As part of our series on online marketing in the education sector we wanted to point out an interesting article in the New York Times1 a couple of weeks ago about foreign students and how important it is to them (and their families) that they further their education in North America. As quoted by one source, Li Manhong, a homemaker from Beijing, in reference to investing in her son’s education and future, “Whatever it takes to reach his maximum potential. It’s worth it.”
According to the article, “with China sending more students to American colleges than any other country, the competition for spots at the top schools has soared. During the 2009-10 academic year, 39,947 Chinese undergraduates were studying in the United States, a 52 percent increase from the year before and about five times as many as five years earlier, according to the Institute of International Education, a U.S. organization.”
And while the benefits of studying in our education facilities are numerous – providing core academic values such as intellectual freedom, collaboration, diversity and gender quality – it can’t be denied that the advantages run both ways.
The presence of foreign students on our campuses benefits society as a whole with the opportunity for domestic students to develop friendships from all over the world, while learning about their cultures. In turn, everyone is more prepared to excel within a global society.
The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada states on their website that, “the presence of international students enriches the learning environment for Canadian students by bringing a greater diversity of languages, cultures, and perspectives to the classroom, thus providing more international knowledge and intercultural experiences to Canadian students who do not have the opportunity to study abroad. The presence of international students on campus helps universities meet their obligation to prepare students for a global world. Moreover, recruiting the best and brightest international graduate students to Canadian campuses improves the quality and capacity of Canadian university research in a range of disciplines, adding new ideas and approaches to help advance our understanding of key issues.”
Educational facilities wanting to target their marketing efforts to foreign students vying to enroll in North American schools have a powerful and cost-efficient tool at their fingertips: online marketing.
Although similar to the endeavour of marketing to attract domestic students, following are a few tips for targeting foreign students.
- Showcase the cultural diversity of your campus – Although foreign students put prevalence on attending our facilities, it’s still a matter of leaving their families and moving to another country and cultural environment. By including the audience that you are targeting, you’re projecting a friendly and approachable facility while incorporating a sense of familiarity.
- Engage in social media – An international Facebook fan page and international Twitter account with links to your school’s home page will help to maximize exposure and ensure that you’re where your target audience is.
- Dedicate a webpage on your site to international students – This is a great opportunity to showcase the diversity of your campus as well as your international student population.
Keeping in mind that many international students will not have the opportunity to visit your campus prior to enrolment, having a wide array of pictures online – website, Facebook, etc. – will help foreign students and their families get a good sense of your academic offering. In turn, helping them feel more comfortable in their move abroad as they seek to reach their full potential while at the same time enriching the learning environment for domestic students.