Multilingual College Marketing: Making Your Value Proposition Clear
U.S. universities are seeing a record influx of international students. According to the“2015 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange”, the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities had the highest rate of growth in 35 years, increasing by ten percent to a record high of 974,926 students in the 2014-2015 academic year.
Enrollment of international students hit a record high in
the 2014-2015 academic year.
With almost one million international students enrolled at institutions of higher learning, is your university doing everything possible to attract international students? Do your recruiting efforts include a strong emphasis on providing multilingual and multicultural support for international students and their families?
International Education Statistical Trends
From where do the vast majority of international students come? The Open Doors report reveals the following geographical breakdown:
- China and India account for 67 percent of the increase in international students, and also account for 45 percent of the total number of international students currently enrolled.
- Brazil accounts for 12 percent of the growth in the 2014-2015 academic year.
- Latin America and the Caribbean account for 19 percent of the growth, while international admissions from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia also show increases.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the top five national universities for international admissions in the 2014-2015 academic year were:
- Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL (33 percent of student body)
- New School, New York, NY (32 percent of student body)
- Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL (30 percent of student body)
- University of Tulsa, Tulsa, OK (27 percent of student body)
- Lynn University, Boca Raton, FL (23 percent of student body)
Reasons for Encouraging International Student Exchange
American universities have compelling reasons to make marketing to an international audience a priority. In the aftermath of 9/11, NAFSA: Association of International Educators released a 2003 report entitled “In America’s Interest: Welcoming International Students”. This seminal report, and its subsequent update entitled “Restoring U.S. Competitiveness for International Students and Scholars”, highlights the importance of encouraging international students to study in America. Making a strong case for international educational opportunities, the report lists a variety of advantages for the U.S. in this regard.
Cultural diversity on campus promotes understanding and acceptance.
The report notes: “Openness to international students continues to serve the fundamental interests of U.S. foreign policy, our economy, and our educational system – even more so in the age of global terrorism.”
Foreign Policy Benefits
International students who come to America to continue their studies are exposed to American political values and institutions, paving the way for future constructive relations based on mutual understanding and good will. This strengthens bonds between countries and ensures that some of the brightest international minds are favorably disposed to U.S. interests.
NAFSA’s latest analysis finds that the 974,926 international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contributed $30.5 billion and supported 373,381 jobs to the U.S. economy during the 2014-2015 academic year.
According to the NAFSA report, more than 70 percent of undergraduate international students pay full tuition and receive no financial aid. This represents a significant source of revenue for educational institutions, and allows those institutions to provide more financial aid to American students in the process.
Educational and Cultural Benefits
Now, more than ever before in history, it is essential for American students to become global citizens. Hosting international students allows universities to expose American students to other cultures, promoting a clearer understanding of people from other lands.
Exposure to different cultures sparks communication and creativity among students.
Additionally, foreign students often make considerable contributions to teaching and research, enabling American universities to offer courses which might not otherwise be available to American students.
Marketing to International Students-Illustrating Your Value Proposition
Given all of these potential benefits, what can your educational institution do to encourage international enrollment?
In order to recruit international students effectively, universities must consider how to overcome language and cultural barriers to student admission.
While many international students are fluent English speakers, their parents may not be. This is significant for both linguistic and cultural reasons.
Rick Antezana, Partner at Dynamic Language, notes: “Students, who may speak English well, are not the only people making the decision about which university to attend. The family is making that decision, and quite often, from what we have seen, the parents and extended family involved in supporting the student do not speak English as a first language, and possibly not even as a second language.”
What does this mean for universities? Simply put, it means that marketing to international students must include robust language support and a deep understanding of the culture from which the student comes.
To compete for international students, you must provide marketing materials in a language that is clearly understood to both the student and others who are participants in the decision-making process. Demonstrating a strong commitment to providing language and cultural support for incoming international students will increase the likelihood that your university stands out as desirable among its competitors.
Here are some suggestions for demonstrating that level of commitment in your marketing materials:
1) Provide a multilingual website.
While it may not be financially feasible to translate your entire website into multiple languages, it may be possible to provide a “microsite”, which is an overview page with links to available resources in the language of choice.
This requires a measure of forethought on your part. What resources will international students and their families most need? What information will be of the most value to them as they begin the application process? Answers to these and similar questions will provide you with a solid starting point for making your website more accessible to international students.
2) Consider the ways applying abroad differ from applying in one’s own country.
The application and admissions process must, of necessity, differ based on geographic location. For instance, American students applying to universities are routinely encouraged to visit the campus to see what the university has to offer firsthand.
Translation of key website information into multiple languages demonstrates
a commitment to support of international students and their families.
However, this is impractical or even potentially impossible for international students. Consider ways to address this difference. For example, you might consider using virtual campus tours narrated in the native language of the student to highlight areas in which your campus excels.
3) Promote multicultural understanding on campus.
Many universities have found success by sponsoring events targeted to specific cultural groups. Providing videos and written informational materials about such events as part of your recruitment process can go far in lessening the cultural concerns of international students and their families.
4) Provide transcript translation when necessary.
As part of the admissions process, students are routinely required to submit official transcripts. For some international students, this process is difficult. Ease the process by providing language support for transcription translation through a certified transcript translation language service professional.
Working with a Professional Language Service Provider
If your university is interested in reaping the rewards of hosting international students, you must ensure that those students and their families understand the value of choosing your university over competing universities. Providing language support with a strong emphasis on cultural understanding is integral to this process.
Dynamic Language has been helping clients bridge language and cultural barriers for thirty years. Contact us today to begin a discussion about the needs of your university as you reach out to an international audience. Our team of ISO-9001 certified professions provides support for all translation, interpretation, and localization services needed. Let us provide support for your organization today.