Universities need to modernize how they recruit and diversify their international student population. International students have become incredibly important to universities in recent years. But university recruiting has relied on very expensive tactics: travel to in-person events, handing out brochures, and traditional “spammy” marketing. With the pandemic severely limiting travel and budgets, universities can no longer afford to operate like they used to. Because of this, universities have also tended to focus on a few high-value, high-density markets like China. This has created a huge diversity problem, with the majority of international students at many universities all hailing from a single country.
Students should benefit from the vast array of higher educational opportunities around the world. Technology has allowed the world to become truly global. This access to information, goods, and services, and breaking down of borders, should also apply to higher education opportunities. While there are thousands of excellent institutions around the world, most students aren’t aware of all of their options and how to pursue them.
Creating networks of international universities and college counselors that span the globe is a way for universities to access a broader pool of students and make admission and scholarship offers to those with the right combination of admissibility, academic interests, and budget. With this approach, students can discover a wide range of best-fit higher education institutions that they may not have heard of, from multiple countries, with consideration given to their budgetary constraints.
The journey to higher education should be exciting and empowering for students. The onus of matchmaking and admission should be on the counselor and the universities, to alleviate stress on the students. Everyone can and must work together to make the process more flexible and easier for students. Rather than students pursuing universities, what if universities come to the students they want with acceptances? Then a stressful “assessment” process is transformed into an empowering discovery process. Students focus on and explore the universities that want them, rather than wasting time chasing schools that do not.
The college admissions process is ripe for reform, and following are four ways to transform an outdated and one-sided process into a more equitable and empowering one.
1. Simplify and automate. Universities need to create a simple, fast process that is more streamlined with fewer requirements. The pandemic has proven that the once required elements are really not necessary. The application needs to be boiled down to the essential information needed to accurately assess a student. A single standardized profile that takes less than an hour can replace unwieldy applications, essays, and other university-specific requirements.
2. Go global to expand possibilities both for the students and universities. Look beyond borders into other countries. Students can find more opportunities in places they may have never known existed, and universities can diversify their student populations.
3. Take a more personalized, human approach vs. an enrollment funnel model. Every student should get a consultation from a university admissions officer, instead of being treated as a sales lead. Students can first be pre-screened to match with universities they are qualified for, can afford, meet their preferences, and can provide scholarships if needed. This matchmaking can happen before a conversation, so the focus can be on finding the right program of study and ensuring a good fit.
4. Increase collaboration between students and college counselors at high schools and provide more direct access to universities. The more universities can interact with counselors and their students, the more aligned they can be on making the right admissions decisions for everyone.
We have an opportunity this year to truly rethink and re-invent how higher education admissions operates. Shifting the balance of power from the universities to the students would provide more opportunities for higher education for all.