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Recruiting Intelligence

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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Quick Hit Regional Insights for Student Recruitment

You won’t reach students in China using the same tactics you use to reach students in Brazil. Or Nigeria. Seems obvious to those recruiting students internationally, but you’d be surprised by what some marketers out there are pushing. It takes more than a tweak in ad copy to woo prospects from different countries. It requires a good deal of nuanced cultural insight.

Yes, you have Google Analytics and enrollment data to tell you which sending countries show interest in your institution (you’re using those, right?). But it’s deeper than this, as you well know. That’s why we’ve updated one of our most popular tools: the Country Comparison Cheat Sheet.

This easy-to-read spreadsheet breaks down key stats on the top 16 countries sending students to US institutions. We sourced the latest data from IIE, IBISWorld, InterNations, WorldAtlas, XE, and more to offer insights into each country.

The numbers we share represent data you could gather on your own, but we did the work for you. And we are connecting dots that don’t often get connected - though they should be.

Read on to download this free tool for you and your team.

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AIEA 2022 Takeaways: Where do we go from here?

As I wrote from the MSY airport lounge, #AIEA2022 had just wrapped. At that time, in the previous 24 hours, Russia had launched a military attack on Ukraine, some of our colleagues tested positive for Covid at the AIEA conference, and Boston (my destination) was expecting a foot of snow the next day. Oh, and my Boston flight was unceremoniously canceled with no flights available to get me to Boston for another 3 days. Life as we know it continues with turbulent distress, ambiguity, and elements of normalcy.

With these realities in mind, I offer focused reflections on the ideas that struck me most during the conference and a few ideas on how they might add value to your work. As always, we don’t want to get all esoteric here. It’s about actionable steps for internationalization and diverse student experiences that take us all forward, together, with vision.

Enrollment management is complex. The tools available to help us can be confusing. Read to the end of this post for some very tangible advice from 4 international students who spoke at the conference.

More learning ahead

We hope you will be joining us at NAFSA 2022 in Denver this Spring. We will be sharing 3 forward-thinking presentations and a poster session. We are honored to co-present with colleagues from Benedict College, San Diego State University, Clark University, Northeastern University, CIEE, ICEF, and GNET. More details on those in future posts.

More immediately, read on for reflections and action items from AIEA 2022...

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US vs China: One Chinese Student’s Journey Through the Pandemic

Two years into the pandemic and we are still wondering what this elusive “new normal” is going to be. While the authorities and virus hash it out, your job is to help students navigate the shifting winds so they can more confidently enroll for the next semester. (We’re looking at you international admissions teams.)

What we know for sure: international students are eager to get on with their lives after waiting for Covid to pass. But, we know it’s not so simple.

Visa wait times, continued, sporadic travel restrictions, and challenges in accessing and validating US-approved vaccinations are causing delays and headaches.

There is wisdom in listening to real stories from real students studying through this very real pandemic. Today, I encourage you to read this tale of two countries by Intead Marketing Data Analyst and PhD aspirant Sally Zhu. Sally is another outstanding example of the value of the US OPT policies. We are so pleased to see this program recently expanding the definition of STEM and the 3-year work option in the US.

Side note: if you’ll be attending the 2022 AIEA conference in New Orleans (Feb 20-23), be in touch and we’ll find time for a coffee and an exchange of ideas.

Read on as Sally shares her dual experience of living in the US and China these past two years. It offers student enrollment managers and recruiters insights into messaging and approaches to pandemic-related communications. As marketers, topics that are important to our audiences are also important to us, right?

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An OPT Reflection: Starting Points and Destinations

The student journey from one place to another has common elements. It starts with an intense desire to learn and explore. Why else would someone spend so much time, energy, money?

OPT is an essential tool that benefits us all. There is no question. Occasionally, we need to be reminded.

  • As a follow on to the 2021 AIRC conference just completed which is all about creating great learning experiences for students around the world,
  • As our final post for the year (we will take a break and return on January 5, 2022),

Please drink in this optimistic view of how everyone in our field contributes to making the world more connected, stronger, and safer.

Xi Chen held a very important role at Intead almost a decade ago as the company was in the early stages of making a name for itself. She helped us set our course with a fierce dedication and rare level of talent that set a bar for our future international student interns. We asked her to reflect on what her OPT experience at Intead meant to her. We know how much it meant to us!

In writing about her OPT experience, Xi sent us this quote: "Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another."  ~ John Dewey

Read on to get a first-hand look beautifully shared by Xi Chen. This is all about what you are setting your students up to achieve, personally, and for the world all around us.

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Is Your Institution Prepared for What Comes Next?

Global campus options are now more critical than ever. Do you have the flexible toolkit to secure your Spring 2021 term?

Back in May, we let our community know about a new opportunity through CIEE to establish turnkey global campuses. This is the realistic innovation we see as critical to maintaining international student enrollment opportunities.

