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Successful international student recruitment increasingly means building meaningful relationships with international school counsellors. We share our 7 top tips for success.
If you work in international student admissions for your university, then outreach to, and relationships with, international schools will likely form at least a small component of your wider outreach strategy.
And with one enrolment cycle coming to an end and another about to begin, you and your admissions team will likely now have one eye on your goals and resources for the next year.
As this next cycle begins, we’d argue that universities’ ability to meet their international student enrollment goals will rest in part on their having a clear international schools strategy.
A successful international schools strategy will, in turn, rest on your and your team’s ability to build long-lasting and meaningful relationships with international school counsellors (or at the very least school staff with responsibility for delivering university and careers guidance provision).
But in our work with schools and universities alike, we’ve noticed that a university rep’s ability to build a relationship with a new international school contact will often fall at the first hurdle – that first email.
Too often we’ve seen visit requests or simple introductory messages sit unnoticed in the counsellor’s email inbox. This will, of course, have a negative knock-on effect on your wider recruitment efforts.
That’s why we’ve collated our seven secrets to ensuring your outreach to international schools is successful from the word ‘go’.
It gets better.
We won’t just share the secrets to a successful first email. Contained within these seven tips are strategies to ensure your follow-up correspondences are successful too!
So read on, and by the time we’ve finished, you’ll hopefully be a pro at writing high-impact and high-value emails that ensure you’re building those high-quality relationships with international school counsellors.
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1. Make it about your audience, not you
We’ve all had those emails drop into our inbox.
The sender might start with a typical opening line, such as ‘I hope this finds you well’, or some other statement that purports to express interest in you.
But then they quickly dive into selling their product, promoting their service, or just asking for your time.
For us, the recipient, these emails are often the ones that go straight into the ‘trash’ folder. The reason is simple: the sender of the email hasn’t really taken the time to understand your job, its day to day challenges, and how they can help you.
Your annoyance at receiving these emails is often compounded if you work in a busy and high-pressure job. Why are the senders of these emails wasting your time and clogging your inbox?
This is especially true for the international school counsellors that we at BridgeU work with every day. With clogged email inboxes and precious time to sort through them, getting the attention of a counsellor in an international school can be difficult.
Our counsellors often tell us that their inboxes are filled with representatives from universities all around the world, inquiring about their school, or asking for a visit.
Of course, we’re not suggesting for a moment that counsellors perceive all university recruiters to be pushy salespeople. But we’d argue that there’s still too many instances of university reps reaching out to counsellors and simply asking for a visit, or making an overt request straight off the bat.
In short, these university reps make their email about their needs, and not the needs of the counsellor they’re trying to contact. Specifically, unsuccessful outreach often looks like some, or all of the below.
- A rep giving very basic information about their university – e.g. just giving their name and their institution’s name and leaving it at that.
- Not specifying why they feel their university would be a good fit for students at the school.
- Failing to communicate the specific benefits & value of the proposed visit or session.
By contrast, we’ve noticed that the more successful visit requests or outreach emails will usually include the following elements.
- A warm, personalised introduction.
- Centring the outreach or visit request around the students’ and counsellor’s needs and not the university’s
- Introducing their university and creating a clear narrative around its brand (note: if even you’re working at a well-known university, it’s still important to set context and tell a story)
My name’s [name] and I’m part of the international student recruitment team here at [X] College. Specifically, I’m responsible for helping to recruit international students in [market/territory].
Having read a little bit about your school, I’d love to organise a meeting to discuss how I could work with you to help any of your students who are interested in [X] University to progress onto a degree programme with us.
We’re really proud of the unique and memorable experience we give to our international students and we combine a range of academic programmes with a close-knit campus that our international students are proud to call home.
With that in mind, I’m keen to help your students with any resources that will help them, whether it’s a webinar, a Q&A, a virtual tour, or just the chance to connect with me on WhatsApp or via email if they have specific questions.
Thanks, [Your Name/Signature]
This example ticks all of the boxes for kicking off your university outreach. It has a personable and enthusiastic tone. It explains why the university is a welcoming home for international students.
This rep offers to be as flexible with her time as possible to make allowances for the counsellors’ busy schedule. In short, it’s a message that prioritises the needs of the school over the objectives of the university.
2. Dazzle counsellors with your best content
Time was, a university rep could pack up their printed materials, get on a plane, travel to an international school and give a compelling presentation to a cafeteria full of students.
But in an increasingly digital-first world, content can, and should, form a key part of your email outreach to international school counsellors.
There are two reasons for this.
It helps students with the university research process
International students (and by extension their counsellors) will have a lot of questions about studying at university in another country.
Sharing helpful content and resources with counsellors as part of your email outreach means that you’re equipping them with materials that can, in turn, help them to guide their students through the university research process.
It helps you generate brand awareness with prospective students
If you’re working for an institution with a recognised global brand, then it’s possible that your select international student audience may already have heard of you (and may even be considering you!)
But we’d still argue you need to paint a compelling picture of how your university will offer a unique education experience when compared to that of your competitors.
Meanwhile, if you’re working at an institution with less global brand recognition, sharing valuable content with counsellors and students is obviously a great way to ensure you’re telling your institution’s unique story to potential international undergraduates.
Helpful content for international students could include information about the country in which you’re situated, contextual information about your campus and local community, testimonials from student ambassadors, or just some of the frequently asked questions that students often ask about your institution.
3. Proactively offer information
Not only is it essential to deliver great content, but you also need to ensure that you’re proactively offering it to the counsellor in question.
