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Best practices

10 Ways to Elevate Your International Recruitment

by Sirley Carballo · Dec 15, 2021

We've put together a list of the top ten tips for recruiting international students. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel here. Instead, we want to take everything you're already doing and tweak it with extra thoughtfulness. 
Two admissions professionals looking at 3 student profiles.

Getting back into to international recruitment

We don't need to tell you that international students are a boon to your school. 

We all know the financial benefit, the slowing admission rates from US high schools and the profile these students can bring. The surface level benefits, that admission rates from US students have been dropping steadily and foreign students, who pay full admissions rates, are clambering for an education at American schools, would be enough. But it's more than that. 

International students make your other students better. Students learn to avoid stereotyping and acquire more informed opinions by learning and living alongside individuals from across the world. 

It helps students better understand international concerns, global affairs, and immigration issues. It allows for unique cross-cultural experiences. Finally, it encourages growth across various interpersonal and communication styles, allowing them to become more active listeners and critical thinkers. It also allows students to make unique personal and professional contacts that will help them in their future jobs.

As the world opens back up, schools need to be ready for the competitive landscape in international recruitment. So how can we be more effective outside the US in 2021 and beyond? 

Tip #1: Ensure you're covering the basics 

It's always about more than just a degree to international students. They want to know about everyday life, the safety on campus, social activities, and they need to feel covered with the details. So let's start with ensuring we cover all these areas when preparing our international student outreach plan. 

Show students what the entire process looks like, how much work it will be to manage the school application, and what they'll need to do for visas—the complete breakdown of costs and how campus life will compare to the life they're used to. 

Early on, we probably can't tell them enough. They and their families will want more so do what you can to prepare early for all the questions. 

Tip #2: Keep the application procedure straightforward 

We can't control all the external processes related to international students coming to America to study, but we can make our applications accessible. 

Consider language difficulties, translations and being clear on what's expected from the start—balance keeping things simple and providing extensive information. 

The more digital your application process, the easier this will be for a potential new student from halfway across the globe. 

An illustration of a phone app with a person's hands clicking a message.

Tip #3: Speaking of technology 

Technology has made the process of recruiting international students much more manageable. It's simple to connect with potential international students through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. 

But in parts of the world, other platforms play more prominent roles. For example, WeChat and Line, popular in China and Japan, are intrinsic to daily life. In Europe, almost everyone ( including businesses ) uses WhatsApp to communicate. 

Consider the country you're recruiting from, not just its cultural differences, but its technology choices as well. Then, investigate whether your recruiting can integrate these platforms into the process. 

Tip #4: A small slice of home

While acclimation is part of the plan, getting there is essential in making new international students feel comfortable. This is a period of transition, so let's do what we can to ease international students through that process. Begin by compiling a list of resources that will be useful to overseas students. These resources can be anything from a list of current students from the same region to local shops where they can get items from home. 

Anything to bring a sense of comfort to a student so far from home during a process that is often difficult even for local students. 

Tip #5: Be considerate in your messaging

As we reach out to these international students, how we say things has as much weight as what we say. If you can speak to the students (or their parents) in a language they understand, fantastic. But demonstrating how vital these prospects are as people is equally as important. 

We can write personal messaging, nothing robotic and formulaic. And we can stay ahead of the issues by providing solutions before problems arise. Finally, we can talk to these students with the care such a momentous decision deserves.

Tip #6: Go broad when telling the story of your school

Be aware of the significant influence exerted on overseas students. Your school's story has to go well beyond just a potential student and their families in some markets. 

If you are planning recruitment events, consider inviting local politicians, academics and lecturers from the local universities, international student advisers, and other international student services staff members. Once you've identified these individuals, you can approach them about the advantages of attracting overseas students. 

Consider again the countries you're reaching out to and how their internal people and systems can be of value to your efforts. 

Two people shaking hands next to a completed checklist graphic

Tip #7: Make yourself visible

Making information about your school easy to find online, and not just in the usual ways. Start by making sure your school is found on major portals like and, which cater to international students. 

Next, have at the very least the recruitment portion of your website translated into other languages. While this is valuable to some percentage of foreign students, it’s a must-have for parents, who are less likely to be fluent in English and will want to play a role in such a momentous decision. Certainly, any part of the data collection process should be language and region-specific.

Finally, think about creating content and recruiting materials that are language-specific to the region you're reaching out to. Again, even covering the basics will help immensely. 

Tip #8: Double down on the social part of social media

Many schools are already using social media to showcase the personality of their school online. For international students, this might be the only way to gain insight into what their life could be like on campus. 

Regularly update these platforms with information about the university, its programs, and facilities so that potential students may get a sense of your culture and campus before applying for admission.

Sharing this information about your institution will make the school more approachable, making prospects more comfortable reaching out if they have any questions or concerns.

Tip #9: Tell stories

Storytelling is the best way to get any point across, and nowhere is this more true than with international students. 

We need to paint them a picture of what their new and wildly different life can be like. We need to add flavour and nuance, peel back layers to reveal all the details they want to know. 

For regular students, facts and figures may be enough, but for our international students, we need to tell them as much about their lives here as we do about their education. 

Tip #10: Be you

You are unique. Your campus, your administration, your people and your location are yours and yours alone. 

So let that shine through in everything you're doing. Any international student you're speaking with will want to know what makes your school different, and that difference is where you have an opportunity to truly stand out from the crowd. 

If you do nothing else in your different efforts, let your personality and your organization come through and let that be the story you tell to these international student recruits. 

Thanks for taking the time to read this. We hope it’s been helpful. If you have any questions on the post or want to talk about taking control of your time, send us an email at, or join the discussion on the Element Twitter account


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