Multilingual College Advertising & Financial Assistance Information: All Applicants Need to Understand

Dynamic Language | May 15, 2016


Many colleges want to attract international students from various countries.

According to the Institute of International Education, 975,000 international students are enrolled in colleges throughout the United States. The nation sending the most international students to the U.S. is China, followed closely by India and South Korea. Some popular subjects for international students to study often include business, engineering, mathematics, and education, among other areas of study.

Colleges and universities work hard to attract international students to their schools, but many prospective students and their families aren’t proficient in English. Are colleges doing enough to ensure these students and their parents can understand their marketing content, plus the potentially complex paperwork related to the college enrollment experience? In part, it depends on how motivated the schools are to communicate with these potential students in their native language in addition to English, beginning early in the recruitment process.

Advantages of Attracting International College Students

International students can bring many benefits to a college or university. Potential students value cultural diversity within the student body and feel that diversity enhances their classroom experience. International students bring different perspectives to a subject, including variations on writing styles and experience with global dynamics.

Further, international students typically don’t require financial assistance, so a large international student body is advantageous for colleges financially.

Colleges are motivated to attract international students, but may be unaware of ways in which they could make it easier for these students to discover their school and understand what it has to offer.

Communicating Unique Value Proposition

Marketing is about being able to communicate your unique value proposition – what makes your college different from others. Most likely, your marketing department has spent countless hours deciding how to communicate the college’s unique value proposition to the world in the best possible way. However, this communication was most likely planned and implemented in English, for an American cultural framework.

Communicating a unique value proposition to cultures outside the United States takes more than just a word-for-word, literal translation. Many languages are rich in idioms and cultural references that are vastly different to the United States. Translators with appropriate experience can harness these differences and make the unique value proposition understandable to a different culture, not just in a different language.


Students from different cultural backgrounds don’t need to let
language be a barrier to finding out about different colleges.

Marketing to International Students in their Own Language(s)

Language has a powerful influence on behavior, and this is especially true in the fields of marketing and advertising. Marketing language often involves carefully chosen words with subtle yet effective connotations. Although many international students speak English well, they may still lack the fluency to process complex marketing messages. At best, some of these nuances may be lost on those who aren’t proficient in English. At worst, portions of text might not be understood at all. In addition, parents and other family members who are part of the decision-making process may not speak English fluently and may not understand the advantages of your college without help and support.

Schools need to be aware that unlike what they’re used to in the United States, parents in many other cultures may be the ones who make the final decisions about college selection, with the student not having much of a say in the matter. Parents who don’t speak English will need translation help to be able to see the value of your school and be persuaded to send their children there.

Many larger schools have thriving international student programs that work hard to attract students of many different nationalities and native languages. For larger schools, it may be advantageous to build a multilingual website that showcases the most common languages used by their target students.

A microsite is an effective way to attract students by present information in their language, while keeping costs down. Only an overview page in the style of the main page might be needed (rather than translating the whole site), with links to the resources that are available to them. Consider what information would be valuable to your prospective international students, and think of how you can consolidate this in a way that would be most useful and appealing to them.

At the very least, smaller schools can use a targeted approach to translating marketing and application materials into languages needed by potential international students and their families in order to be responsive to their needs and increase the likelihood of recruiting them. A Language Service Provider can help with these translations on an as-needed basis, at each stage of the enrollment process for each language.

The translation of materials into different languages is a good use of marketing dollars, and after the materials are translated once, they can be used repeatedly to market to other students who speak the same language. Schools can appeal to international students by making up for the disadvantages they have compared to American students, such as the fact that they can’t likely travel thousands of miles for a quick visit. Virtual tours and information in their language can allow prospective students and their families to explore institutions more closely before they choose to apply.

Giving Translation Support During the Application Process

Although international students are usually highly motivated to study in the United States, they may have no idea of the amount of paperwork that is required throughout their time in college. The application process is only the beginning.

For colleges committed to recruiting international students, further support can be given during visits or interviews with the prospective student and family. Not only can a college provide an interpreter so that students and their families can digest important information in a language comfortable to them, but they can make it clear that language support will continue even after enrollment. This could go so far as including assistance with other complexities like yearly tax filing and visa paperwork. For many students, international college study is their first time living independently out of their home country, and it can be difficult to understand how things work in a different culture.

Colleges can also sponsor events friendly to different international cultures. Gatherings like these allow students to mingle with others who share their language, as well as other prospective international students (through an interpreter). Families of these prospective students are welcome to some or all of these events; after all, demonstrating that your college takes care of its international students will help put families at ease, and make your program appealing to them.

Attracting International Students to Online Programs

International students can find online programs attractive because they can be completed anywhere, even from another country. Online programs may require more translation and support than traditional programs since there is little to no face-to-face interaction between college staff and students. Tools like multilingual websites, brochures, and even applications become more important in marketing online programs to international students.

Dynamic Language has all the services a college or university might need in their quest to market programs to international students and their families. Offering everything from website localization to translation of course materials, our linguists are well-versed in the cultural nuances needed to successfully communicate even the most complex ideas.

If you are looking to attract more international students to your program, make sure you are doing everything possible to provide the best experience. Contact us today.


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