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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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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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Explore and Challenge: Constructive Friction from PIE Live in Boston

 

The PIE Live North America event in Boston did exactly what it was supposed to do. We gathered, we laughed, we explored, and in some cases, we clashed. Not dramatically, just a bit. But there were definitely some presentations and ideas shared that prompted collegial discussions with some friction. And that is exactly what a news publication should foster.  

Intead was honored to be selected to present on the topic of student mobility data. Sharing the stage with Sandhya Balasubramanian, Assistant Dean of Business Programs for Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Kirsten L. Feddersen, Senior VP of Analytics & Consulting for North America at Studyportals, we dove into the market research data that drives recruitment and enrollment decisions. We focused on putting that data into action. The fast-paced presentation and our Intead workshop handouts hit the mark for the many who attended. If you’d like those action-oriented handouts, consider joining Intead Plus with access to our full library of training materials and so much more. 

Unlike the unwritten rules that often constrict the way we interact at conferences run by associations with broad memberships, media outlets thrive when there is disagreement. Controversy draws more eyeballs and sells more newspapers (please forgive the throwback concept of selling newspapers).  

You want a for instance, right? Well…coinciding with IIE’s latest Open Doors data release, we learned of a new coalition of international education leaders called U.S. for Success seeking a national effort to increase the number of international students coming to the U.S. From their website: “U.S. for Success seeks to position the United States to effectively compete and cooperate on a global stage by attracting top talent and ensuring the success of all international students.” 

Lofty goals that align with what NAFSA, IIE, AIEA, AIRC, and many other associations already proactively seek to promote in concert with ACE. We are left with many questions about what exactly this new initiative will do and how it will get it done. See this PIE News story on the topic and see if it doesn’t leave you scratching your head a bit. 

We have our own ideas on the topic, of course. More will come to light in the year ahead, we are sure. We hope for the best and want to see our colleagues at these industry-leading associations find effective partners for their important work. 

For more notes from Pie Live, read on… 

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Yes! You should be in China, but here’s the thing…

Chinese student numbers are sobering. With the latest IIE data showing a 26.1% decline in total U.S. incoming students from China in 2021/22, you and your peers are more than aware. It’s the kind of stat that leaves a mark and prompts questions. 

Has your leadership posed this to you: “Should we be in China at this point?” 

If you regularly follow our blog then you know times like these call for a hard look at market diversification. It is a winning strategy. Your admissions team as well as the campus community stand to gain so much by building a diverse student population. Beyond the diverse, cross-cultural learning that is part of your mission, diversifying where you draw students from offers more financial confidence and reslience to your institution.  

Markets fluctuate. Diverse revenue streams stabilize. 

Today we look at why giving up on Chinese students is not in your best interest, nor is it in theirs. Diversify your market reach, yes. But tamping down your work with prospective Chinese families will limit your opportunities and future success. Maybe especially now. 

This is a blog post we think you'll want to share with other leaders on campus. A question: have you looked at the current youth unemployment rate in China?  


Quick aside: Ben and Iliana will be at the NACAC conference presenting alongside our colleagues from AIRC  and Middle Tennessee State University on September 22 in Baltimore. Can we schedule a time to chat? Coffee's on us! We still have room on our schedules.


For over two decades China has solidly been the top sender of students to the U.S. In 2021 alone this singular cohort added $10.5 billion to the U.S. economy per the U.S. Department of Commerce. And that’s on a down year. Sure, India is expected to surpass China in the not-too-distant future (more on that in an upcoming post), but China will remain a strong market.  

Let’s be clear: giving up on Chinese students during this downturn would be a mistake.  

Here’s the thing, while the declining enrollment of Chinese students in America is so much about the pandemic and politics, it’s the day-to-day reality of this cohort that should get your attention. The volume of students and their interest in a foreign education will continue to produce significant enrollment opportunities. Important that your strategy adapts to the times employing the right programs and messaging.  

Why is there continuing demand for a foreign education among Chinese students and families? Consider these current truths: 

  • High Youth Unemployment Rates: Unemployment in China within the young urban population is stagnating at an ugly 20%. A number so stubborn and bleak that the government recently stopped reporting it altogether. What’s more, 70% of these unemployed are college graduates, according to a recent article in The Economist. Even more troubling, reliable Chinese economists outside the government suggest that the current youth unemployment rate may be more than double the government's previously published figure.
  • The Government’s Get-Tough Response: Xi Jinping’s response to the current sour economy? He tells the young to “eat bitterness” and “seek self-inflicted hardships.” A bitter pill indeed for a generation that has grown up with aspirations of social mobility. After all, China has been more agreeable to private enterprise and other aspects of an open society in recent decades. Significant middle-class growth in China has powered the growth in international education and set a generation of expectations for opportunity. That time appears to be changing, a lot. 
  • Disillusioned and Disaffected: A pervasive sentiment among China’s youth is that, regardless of their efforts, achieving a better quality of life feels increasingly unattainable. Jobs are scarce. Cities are less and less affordable to live in. The once semi-open culture now feels less so. Even marriage is losing its appeal. This cohort is disillusioned and disaffected. The government has cracked down on social media posts that refer to "laying flat," (e.g. slowing down and basically giving up). The younger, unemployed/underemployed segment who are discouraged and laying flat become dependent on their parents (referred to as "bite old") as they feel they have very low or no revenue or career prospects.

Economic and political pressures over the next couple years look to be significant within China. Amid this undeniably challenging time for young Chinese citizens, they have eyes on the world through social media. They see opportunity out there.  

Read on for our take on how to reassess and adapt your strategies to better serve this vital demographic in the near term. And we want you to be prepared to adapt as the pressures within China change as they are surely going to.  

