Assist the recruiters.
Selling a university’s locale is an important part of marketing to international students, but schools may not have the budgets to do more than traditional campus visits. Approach recruitment officers and ask how you can help. Or offersuggestions, including:
- Provide off-campus tours of the neighboring area. After all, who knows the local neighborhoods and businesses better than a real estate agent? (Not to mention agents ‘expertise in driving while simultaneously pointing things out to their passengers!)
- Presentations on the city or area offer another chance to interact with prospective students and parents on a direct basis—and may help university staff fill their guests’ itineraries. Tell them about its history, places of interest, ethnic neighborhoods and features that make it an attractive and fun place to live.
- If the school makes overseas recruitment trips, find a way to become part of the show as the local area expert. You’ll meet interested students and their parents, and you can leverage the trip to make other global connections.
- Offer recruiting personnel information packets they can give to applicants.
Connecting with parents early in their college decision process is ideal, especially if they’re interested in off-campus housing—a common preference for foreign students. Purchases are often desired over rentals.
Help newly-arriving students
Ask the school’s international department if you can assist them in orienting new arrivals to the area. This may be as simple as delivering a group presentation that welcomes students to the town or city. Beyond providing a local overview, have information on multicultural aspects of the community, like ethnic neighborhoods, places of worship, restaurants and ethnic grocers. Ideally, you’ll want to make this same information available to international students on your website, including translation options.
Making yourself available to students for miscellaneous questions and requests can take time, but you’re creating a meaningful and memorable experience for that student—something they won’t forget as their housing needs evolve. Tim Hur, CIPS, President, of Point Horizon Realty of Atlanta, points out that new arrivals may not know enough about the culture to get easily settled in. Basic, but common requests include where to get a driver’s license, how to open a bank account, or how public transportation works. “The longer it takes the student to get situated, the more study time is lost,” explains Hur.“Helping them out takes a lot of handholding, but it comes back tenfold in referrals.”
Investigate state consortia.
Universities in a number of states have formed consortia to pool resources for joint marketing to international students and professionals, offering another avenue to expand your connections. One example: Iowa’s consortium (StudyIowa.org) includes Iowa State, Luther College, University of Northern Iowa, University of Iowa and Coe College. They’ve sponsored international trade missions to Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. To see if your state has a consortium and which schools are in it, go to export.gov/industry/education/eg_main_022048.asp.
Explore global gateways.
Institutions seeking students from specific countries may open an office in key gateway cities for recruitment, alumni functions and study-abroad placement. Case in point: Ohio State University opened an office in the business district f Shanghai, China in February 2010 with another office coming soon in India. If you’re supporting a university’s international recruitment e f forts, or just trying to cultivate more connections with a particular institution, these outposts may be located in destinations you intend to visit anyway, offering an excellent way to leverage your business travel or mix business with pleasure.
Consider social networks.
Schools are tapping popular social networks in other countries to market themselves and engage directly with prospective students. For example, Brock’s University’s International Market Development office in Ontario, Canada has several currently-enrolled international representatives who reach out on Chinese social media sites Renren and QQ to connect with Chinese students. The sites reach over 640 million people and generated over 1,500 connections interested in Brock.
If schools in your area are using social media sites to reach prospective students, both locally and abroad, and to stay in touch with alumni, you may want to join these groups and participate in their conversations. Social media may also be an excellent way to remain in touch with the visiting students that you meet.
Make friends in the Administration offce.
At many schools, the faculty may include a significant percentage of foreign faculty members. Professors and research assistants need housing near campus too. I f they’re arriving from another country, they face many of the same issues con fronting foreign students and may genuinely welcome your assistance.
Have patience and keep adding value.
As with growing most markets, this one will take long-term effort. Going above and beyond typical real estate activities may take some extra time but it will differentiate you to your target market and make you the go-to resource among the network you build.