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Recruiting International Students: 3 Key Strategies

Universities in the United States are widely regarded as some of the best. According to a survey, 59% of people outside the U.S. believe American universities to be above average compared to universities in other developed countries. Naturally, such a belief is associated with high numbers of international students interested in studying at universities in the U.S.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, in the 2019/20 academic year, there were 1,075,496 international students following their studies in the U.S.—making up around 5.5 percent of the total number of students in the U.S. However, the following year, there was a significant decline due to travel restrictions that prevented students from traveling to the U.S. During the 2020/21 academic year, there were 914,095 international students in the U.S.—a 15% decrease from the previous year, with only a small percentage of them being new international students

Now that travel restrictions have eased, it is important to update your higher institution’s enrollment strategies and begin recruiting international students.

To increase the number of international students recruited for your higher education institution, you must center your international enrollment strategies on resource efficiency by utilizing various technology and digital marketing techniques. So, read on and find out the top three strategies from the agency that specializes in SEO services for Higher Education, that will help refine your recruitment plan with effective international student recruitment strategies for 2023.

International Recruitment Strategy #1: Optimising Your Website

Optimizing your website for international students is crucial since websites are often the first exposure potential students have to higher education institutions. Before deciding whether they want to apply to your study programs, they need to learn more about your institution and the opportunities you offer. Therefore, you should pay close attention to what you present on your website and how you present it.

Similar to techniques typically used for growing college enrollment through SEO, you should improve your site’s landing pages and contact forms in order to increase click-through rates and convert website visitors into qualified leads. To begin, make sure you include all the information potential students must know about your institution on the landing pages. 

Next, make the text readable and minimize using complex language or colloquialisms that your international audience might have difficulty understanding. Keep the content engaging—include visual elements such as infographics and videos that explain topics relevant to potential students and their decision-making process, like tuition fees, accommodation, and program structure, including information specific to international students. 

Do not forget to include keywords relevant to your target audience in order to increase lead generation by improving your site’s visibility and pushing its content through the ranking in organic search results.

As you work on optimizing your website, focus on the following elements:

  • Easy navigation
  • Engaging homepage
  • Relevant content
  • Meta titles and descriptions
  • Keywords

International Recruitment Strategy #2: Incorporating Virtual Campus Tours and Zoom 


Even prior to the pandemic, international students have faced challenges traveling to the U.S. or other countries for in-person campus visits. However, these visits are crucial for students to make informed decisions about the institutions they are considering, as they offer a glimpse into the facilities, atmosphere, and culture associated with the institution. In light of this challenge, a useful strategy to bridge this gap is to offer virtual campus tours and Zoom meetings.

Virtual campus tours allow prospective students to engage with your institution and experience what it is like to walk around your campus from the comfort of their homes. Many universities have already developed 360-degree tours using virtual reality technology or Google Maps Street View, and there are numerous benefits to incorporating these tours. By offering virtual campus tours, you can:

  1. Provide equal access for all: Regardless of the reason why potential students cannot visit your campus in person, whether it be because of financial limitations, time constraints, or something else, with virtual campus tours, you help provide the same experience to anyone interested in joining your study programs. Virtual campus tours are cost-affordable for both students and institutions to upkeep.
  2. Improve interaction: Students can have little to no interaction with the tour guide because of the large tour groups. Therefore, they will not be learning much about the institution. However, with virtual tours, the information and visuals are on the screen for students to access and go through as many times as they want.
  3. Better accessibility: Unlike physical tours, virtual campus tours are not affected by factors such as weather conditions or time constraints. Therefore, students can choose to visit your higher education institution’s campus on a Monday morning, Saturday at midnight, or any other time of the week and day.
  4. More inclusive: Virtual tours can easily incorporate live captions, ASL translation, audio descriptions, and other elements that help students with disabilities navigate better throughout the campus tour. 

In addition to the tours, your institution can make use of several web-conferencing tools, such as Zoom, that help provide potential international students with a more personalized interaction between them and your admissions committee. 

Regardless of the distance, your counselors can communicate with potential students and help them by clarifying any information needed, sharing relevant documents, and guiding them throughout the whole process.

International Recruitment Strategy #3:  International Student Success Stories 


Providing proof of successful international student experiences is a surefire way to make potential international students feel more connected, included, and comfortable choosing your institution. Therefore, you should focus your recruitment efforts on improving the experience of your current international students in order to generate better referrals and leads.

It would be best for you to work toward ensuring that international students have an environment where they can thrive in your higher education institution, as well as dedicating a portion of your website to displaying their success stories. This way, you can expand your reach and influence over your target audience. After all, when it comes to studying abroad, students want to enroll in a school where they are most likely to grow and progress academically and socially. Therefore, they will research the experience of other students in similar circumstances before committing to the school.

You can also expand your strategic international partnerships in order to enhance your brand’s reputation and improve the student experience. Consider research collaboration opportunities and exchange programs that might benefit your international students.

Use all opportunities presented to you and provide a good experience for international students that choose your school. In turn, they will help advocate your brand and share their success stories that inspire other students to join your college as well.

The Bottom Line

Spread your wings and generate leads from all over the world. Attract potential international students by optimizing your website for international students, incorporating virtual campus tours and web-conferencing tools, as well as leveraging the success stories of existing international students and alumni. With these three strategies, you can ensure a better and easier experience for students getting to know your school.

Are you interested in learning more about how to improve your higher education institution’s website? Contact us for a free SEO gap analysis and learn more about your website’s potential. Join us and become our next success story!

Faton Sopa

Faton Sopa

CEO, Co-Founder

Faton is the Co-founder & CEO of Manaferra and someone who wakes up every morning seeing endless possibilities to progress and help others make a difference, for the better. That thought then translates everything he does to see both the team and clients move forward.

Faton is the Co-founder & CEO of Manaferra and someone who wakes up every morning seeing endless possibilities to progress and help others make a difference, for the better. That thought then translates everything he does to see both the team and clients move forward.

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