaign photos, shuffling around your headlines, and hitting a few buttons in Facebook Ads Manager are sometimes the only levers that are in scope. And establishing a feedback loop of performance analysis for continuous campaign iteration and optimization? An even more distant goal state.

So, before you reach for that updated “smiling student with backpack” image to juice your Fall 2021 recruitment campaigns, turn your attention to today’s post: 3 recruitment marketing ideas to help you reach students where they are right now.

We’re talking specifics on topics, audience, tone, and dissemination channels for campaigns that can set your institution apart and attract and nurture those high-quality leads you’re looking for. And what would an Intead blog post be without an insight on  how to use your data better?

Throw these ideas to your creative team and see if something valuable emerges from the brainstorm session. Something that truly fits your institution. 

Read on.

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Meet Your Strategic Enrollment Advisors

As an education professional, you know deeply the power of a knowledgeable guide to expand your mind, challenge your beliefs, and push you to new heights.

Whether this guide takes the form of a favorite professor, dean, mentor, colleague (or a favorite blog), even the most experienced leaders among us can benefit from a little outside perspective and wisdom from time to time (read: always).

For Intead, that source of wisdom is our recently expanded Intead Research Advisory Board, a veritable who’s who of education industry leaders who guide our student recruitment and enrollment research on both domestic and international approaches.  

Don’t worry, we’re not just here today to sing their praises (although we could do that all day) or talk about how they help us look smart (although they do). ;)

The truth is, the Intead Research Advisory Board isn’t really for Intead. They’re here to serve you. With their expertise, we are able to provide you with fresh and deeply knowledgeable perspectives and new research and insights on topics that drive our industry and your institution forward. We’re ever grateful for their valuable work.

Read on to learn more about this powerful line-up, how their wealth of experience can help to power your institution, and the market intelligence we are working on and presenting soon.

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Your Students. Your Programs. In China — Event Tomorrow

Struggling to define strategies that will bring back your enrollment from China? You’re not alone.

But there’s good news: Clark University met the needs of their Chinese students this past year with an innovative and quickly installed remote campus in Shanghai. Their story is full of instructive lessons. And our webinar tomorrow will enlighten (see link below). 

And there is even more good news: Chinese parents are still eager to provide a US-style education for their child, with 97% of parent respondents in our latest market research citing the US as their first-choice destination for their child’s education.

The short of it: opportunity for your institution is still out there. Chinese parents and students are ready and waiting for your message despite current travel restrictions, if only you could reach them…

As you plan your strategy for next year, consider this: CIEE has created a powerful option that has proven successful at helping US institutions meet their Chinese students where they are. And it is not just about enrollment. It is so much more, thankfully. 

We’re talking long-term partnership building in one of your key markets and a new pipeline that will foster both student success and help you reach your enrollment goals. We’re talking International Campus Opportunities with your programs and your students — in China. Clark University was one of ten US institutions that acted fast and benefited from this innovative approach last year. Now, they will be sharing their story with you. 

Join us tomorrow, Thursday, April 15th at 11am Eastern for a webinar event with CIEE and Clark to discuss the state of the Chinese market, the international campus experience, and the steps necessary to make this opportunity work for fall 2021 at your institution

Register Now

This event is for academic institutions only (.edu email addresses and other academic institutions).

Moderated by Ben Waxman, Intead CEO, the expert panel of your colleagues with a wealth of experience in higher ed and China will include:

  • John LaBrie, Dean of the School of Professional Studies and Associate Provost for Professional Education, Clark University
  • Jill Zhang, China-based Admissions Counselor, Graduate Admissions, Clark University 
  • Seamus Harreys, Vice President Global Enrollment, CIEE
  • Brad Farnsworth, Principal, Fox Hollow Advisory, Former Vice President for Global Engagement at American Council on Education

Read on for a preview of the valuable topics to be discussed and how to continue leveraging your presence and academic programs in this challenging time. 

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Not Traveling? Making the Case for Your Recruitment Budget

Your budget is the tactical expression of your strategy. What you value most is where you put your funds. Or at least, that’s how it should be.

