July 21

Strategies to Boost International Admissions


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, international admissions have more than tripled. 

But the way to market international admissions has significantly changed. 

In my work with admissions officers and enrollment marketing teams, most of their focus is on North America.

That’s where the bulk of their students are coming from, so no problem with that!

However, there are excited markets around the world waiting to be tapped by education marketers here in the United States and Canada. 

This is why I got excited when I came across a paper written by Christian DiGregorio, Director of International Recruitment at York College of Pennsylvania.

Soon after, we got him to come on to The Higher Ed Marketer podcast to talk about the new ways he successfully connects and builds relationships with international students. 

First, we got the backstory on how he became interested in specializing in international admissions. 

Now, after 22 years in the admissions field, Christian is an in-demand speaker for the NAFSA: Association of International Educators (NAFSA), EducationUSA, as well as other organizations.

Here are just a few practical insights from our conversation on the podcast. 

Honestly, there is so much more in the episode. Make sure you go check it out!

Using Messaging Apps for International Admissions

One of our first questions for Christian was about the kinds of tools he uses for international recruitment.

We’re doing a lot of different things. But [the tool with which] we’ve seen a lot of success is messaging apps, things like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Zalo. Some of the other ones like WeChat have all been extremely helpful to getting to know students and leveraging our strengths.

Most of us are familiar with social media apps like Facebook Messenger.

But since texting is much more popular in North America, these messaging apps are probably unfamiliar to many of us. 

So messaging apps are a way for students to communicate. 

It is a way for students to really get in touch with you. They can digest information at their own pace. There are desktop versions. 

You can send links and even documents. It’s a little more fluid than email and replicates a conversation a little bit better.

Provide Options Outside of Texting

Messaging apps are a little more of an international standard than texting. 

Texting can become unsustainable with carrier fees charged to the prospective students. 

In fact, many international students won’t even answer a text or give you their phone number.

When we get an [international] application, of course the option is there [to opt in to receive text communications], but it’s intended for domestic students. Most of the time, international students will say, “Please do not [send texts].”

The Country Determines the Messaging App

Depending on the region, or the country in which you’re communicating, you’ll need to use different messaging apps. 

Christian explains. 

Most of my students communicate through WhatsApp. Anybody can use that one. But there are some that are more regional. 

Telegram is most popular in Central Asia, and some areas in the Pacific, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand. 

If it’s Vietnam, you would be using Zalo. If it’s China, it’s WeChat. 

There are more messaging apps out there. What you want to do is match your target [audience] with the app you’re going to be using.

And it’s not just the students I’m communicating with. I also communicate with parents and guidance officers through these apps.

Email will still always be there. But for those in-depth conversations – or even some of the short ones – they’ll respond [more often] and sometimes they’ll even send [the documents necessary for their application] to us through the app.

Christian DiGregorio shows some of the amazing insights he's learned over the years in international admissions.

Source: ycp.edu

Why You Should Take Messaging Apps Seriously

Despite learning about these messaging apps, you might still hesitate to start using them. 

It can take time to download and learn how to use each of them. 

But it is worth the effort to boost your international admissions results.  

[On my] last trip, I was in Uzbekistan, Central Asia. I’m doing a college fair through EducationUSA in the capital of Tashkent. My table was a little slow at that point. 

[I saw] some students over in the corner, all standing together but their heads were down looking at their phones. Their thumbs were just going wildly. After a few minutes, they approached my table. They were still looking at their phones, but they were also talking with me. [During the conversation], I started hearing the word “Telegram.” 

After they left, I grabbed the fair organizer. And I said, “What’s Telegram?” He said, “Telegram is a messaging app, and everybody uses it here.” 

The light bulb went off in my head! I went back up to my hotel room after the event and downloaded Telegram. 

The next day, [I was in] a new city for the fair. [I told the students coming to me], “If you have any other questions later, I’d be happy to talk to you. Just send me a message on Telegram.” It was amazing how many messages I got that day!

Of course, our conversation went well beyond using messaging apps to boost international admissions. 

Christian went into the different strategies and practical things he does to recruit international students. 

So, please take a moment to listen to the entire episode. You’ll be glad you did!

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.

Later in our interview, Christian explains more how they use social media tools to create community among students at the top of the funnel. 

Listen to our interview with Christian DiGregorio to get even more insights into:

  • Using messaging apps to connect with students
  • How to stand out and lead with your strengths
  • Adapting your language to build relationships

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Featured image via ycp.edu

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