Achieving enrolment targets by enhancing the student experience.


AdOps Executive, Ghenaa Ahmed

As our final Part 3 of 3 series on International student recruitment, we take a look at how the USA are achieving enrolment in an ever more competitive environment.

US universities have enhanced their admissions process, simply due to the competitive environment. Many have realised that advertising works when it blends with omni-channel and experiences.

Interconnected Strategies.

“Omnichannel marketing” is coined from the approach in which brands combine all the channels they offer to consumers, both offline and online, into one interconnected strategy. Universities and colleges must work in the same manner. To recognise that paid advertising works best when the framework around that has a blended multi-media approach.

Students are interacting more than ever before across all university and college channels. Regardless whether the student comes into the university funnel through social, prospectus, paid or organic advertising, they want the experience to be of high quality and a smooth experience. Advertising to international students can no longer work on its own, it must rest on the student experience which sits on a firm foundation of realities and truths.

According to recent statistics the US are now leading the way in attracting international students. It’s been well publicised that international students coming to the UK in the past decade has increased by only 3%, compared to a whopping 40% increase in the US, 45% in Australia and 57% in Canada. The UK is significantly falling behind in attracting international students, this begs the question why are so many international students choosing to go elsewhere?

As of 2016, there were over 4.8 million international students, of those the US received over one million students, nearly twice as many as the UK. American universities have cracked the code to attracting international students, each university aggressively competing against the other.

Campus VR experiences.

Universities such as Georgia Tech have taken the virtual reality approach by creating a multi-language interactive experience. ‘Caitlyn’, Georgia Tech’s student guide takes people on a journey around campus. Which they prominently feature on the school’s admissions page for prospective students, bringing the campus closer to both the international students and their families. Improving the student experience online and hooking up their advertising with experience result in raising the university’s international profile in the field of science, engineering and mathematics, leading to a 28% increase in international enrolment in 2016.

Social muscle.

Universities such as Iowa University have focused on the power of social media, successfully gaining a large social media following. Having over 172,000 followers on Facebook and 110,000 followers on Twitter they have utilised the weapon of social media attraction. By regularly posting an average of two videos a week on crucial topics such as campus events, student experiences and the universities surrounding attractions. They have cleverly strategised their organic growth and most importantly have prioritised their response time to get back to students. It’s all about student services and experiences and they have realised that this is all part of the bigger engineer makes the student choose them over other rival universities.


University of Arkansas highlight in their international admissions page the extensive range of services they offer for their international students; the university went one step further by offering the availability for prospective students to order a Chinese-language version of their prospectus.

PPC (Pay Per Click)

The University of Georgia focused on learning what keywords are more effective and which ads better converted. The university incorporated a Chinese landing page in hopes of increasing the likelihood of generating searches from prospective students from China. Efficiently monitory keywords and landing page relevancy is a great cost-effective method for reaching prospective international students.

Chatbots – The student; a customer with expectations.

Chatbot service is a computer program designed to emulate human speech in a written form, chatbots have become extremely useful in the field of higher education granting the gift of quick efficient responses and in multiple languages.

Chatbots can be programmed to strike up a conversation often catching the attention of a passing prospective student. For prospective international students being able to access answers quickly and sifting the most important information is significant advantage.

A recent study conducted by Gallup revealed 68% of millennials primary source of communication was through digital messaging. Building chatbots into university websites and social media pages could give the same advantages as a successful e-commerce site by granting international students the opportunity to enquire any time of the day and get an immediate response. Helping prospective students with questions about any courses offered or even guiding them through the application process.

Sound recognition AI.

Sound Recogniton AI assistants such as Alexa (Amazon), Cortana (Microsoft) and Siri (Apple) are known as virtual assistants that understand natural voice commands and can respond to requests. But how do they play a part in the international student recruitment process?

Al assistants quickly learns from each interaction and adjusts itself for a better user experience. Many high education institutions are incorporating Al into their universities. Saint Louis University deployed Amazon’s Alexa inside campus accommodations and pre-programmed the device with responses to frequently asked questions such as “What time does the cafeteria close”? and “Where is the financial aid office”?. Florida International University announced a partnership with Cognii an AI virtual learning assistant and tutor, enabling the university to provide immediate and personalised feedback to students and provide analytics to assist lecturers who can tailor their classes and material.

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