This is doable.

With their 70 years of experience in international education and their footprint of 30+ campuses around the world, CIEE developed a program to help institutions serve their international students despite COVID-19 and the travel restrictions that have been roiling the industry.

Since May, less than 3 months ago, more than 8 forward thinking and fast-moving institutions saw the opportunity. For the Fall 2020 term, more than 1,300 international students are enrolled in those institutions and will study on CIEE campuses overseas in Shanghai, Seoul, and other reachable cities.

Innovators like Tulane University, Rutgers University, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences University, Penn State, Clark University, and others are leading the way for their international students:

  • Developing the long-term bond between student and institution
  • Delivering their customized academic programming
  • Securing student graduation timelines
  • Maintaining enrollment numbers and revenue streams

Recruitment. Retention. Revenue.

Spring term 2021 is now in play. US universities are witnessing the ever changing and ill-defined decrees from the US State Department about how international students can and cannot come to the US for their academic programs. Hard enrollment numbers for Fall 2020 are on their way.

Read on for the inside scoop from the academic leaders who took steps in May to secure Fall 2020. And how your steps today can secure Spring 2021 and beyond.

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The Role of Translation in International Student Recruitment

“Why should we translate our materials if prospective students need to have strong English skills to perform well in our classes?”

It’s a valid discussion. We have always been vocal advocates for translating marketing materials into the local language of your target audience. This week: our perspective on translation, some of the most effective places to use it, and most importantly, why.

This post is important for your team producing the materials and your higher ups who are questioning the rationale. Our goal: making you more capable, powerful, successful. Share away.

Important to remember that translation is just one piece of the larger content customization process and that the content you share with your US audience will not resonate with your international audiences, whether you translate It or not. Each of your audiences are unique and will respond to different messages.

Here's the thing you already know: marketing differentiation is all about speaking to your audience segments with the information that resonates. Seems obvious, but not many institutions take the time to do it. Instead, they blast the same stuff to every lead.

And yet...they all complain and wring their hands about declining numbers and yield. There are solutions right there in front of you that do take more time and more investment. Take advantage of them sooner than later!

To read more about developing audience personas and audience segmentation, see our post on Persona Development: 101 here. 

The Intead team does this targeted content strategy and writing for our clients to improve application flow and yield. Let's get to work together. 

A note on adding Google Translate to your site: not better than nothing. The nuance and specifics of your differentiators that your marketing department worked so hard to craft are absolutely butchered with Google Translate. Your target audience scans (not reads) pages translated via Google. They get the high level gist of it and move on quickly. There is no absorption of content because everyone knows you are losing a lot of accuracy. You'll understand more about all you are losing by taking this awful shortcut as you read on.

So, about the rationale and the process for translation, let's dive in...

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Think Positive: Differentiation is Powerful

Last week, we touched briefly on the importance of differentiating your institution in the minds of international students. You may be seeing ever more doom-and-gloom sentiment among your peers on campus and colleagues in the field. The uplifting confidence that comes from a deep understanding of your differentiators is essential to your success.

This approach applies to your institution's success as much as it applies to your personal success. For this blog, we'll stick to your institution's approach and leave the rest to you.

So, your institution is not ranked in the top 50, right? And your access to a major city? How about your brand recognition in your target countries?

The reality is, most schools are in the same boat here. Not all international students are looking for the same things. There is a niche that will find your attributes just right. All international students are not all looking for the same things. But they DO need to become aware of what you have that other's don't. YOU need to help them assess and select.

International marketing is not an easy thing to do. It may seem overwhelming, confusing and, at times, impossible. It's easy for your colleagues on campus to fall into the trap of thinking, "Why would any international student want to come here?"

It's time to flip the question.

Why wouldn't they want to come to your school? You have so much to offer. Your doors wouldn't be open if you didn't. The question is: "What can your institution offer international students that no other institution can?"

Bottom Line: Creatively communicating your differentiators is essential to helping students know about and then grasp the opportunities you offer. 

Let's get into this a bit deeper...

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Campus Diversity, Cultural Competency and International Students

Dr. Carlos Cortés has had an amazing career and tells a great story. He was one of our keynote speakers at our International Student Recruitment Bootcamp back in January and we’ve captured the best parts of his talk here in an 18-minute podcast.

Along with a great talk and discussion over dinner, everyone who attended received a signed copy of his book Rose Hill: An Intermarriage Before Its Time. This was a treat. And now we can share it with all of you.

Dr. Cortés addressed campus diversity and cultural competency issues from a unique perspective. And he asked us all to consider some provocative questions that are hot issues on campus today. How do we evaluate our desire for freedom of speech when students are fighting to squelch offensive speech? And what does this mean for the integration of international students who are learning English as a second language?

Take a listen to his fascinating talk. You’ll be glad you did.

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27 Struggles International Students Face on American Campuses

  Source: BuzzFeed.com

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