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2015 International E-Expectations Report

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, CO – International students are flocking to enroll at colleges in the United States. Nearly 900,000 enrolled during the 2013-14 academic year, an 8.1 percent increase over the year before. They have also become a high-value student population for American institutions contending with demographic challenges that are reducing the flow of prospective domestic college students. But how do international students research colleges and choose where to attend — especially when the majority do not visit a single campus before they apply?

Ruffalo Noel Levitz and CollegeWeekLive examine those motivations and behaviors in a new report, How to Engage International Undergraduate and Graduate Students in the Admissions Process. The report is based on data taken from students in 160 countries around the globe, and is part of the E-Expectations research series on the online behaviors and expectations of prospective college students.

The findings suggest that campuses looking to recruit more international students should attempt to woo their parents. More than 60 percent of prospective undergraduate and half of prospective graduate students said their parents were involved in the enrollment decision. In addition, one in five prospective undergraduates said that their parents were concerned about them studying abroad.

“For many international college students looking to study in the United States, their parents influence their decision making,” says Stephanie Geyer, vice president for web strategy and interactive marketing services at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. “While distance and logistics make it more difficult for international parents to be like the ‘helicopter parents’ of American-born students, campuses looking to expand their reach into international markets should communicate with parents and try to turn them into recruitment advocates for their institution.”

Building recognition and awareness of a campus is key, because 60 percent of international students also said that their interest in a particular institution was their main motivation for studying abroad.

On the other side, financial issues dominated students’ concerns about studying in the United States, with 77 percent listing financial requirements as their greatest concern. They also said financial decisions were the area they needed the most help with during the enrollment process.

In terms of communicating with these students, campuses can rely on a variety of resources. While college websites serve as their go-to source for information on a campus, they also value college brochures and social media along with college rankings and college search sites.

Employing a wide variety of communications is also key because nearly 60 percent said they had no plans to visit a campus before applying.

“Now, more than ever, international students want to get answers to questions and have conversations with representatives from their top college choices before making decisions about which school will be the best fit,” says Robert Rosenbloom, CEO of CollegeWeekLive. “Institutions that make themselves accessible across multiple platforms are well-placed to best meet their prospective students’ needs.”

Finally, more and more international students who go online to research campuses do so on a mobile device. Nearly 80 percent of undergraduate respondents said they have looked at a college website on a mobile device, while 37 percent said they used their phones as their primary means for going online.

“These results show the shift to mobile browsing for prospective undergraduates is a rapidly growing global trend,” says Geyer. “Any campus that wishes to be competitive in the international market in the coming years not only has to engage students with their campus brand and assuage their concerns about studying abroad, but make sure those messages are delivered effectively on smartphone screens.”

Download How to Engage International Undergraduate and Graduate Students in the Admissions Process at www.noellevitz.com/international.

Ruffalo Noel Levitz is a trusted partner to higher education, helping systems and campuses reach and exceed their goals for enrollment, marketing and student success. The firm’s consultants work side by side with campus executive teams to facilitate planning and to help implement the resulting plans, using data and research to guide decision making.

CollegeWeekLive enables online, live and interactive student engagement. From attracting new applicants to influencing students’ decisions along the way, CollegeWeekLive helps institutions keep students engaged throughout key decision points in the enrollment process.

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