- A staggering 81% of students currently use online resources to explore their study options.
- Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have become effective research tools for students considering studying abroad.
- Email is the preferred mode of communication for 76% of international students.
Researching the ideal study destination is one of the most crucial first steps for every prospective international student. It takes a lot of time, effort, and patience to determine if the available options align with their resources. Usually, this planning process takes a year or two.
However, recent research found that there is a growing trend among students who are initiating their research in less than six months before applying to their preferred colleges and universities overseas.
In my previous insights article, I noted that there has been a substantial shift in the time frame when potential international students start their study-abroad research. More than half of the students surveyed (56%) began their research within six months of submitting applications, a surge from 45% in 2022. In comparison, merely 29% of students began their research 6 to 12 months in advance, and only 10% began 12 to 24 months in advance.
In light of this growing trend, how do these students explore their study options?
Exploring Study Options
Recent data highlights the increasing reliance on online research methods, with a staggering 81% of students resorting to digital channels to explore study options. This shift to digital research is attributed to its convenience, accessibility, and the wealth of firsthand experiences available on the internet.
In recent years, social media has emerged as a potent tool for researching study options. Leveraging platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, students can directly connect with current students, alumni, and universities. The year 2022 witnessed a 6% surge in the use of social media for research purposes, reflecting the growing significance of these platforms in the education landscape.
Among the various social media channels, Instagram and Facebook emerge as popular choices, with 27.5% and 26.5% of students, respectively, using them for research. LinkedIn, the professional networking platform, closely follows at 17.1%, while YouTube captures the attention of 8.8% of the student population.
Interestingly, YouTube has witnessed a remarkable surge, boasting a 26.3% increase in usage compared to the previous year. This can be attributed to the platform’s visual nature, which allows universities and students to create engaging content showcasing campus life, program highlights, and student testimonials. Conversely, Instagram has experienced an 8.7% decrease in usage, indicating a potential shift in preferences towards more informative platforms like YouTube.
Preferred Modes of Communication
Recent data reveals that 76% of international students favor email as their primary mode of communication. This choice provides comprehensive information and allows students to review and respond at their convenience.
Furthermore, 8.8% of international students express a preference for instant messaging services like Facebook and WhatsApp. While not as popular as email, these messaging services enable speedy communication and the handling of urgent inquiries.
While international students have clear preferences for communication modes, universities need to go beyond merely selecting the right channel. Further data showed that 25.9% of international students prioritize the quality of the response, 24% expressed the need for easy access to comprehensive information, and 23.8% valued a prompt response from universities.
Information Preferences of International Students
Education is a significant investment. Thus, financial support can greatly impact a student’s chance to pursue their academic journey. The research also found that a substantial 40.4% of international students prioritized information related to scholarships and funding assistance.
Visas and immigration information follow closely, garnering an 11.7% rate. This highlights the necessity for universities and education providers to offer clear and precise guidance on visa requirements, application processes, and other relevant matters to facilitate students’ transition.
Another piece of information international students seek is on the cost of living and practical information. A noteworthy 8.3% of international students emphasize the importance of information regarding living expenses and the practicalities of life in a new country. Universities can assist students by offering insights into housing options, transportation, healthcare, and other day-to-day essentials, helping them feel more confident and prepared.
Communication lies at the heart of fostering a successful academic journey for international students. As the education landscape becomes increasingly global and digital, universities and international education providers must tailor their communication strategies to meet the diverse preferences and needs of their international student body. By prioritizing effective communication, we can create a more inclusive and supportive environment that empowers international students to thrive in their educational pursuits. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)
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.
- 2023. State of Student Recruitment 2023. Keystone Education Group. Retrieved from https://www.keg.com/state-of-student-recruitment/2023/resources?submissionGuid=ee349ec8-73a4-4c10-906d-1e2a4ea046c3
- 2023. Some 56% Students Research Study Abroad Only 6 Months Prior to Application; Strategies for Educators. M Square Media. Retrieved from https://msquaremedia.com/research/some-56-students-research-study-abroad-only-6-months-prior-to-application-strategies-for-educators/