Blog 🏛️ University 3rd October 2023

Globalizing Your University: How U.S. Institutions Can Take a Strategic Approach to International Enrollment

Profile image of Zahra Onsori
Zahra Onsori University Content Writer

How important are international undergraduate enrollments to your long term recruitment strategy?

The short answer? Very. 

Whilst the U.S. is still a popular destination for international students, increasingly they may find themselves being outcompeted by other institutions around the world.

And without a dedicated internationalization strategy, this disparity in international enrollments will only widen with time.

For U.S. universities, time is ticking; it’s now imperative to invest in growing your international undergraduate enrollments.

By doing so, this will not only sustain longer student pipelines to your university, but will also increase the diversity of your international cohort overall.

In this blog post, we’ll be taking you through why it’s important to invest in an international strategy, and how to make the strategic case for international enrollment in your institution.

Find out how and why a dedicated international schools strategy can grow your undergraduate enrolments.

Competing to yield in a global field 

The U.S. has a unique opportunity when it comes to competing in the international field. This is not just because of its global reputation in general, but also due to the prestige of its higher education institutions. 

And the good news is that, in many source markets, the U.S.A. is still the most popular destination country worldwide. 

For example, in our U.S. data report, we found that the U.S.A. is overwhelmingly popular at the shortlisting stage for students in China, South Korea and Brazil, Africa (9%) and Oceania (13%) saw significant year-over-year growth in conversion rates.

Yet despite this diversity in interest and application, the latest Common App report highlights that Chinese applicants make up the majority of international enrollments, with India not far behind. 

U.S. universities must begin diversifying their international source markets and capitalising on this international interest, before prospective students are swept up by competitors. 

Because as it stands, the U.S. is already facing intense competition. Other popular destination countries such as the UK and Canada have been working hard to grow their brand recognition and increase international enrollments. 

And with the UK hitting their 600,000 international student enrollment target ten years early, the U.S.A must begin to strategise their international enrollment goals in order to compete in a globally mobile marketplace. 

Ranking isn’t everything; instead, focus on engaging students that are right for your institution 

We understand that for universities with a less known international brand, it can be challenging to know where to begin when creating an international enrollment strategy. 

But whilst ranking still has its place, it’s not the be all and end all for international applicants.

In fact, our latest U.S. data report highlighted that in 2023, the most significant growth in international applications were at institutions ranking between 100 and 300. And 15% of applicants consistently applied to universities ranked 1000+, demonstrating a diverse range of preferences among the BridgeU student population.

This demonstrates the extent to which BridgeU international school students are engaging with less well-known brands at key stages in their application journey. 

It also points to the importance of U.S. universities focusing less on ranking, and more on the unique attributes that will help them stand out to an international applicant. 

Be strategic with your marketing efforts

In order for your brand awareness to be successful, you need the right marketing tools. 

It’s really important to tailor your marketing approach in order to meet your intended target audience. 

So remember these key pillars.

  • Don’t overly rely on specific markets; instead, make sure your brand awareness strategy is spread out to increase the sustainability of your undergraduate student cohort
  • Don’t approach your marketing strategy with a one size fits all approach; international students are not all the same, and depending on where they’re from, will face different barriers to admission. Instead, localize your approach, and put local student needs at the heart of your internationalization technique.
  • Your current international student body is your superpower. You may be saying all the right things on your website, but students want social proof that their peers have post-graduate job prospects, and that people like them will fit in at your university. So, use your current student cohort to your advantage.
  • Students want clarity in the admissions process, and if this isn’t given, they can look elsewhere for their needs to be met. So make sure your entry requirements, visa information, application process and accommodation requests are clear and easy to find.

Want to see our marketing services in action? Read more about how our bespoke marketing campaigns increased diversity and undergraduate shortlists by 18% for Miami University.

Enhance your global reach through international and digital networks 

Building networks can be a great way to increase your universities’ global profile whilst simultaneously supporting you to reach your international enrollment goals. Whilst there are a few different types of networks you can build, we’re highlighting two we’ve found to be especially effective when it comes to building a successful recruitment strategy.

International schools are here to stay… and growing

Are international schools something you’ve considered in your international recruitment strategy? 

According to ISC Research, the international schools market is one that has grown by 53.5% in the last decade. At the same time, the K12 education market is on track to grow above a CAGR of 20.15% between 2022 – 2030. 

And within the international schools market, the US is still a largely popular destination. On the BridgeU platform alone, we’ve already facilitated more than 250k international applications to U.S. colleges and universities in the last 5 years. 

If you’ve not considered international schools within your long term strategy, you could be missing out on a large proportion of prospective students.

Not only that, but international school applicants come from English medium schools with robust global curriculums that develop an academic preparedness, making them quality prospective students for your university. 

It’s time to embrace ed tech 

As the international school sector continues to grow, more international schools are adopting ed tech in order to support and streamline the university application process. 

Particularly for the U.S, the application process can be quite tricky to navigate for international students. So, guidance platforms are incredibly useful tools to support students with things like applying for financial aid, writing a Common App personal statement and overcoming application barriers.

And whilst ed tech is useful for students and counsellors, there’s also benefit for universities too. 

Platforms such as BridgeU provide an opportunity for U.S. universities to take a more localiSed and proactive approach to brand awareness and recruitment. 

They can also be utilised as a marketing tool which allows you to directly reach students who are actively looking for universities. Unlike traditional marketing tools, they also supply real-time insight into what campaigns and strategies are creating a direct impact with prospective students, and which ones aren’t, allowing you to amend your marketing strategy with pinpoint precision.

The next steps

Interested in learning more about how international schools could be the key to unlocking best-fit international undergraduates for your institution?