Whether you are submitting your budget for approval or evaluating the budget requests others submit to you, this year’s budget season is looking a little different. International recruitment travel? Still off the table. Student recruitment dollars? Still in need of allocation.

With your standard recruitment playbook out the window, a comprehensive budgetary framework  to evaluate all the different strategic initiatives on the horizon becomes more important than ever.

Are you devoting enough to the digital channels available? Are you selecting the right channels for your institution? The virtual fair folks are telling you they are really the way to go. Of course they are. Have they shared hard attendance, engagement, and results numbers to prove it?

To help you and your team identify, assess, and evaluate your recruitment initiatives this year, the Intead team took our collective experience with so many different institutional assessments and strategic planning sessions and simplified the process of budget evaluation into 3 Essential Budget Questions — a 1-pager that offers a simplified, high-level approach to considering any budget request.

With this framework for evaluating your plans and whether they merit investment, you’ll take those complex quandaries down to a basic starting point and identify where the opportunities for growth really are.

We think you’ll want to share this one widely. This and a quick review of our recent, highly popular post about how to say no to ideas that are not good enough.

Read on to access the downloadable budget consideration flowchart.

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Recruiting Intel Digest: The Most Useful Stuff from Q1 2021

Pro tip: If you read only one of our blog posts every few months, make it this one.

Between application reviews and a little thing called budget season, we know you may not have kept up with the weekly posts and resources that we’ve shared here on the Recruiting Intelligence blog over the past few months. And we can’t blame you!

From hosting webinar events in partnership with The Chronicle of Higher Education, CIEE, and iSchoolConnect, to publishing a market research report on the new Chinese mindset on US schools, we’ve been pretty busy ourselves.

So, we’ve created the Recruiting Intel Digest, a quarterly roundup post of the resources, downloads, and top insights we’ve published in the last three months which you can view, share, and download all in the span of your next coffee break.

All this with our signature focus on helping you produce stronger enrollment results based on trend data and marketing industry insights. You are so very welcome.

Read on for the latest Intead resources available to you — all in one place. Plus, a preview of what’s coming next…

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Chinese Students, We Are Listening

Your Asian student communities are hurting right now.

Nearly 3,800 hate incidents against AAPI individuals were reported from March 19th, 2020 through February 28th, 2021 according to the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center. Nearly a third of Asian Americans report having experienced racial slurs or racist jokes since the beginning of the pandemic, this from a recent Pew Research Center survey. Then the killings in Atlanta last week.

As global leaders responsible for the safety, growth, and development of diverse student populations, what institutions say and do at this moment matters. And hashtags and statements of solidarity are not enough (they never are).

We, as a higher education community, do what we do because we believe in the power of cross-cultural communication and diverse student populations to move the world forward.

As the Intead team, that often means making space for those student populations (and their parents) to speak and be heard. We know how crucial understanding and listening to those thoughts, fears, and needs are to fostering a student-first ethos on your campus. It is this work that allows you to more effectively support all of your student populations, especially those most vulnerable to systems of racism and xenophobia, as well as the disturbing hate and violence that occurs as a result.

In early 2021, with this terrifying climate of rising anti-Asian sentiment in the US and views of the US among global allies reaching its lowest point in nearly two decades of Pew Research polling, we set out to understand how Chinese parents specifically are feeling now about sending their students to American institutions.

In partnership with WholeRen Education, an AIRC-certified agency and a trusted advisor for tens of thousands of Chinese students and families since 2010, we surveyed over 20,000 Chinese parents, the vast majority of whom currently have undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in US institutions, as well as parents of current high school students considering higher education. With a better than 5% response rate, we had more than 1,000 responses to analyze. We then followed up with a focus group to dive a bit deeper into our questions. We conducted all of this work in Chinese.

Some of the findings will likely surprise you. As academic leaders we see the news, we talk to our students, and we hold an entirely justifiable anxiety for our current Chinese students as well as the recruitment path to bring new Chinese students to our campuses.

The information we’ve gathered is incredibly important to your work. But more importantly, it points the way forward for your institution in how to help parents and students feel confident and safe in their decision to study in the US.

Read on to download your free copy of our new market research report, Is There a New Chinese Mindset on US Schools?

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