Ahead of the Open Doors release, I asked readers to share insights about international-enrollment trends and recruitment strategies this fall. Here are a few of your responses, edited for space.
In Fall 2021, we experienced a 21 percent increase in international student enrollment to record levels. The number of sending countries increased with a large amount of interest coming from India in our specialized masters programs, which are closely aligned with the labor market needs. Areas of concern are two of our traditional larger sending markets in China and Iran. While the demand and student interest from these countries remains strong, prospective students continue to experience obstacles to receiving student visas preventing them from entering the U.S.
A larger question remains, will smaller schools that may more heavily lean on agents (we do not use) or tuition discounting (we do not provide) for recruitment find themselves priced out as Covid-19 continues to have a ripple effect on budgets? Longer term, this could cause problems with capacity and ultimately access.
—Christopher Connor, assistant dean and chief enrollment officer for graduate education, School of Engineering, University at Buffalo
At Northern Arizona University we saw a fairly positive increase in our international Indian student population for the fall 2021 semester, driven by our graduate student population. I think the fact that many other destinations (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) were still having a lot more travel restrictions encouraged international students from India to consider the U.S. over others. The economic challenges in India have meant that many parents would rather have their children pursue their undergraduate education in India and perhaps consider graduate education overseas later. Also, graduate education overseas has often been considered as a pathway for employability and thus with a slowing economy in India this is a pathway for future professional growth.
—Ragh Singh, program manager of global strategic initiatives, Northern Arizona University
Here’s an interesting dynamic we are seeing: With the decline in the use of standardized tests, admissions officers are relying even more on a host of other “signals” from students to make decisions. These range from supplemental essays to more complex analyses of applicant behavior. This is because admissions offices are getting pressure from above to increase the number of apps while not sacrificing quality or yield.
We’re a part of this dynamic. U.S. colleges rely heavily on our interviews, but it’s still “optional” because admissions officers focus on hitting their app numbers first. Sure, we wish admissions officers were more forthcoming about how they make decisions, but in a time of change and experimentation, the upside for being transparent is admittedly minimal.
Our hearts go out to counselors trying to advise students in this environment. It’s a hard truth of selective admissions that admissions offices want your apps but not necessarily your students. But at the same time, many are seeing this uncertainty as validating the role counselors can play in helping students understand this tricky dynamic.
—Terry Crawford, CEO of InitialView
We’ve been doing considerably more Zoom interviews with prospective students again this year, since we can’t travel, as well as attending a large number of virtual college fairs and high school visits with very mixed results, depending on the region. We have been leaning even more heavily on our established relationships with independent educational consultants and feeder high schools around the world for general outreach, student connections, and updates on how the pandemic is affecting their local educational systems and schedules. Many students are also asking more savvy questions and earlier on in the process. This is likely the result of having more time for their “armchair research” than they would have had previously.
—Jon Edwards, senior associate director of admissions and coordinator of international admissions at Grinnell College
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