Remember that, in a lot of cases, counsellors lack both time and resources. Rather than having them chase you for information, make sure you’re actively offering the information up to them.
Think back to that example we shared in tip 1. Specifically, this bit of the email.
“With that in mind, I’m keen to share any resources that will help your students, whether it’s a webinar, a Q&A, a virtual tour, or just the chance to connect with me on WhatsApp or via email if they have specific questions.”
As you can see, this rep reaches out to the international school and proactively offers a number of ways in which they are willing and able to help the students.
We’d recommend making a note of some of the most common questions that international students ask about your institution. Remember to pay special attention to the questions that international students ask as a specific audience.
4. Stress your flexibility
If you’re trying to book some time with international school counsellors, then stressing your flexibility is key.
Along with being proactive, demonstrating your flexibility can be a small act of kindness that’s really meaningful for counsellors who, as we’ve already mentioned, are often very busy.
Flexibility demonstrates empathy, and demonstrating empathy is an important foundation stone when you’re building a relationship with an international school in your target market
5. Make up your follow up count
So you’ve gone to the trouble of crafting a thoughtful and personalised email to introduce yourself to an international school counsellor.
But then you don’t get a response.
Again, we can all probably point to a time when we received a follow-up email where the sender is just pestering you and just repeats their original request or sales pitch from the first communication.
It will probably come as no surprise if we told you that, when it comes to dealing with international school counsellors, such an approach to follow-up is almost certain to fall flat.
So that’s why it’s vital that any follow-up retains and repeats all of the elements we’ve discussed so far – valuable content and an empathetic, audience-first approach.
I’m just getting in touch again to see if there would be a convenient time for us to talk about the [proposed event] I mentioned in my last correspondence.
I appreciate you probably have a very busy schedule, so if it’s helpful, here’s a quick summary of what I normally cover with students in the session.
- A quick overview of our campus and the surrounding city.
- How we support your international students in their transition from school to university.
- A brief explainer of the courses that makes [X] University unique and an overview of admission requirements.
If this is of interest, let me know a convenient time for us to speak. I’m free this Wednesday afternoon (your local time).
Thanks, [Your Name/Signature]
You can see that in this second follow-up email, the university rep in question makes sure that they continue to offer the counsellor valuable content. They also offer a clear and detailed explanation of why this visit/online session will definitely be worth the counsellors’ time.
Finally, you’ll notice that, once again, the uni rep is careful to offer as much flexibility as possible.
6. Don’t be a stranger afterwards
Let’s fast forward a bit. You’ve concluded your webinar, or Q&A session with the students at your selected international school.
And let’s imagine that the event has received some really positive feedback from both the counsellor and students alike (well done you!).
But the dedicated email outreach shouldn’t stop here. Remember our first tip – the key to building a rich and long-lasting partnership with international schools is to put the needs of the student and the counsellor before your own.
So don’t forget that, even after your event is over, students, counsellors and even parents will likely have a lot of questions, or may even just need to follow up with you at a later date.
Just wanted to write to you and say that I really enjoyed presenting to your students the other day.
I hope it was a useful session for them. If you have any feedback or thoughts on the session, it’s
always warmly received.
I know that, in the coming weeks and months, your students will be coming to you with a lot of
questions and concerns about the application process, whether it’s related to their application
essays or their transcripts being delivered safely.
If you have any questions, or your students need any help with anything in the next few months,
don’t hesitate to contact me at this email address, or on my direct line below.
You’ll note that the writer of this email offers to make themselves available for the counsellor when application and document/transcript submission season comes around.
Rightly, this uni rep has guessed that this period of the application cycle will be particularly stressful for counsellors and students alike!
This is especially the case for students and staff in international schools, for whom the application processes of other countries can often feel opaque and unwieldy.
7. Lay the foundations for a strong future relationship
In the previous section, we’ve already explained why it’s worthwhile to make yourself available for any and all queries that counsellors may have.
But we’d encourage you to go further. If your international schools strategy is to succeed in the long-term, we’d argue that it’s vital you build the foundations for this success in these email correspondences.
To explain further what we mean, let’s turn to our fourth and final example.
Just writing to thank you for the opportunity to present to your students the other day. I hope it gave them a useful insight into life at [X] University.
It would be great to discuss further opportunities for collaboration and to learn more about how I (or indeed anyone else here at the university) can support your college counselling curriculum in any way.
If you’ve got some time in your calendar in the next few weeks, I’d love to discuss any other webinars or smaller events that would help your students? I’m also thinking of running a university fair with some of the other schools in your region and wanted to know if you’d be interested in participating?
Thanks, and look forward to hearing from you.
You’ll notice immediately that this uni rep talks about “opportunities for future collaboration”. Perhaps more importantly, they’re keen to know how they can support the school’s college counselling programme going forward.
Such an offer is often invaluable to an international school counsellor, especially those who might be new to their job or feeling overwhelmed by the complexities of the international application system.
As well as demonstrating that crucial empathy and flexibility that can prove so meaningful for many counsellors and international school teachers, an offer of further collaboration also increases the efficacy of your recruitment efforts.
By forging closer ties with your target schools, you’ll make it easier to meet and directly engage with your best-fit international students in the long term.
If you’d like full access to the templates we’ve used in this article, then download our 10 Simple Email Templates for Writing Successful Outreach and try implementing our tips yourself.
We’d love to know if these tips are useful for you, or if you’ve got some tips of your own. So after downloading your templates, leave us a comment below to let us know how you got on!
Get in touch
Learn how BridgeU can help you align your enrolment strategy with your international student audience.