Lessons Learned from the NAFSA Regional International Education Conferences

I have been on a road trip to several of the NAFSA regional conferences around the country. NAFSA is the leading nonprofit professional organization geared towards international education. They have 12 regional conferences across the US, broken down by geography. I have attended 4 of them over the last few weeks and have one more to go in Cedar Rapids, IA next week. So, as the 2011 NAFSA regional conferences begin to wind-down, I thought I would share some of the things that I have learned so far over the last couple of week, talking and taking notes from my colleagues in the international education space.

First, recruiting international students can be quite expensive. Did I just learn this? Well, no. Traveling to fairs overseas….. the support staff required….. paying agents commissions….. and I could go on and on. Schools are spending tens of thousands of dollars (and even hundreds of thousands) on their international student recruiting strategies. Money spent to increase their school’s international student population.

Second, social media still seems to be a hot topic, but schools are still behind the curve on using social media as a way to reach and personally connect with students. Maybe it is because I was in a sessions on recruiting using social media or maybe it is because they really don’t quite get the power of our new way to socialize. Social media gives us a sense of community and of being together without being in the same room together.

Third, back to the first point, “recruiting international students can be quite expensive.” When asking several colleagues (and those that spend money recruiting) how they reach international students online, the main answer was through their school’s website. OK, that is a good start, but how do you really reach international students online? They seemed willing to spend $10,000 for a fair in India when all expenses are calculated, but have not thought through how to cast a wider net and reach millions of international students online.

All in all, the conferences have been great experiences and quite eye opening. Do you have success using social media to connect with international students and do you have an online strategy that compliments your overall recruiting strategy?

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