Some 56% Students Research Study Abroad Only 6 Months Prior to Application; Strategies for Educators

Key Takeaways

  • Some 56% of students begin researching study abroad options only six months before applying, according to a recent survey.
  • Universities and educational institutions must adapt to this shifting student behavior by promptly responding to student inquiries and providing application-related information before the deadline.
  • The majority of students (76%) still prefer email as their primary mode of communication.

Deciding to study in another country is a significant undertaking that requires careful consideration and thorough preparation. It involves a multitude of factors that students need to weigh, such as researching potential study options, understanding visa requirements, financial planning, and assessing their circumstances. Ideally, it is recommended to allow ample time for this process, typically at least one or two years, to ensure a smooth and well-prepared transition.

However, recent research indicates that there is a growing trend among students to begin their research for study abroad options within a shorter time frame. The study revealed that an increasing number of students are initiating their research less than six months before applying to their preferred universities abroad. While this shift in the timeline may be surprising, it highlights the evolving behaviors and decision-making patterns of students in today’s fast-paced world.

Students' pacing for study abroad decisions

MSM Insights Article Infographic - June 22 2023

According to the Keystone Education Group’s 2023 State of Student Recruitment Report, there has been a substantial shift in the time frame of when potential international students start their research for studying abroad. More than half of students (56%) begin their research less than six months before submitting their applications, up from 45% in 2022. In comparison, just 29% of students begin their research 6-12 months in advance, and only 10% begin 12-24 months in advance.

Several causes, including advances in digital technology and the ubiquitous availability of online materials, may be driving this trend.

Students now have a variety of knowledge at their fingertips due to the increasing prominence of digital platforms. They can simply navigate university websites, browse program offers, take virtual campus tours, and communicate with current overseas students via social media channels. The ease and speed with which important material may be obtained online have accelerated the research process, allowing students to gather the necessary details in less time.

Furthermore, the development of study abroad websites, forums, and online communities has provided a supportive and engaging atmosphere in which students can share their experiences, seek advice, and learn from those who have already begun their study abroad trips. These online forums offer firsthand experience and practical advice to help students make better-informed decisions.

How students' timeline matters to educators

The findings of the survey clearly show that students are making study-abroad decisions at a faster rate than in prior years. This emphasizes how important it is for universities and educational institutions to be responsive and efficient in their dealings with prospective students. The rising desire for immediate responses necessitates a change in how organizations handle queries and communication.

With 61.8 % of students expecting a response within 24 hours or less and 11% expecting an instant response from universities, timely and efficient communication becomes critical for institutions. This includes optimizing business operations, ensuring that inquiries are immediately addressed, and giving important information promptly. Quick and effective responses not only assist prospective students in making educated judgments within their limited time frame but also demonstrate an institution’s dedication to student assistance and engagement.

Furthermore, email is still the most popular means of contact among students (76%). This emphasizes the need for institutions to have strong email systems in place, with rapid inquiry processing and clear communication lines. Implementing automatic answers or specialized teams to respond to inquiries as soon as possible can dramatically improve the entire experience for potential students.

Moving Forward

Universities and institutions should rethink their campaign strategies and initiatives to accommodate the shorter decision-making timetable. More focused, short-term initiatives are necessary to support long-term recruitment efforts. This could include presenting virtual information sessions, hosting webinars on specific study programs, or making resources freely accessible on company websites. Institutions may successfully engage with students, enhance their experience, and support them on their study abroad trip by prioritizing timely communication and tailoring campaign techniques to a shorter time frame. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)

MSM President

Suneetha has worked for 15 years in the international education sector and 25 years overall for her work for other industries. As president of MSM, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray into edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each MSM partner institute, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application prescreening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.


She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.

Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.



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