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Reflecting on #AIEA2023: Promises Being Made and TBU Data

A great gathering in DC as nearly 800 attended this year’s AIEA conference. The conversations were varied and interesting, as always. Kudos to Darla Deardoff, David Fleshler, and their team for pulling off a valuable event.

We are looking ahead at our next chance to chat about internationalization with .Edu trustees and presidents in San Diego at the AGB conference in April. Honored to be presenting alongside Brad Farnsworth from Fox Hollow Advisory (former ACE VP) and Dr. Gretchen Bataille from GMB Consulting (former president of the U of North Texas among other amazing higher ed roles). We will be talking all about insights university leaders need to guide internationalization efforts. Reach out if you or others from your team will be there.

Reflecting on this past week with our AIEA colleagues, my thoughts turn to internationalization and the many factors that go into its student recruitment process – the admissions, the student support/success efforts, the development of global partnerships. So many factors to manage. We know this.

Underlying it all is the question of staffing structure and the challenge of retaining current staff and attracting new to keep the process moving (better yet, optimized). Switching gears, did we mention credential evaluation and oh, study abroad programs? Right, so many aspects.

With all of this yanking on us, distracting us as each area of our jobs calls us to focus, there really is only one approach to multi-faceted work like this: be thorough and work hard. There is no magic solution, despite what so many vendors seem to say.

Let’s get into it and review the promises being made in our field and some actions you and your team can take to improve your Gen Z enrollment strategy. What data are you looking at? And how much of it is True But Useless (TBU)? With thanks to our Chief of Strategy Patricia Tozzifor bringing this phrase to the fore. Her perpetual questioning keeps us focused on this: what can you truly act on?

Read on for insights prompted by the 2023 AIEA gathering:

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Intead’s Top 10 Blog Posts of 2022, as Chosen by Readers

Your feedback keeps us on the right track. You, our blog readers, tell us with your clicks and your comments. We welcome the likes, the corrections, the whole shebang.

As we look ahead to what is shaping up to be a bustling 2023, we’d love to hear what topics you’d like us to tackle. Send us a note and we’ll take it into editorial consideration. Maybe even throw a shoutout your way.

Just coming off a whirlwind December with presentations at the AIRC and ICEF conferences and our full day workshop at San Diego State University, we have so much to share with you in the weeks ahead. Reflections, insights, slides. All in the name of making your student recruitment marketing plan that much tighter. You’ll be glad you are along with the ride.

Right here and now, we’ve compiled our readers’ top 10 posts from 2022. These are the blog posts that you said were most enticing and valuable. You clicked, you shared, and hopefully, you put into practice some of what you learned.

Big Picture: our analytics show in no uncertain terms that everyone wants to know more about China, TikTok, new market development, data analytics, and the student mindset. We'll have more on those topics throughout 2023. Still valuable: Read on for quick hit summaries and links to the content that most drew your attention, and the attention of your colleagues, over the past year.

 

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900+ Institutions Report on Internationalization

This month the American Council on Education (ACE) released the 5th edition of its signature “Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses” report. Some say it’s the most dynamic edition yet as it lays bare both pre-pandemic and COVID-era trends to reveal our collective internationalization priorities during a particularly precarious time.

But let’s be honest, it has been a precarious time here in the US and globally since 2016 at this point. According to one data point, COVID crashed internationalization (our words, not ACE’s).

Consider this: In 2011, the percentage of respondents who said their institutional internationalization was “very high,” “high,” or “moderate” was 56%, rising to 66% in 2016, 64% during 2016-2020, and 40% in 2020-21.

Clearly travel limitations, from the basic human fear to actual travel cut offs, that COVID brought had a clear and significant impact on student mobility (obvious) and institutional responses. Yet, the international community turmoil brought on by the US and other nations’ broad and deep political upheaval since 2016 has changed the landscape in terms of regional student mobility and study option perspectives as well.

Overall, a very steep decline. But not the full story. And the latest IIE data release helps tell that story. But, one report analysis at a time. There are only so many words we can all digest in one sitting. And our 5 key findings below will set you up for some great conversations with your internal colleagues.


50% off ($400 savings) on Intead Plus Complete membership for all registrants attending our Global Marketing Workshop in San Diego. Deadline for this offer is Friday, Nov 18, 2022.

If you are attending the AIRC or ICEF Conferences - here is a huge plus opportunity. 

The Intead/San Diego State University One-Day Workshop on December 13th will be a hands-on opportunity to learn from an awe-inspiring international student recruitment faculty.

  • A full day of international student recruitment strategy and execution discussion
  • Two luminary keynotes
    • Luncheon on Social Justice with Dr. Jewell Winn and Dr. Adrienne Fusek
    • Dinner on Chinese Student Influencers with Dr. Yingyi Ma and Brad Farnsworth
  • At $350 for the day (inclusive of all meals), this learning opportunity is a steal - basically free when you factor in the 1-year Intead Plus membership.

Come with Questions. Leave with a Plan.


As Dr. Maria Claudia Soler, ACE’s senior research analyst, learning and engagement division (research), and lead author of the report, told University World News in a November 8, 2022, article, “While the pandemic impacted internationalization across the board and many internationalization activities were disrupted, we also observed serendipitous outcomes. For instance, institutions used technology to expand virtual international internships, international student recruitment and course-level collaborations in ways that used to be unthinkable some years ago.”

Nodding? You should be. Even without the data, we know this to be true. It was a wild ride and pretty much every surviving institution learned how to adapt, and quickly. Most are better for it. But that’s a different post.

One question we want to see added to the survey and report next time around: the role of the CFO in all of this. How connected to (and aware of) the internationalization priorities are they? Budget approval is key to internationalization efforts. Presidents, Provosts and SIO are all reliant on a CFO’s leadership and insight.

Today we share 5 key findings from the report that really popped for us. And we offer our take. Read on

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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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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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