As we enter 2022, and are moving towards living with Covid-19 as the new normal, overseas students are once again looking at study in the US as a viable option.
The drop in international students to an all-time low during the pandemic seems to have bounced back, with a 68% increase in the number of international students starting their studies in the US in fall 2021 against fall 2020.
Similarly, over in the UK, student visa applications are up, with the UK Home Office granting 428,428 sponsored study visas for the 2020/2021 academic year, a 143% rise on the previous year and a 55% increase on pre-Covid levels. And the UK is seeing growth from other countries, too, with the likes of Bangladesh up a huge 410% year-on-year.
Having spent the past two years with their lives on hold, students are ready to return to campus and live out their pre-pandemic plans. So, how can you capitalize on this momentum and ensure your institution stands out in a sea of options for prospective international students?
1. Don’t be complacent
Numbers may be up right now, but don’t forget that this could be the effect of Covid-related deferrals from 2020 meaning more students are currently enrolling than usual. Make sure you stay in touch with and nurture your deferred students, keep reminding them what’s to come, give them a heads-up on deadlines and invite them to campus events. Make them feel a part of your community before they even step through the door.
2. Focus on safety
The USA’s successful vaccine program means it’s open for business to international students, while countries such as China and Australia, previously the world’s fourth- and fifth-most popular study destinations, have fallen behind.
With students keen to get back to campus, they are rethinking their original plans of where they might go to study. Make sure you highlight your Covid safety measures and reassure your prospective students that their wellbeing matters to your institution.
3. Employability is key
STEM subjects and other courses with high employability rates post-graduation are always popular amongst international students. In the US, overseas students make up the majority of full-time grad students in many STEM subjects, such as petroleum engineering (82%) and computer/information science (72%).
With international students serving as a key talent pool for many industries, and employers struggling to fill recruitment gaps post-pandemic, the opportunities are there for when your students graduate. Highlight placements, internships and work experience to your prospective students; it might be the difference that makes you stand out in the crowd, not only to the students themselves but also to their parents, who are key influencers in their decision-making.
4. Get the messaging right
Having been forced to focus on local students for the past two years, remember that you can’t approach your prospective international students in the same way. While targeting American students on the likes of Instagram and Snapchat may work wonders, consider the realities of aspiring students in places such as India, where access to fast broadband and other digital technologies is more limited than in the US, and therefore a different approach is needed.
Your messages need to be relevant and targeted to your prospective student audiences, address their individual motivations, needs and worries, and highlight why your institution is the best possible choice for them. Consider the cultural context and ensure you’re ahead of any concerns students may have about attending your institution or traveling to/ living in the US during the pandemic.
With the number of international students on the rise, they are ready and waiting to apply to their dream study destination - so make sure your institution is on the list. If you’d like to speak to one of our student marketing experts about how to target, engage and enroll international students, get in touch today.