What makes us different is how we connect: NAFSA session preview

Like most of you, each year I look forward to the process of preparing a recruitment plan; and over the past decade, I have had the opportunity to travel with many of the international admissions and recruitment staff from colleges and universities across the country to connect and engage international students.

We reach out globally to strengthen awareness of our unique institutions, and potential applicants respond by reaching out to us electronically. But many of us never stop to think about how easy is it for the student to give information. Or, what do we internally as a team do with this information? For example, after the initial contact, is follow-up personalized, whether delivered by digital channels or through other methods? Does our communication sincerely answer prospective students’ questions, or are we just sending generic emails? With competition to attract and enroll international students at an all time high, how quick and effective is your institution’s response to international inquiries?

At KIC UnivAssist, we set out to learn more about how U.S. universities respond to inquiries. Kristina Wong Davis (University of California-San Diego), Ronn Beck (Salve Regina University), and I will be discussing our results during the session titled “Insights into Effective Institutional Responsiveness of Prospective International Student Inquiries” at the 2016 NAFSA Conference. Previewing our findings: 23% reacted with non-reply, and 38% asked for personal information – then didn’t use it.

Our challenge is not in fact unique. Like most of us involved in recruitment and admissions, Eddy Cue also thinks a lot about engaging and connecting with people far away. Except unlike us, Cue is a senior vice president at Apple where he oversees Apple Music (for those of you who know me well, you know that in addition to being passionate about student recruitment, one of my hobbies is music).

When Cue was asked recently in an interview about the challenges Apple faces competing with more established music streaming services like Spotify, Pandora or Tidal, his response was “yes, I can play any song,” and that might be the same from service to service, but what makes us different is the “connection with the user and music.” Of course, as any music lover (or international student recruitment professional) knows, it’s crucial to be adept at reading your audience and reacting on the fly with their selection.

As spring edges toward travel season, this is a lesson we should all revisit before departing for tours/trips overseas. Do our inquiry protocols for prospective applicants (and their families) really help us connect and engage international students?

And don’t forget to bring along a good playlist.

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