Reinventing Global Recruitment through a process-oriented approach
Student Recruitment is the meticulous process of finding and acquiring the right students. Universities across the world have laid down their own sets of rules to make recruitment more effective, as it caters to the university’s prestige and its standing in the realm of education. But with ever-changing student needs and several technological breakthroughs in the EdTech industry, this process is looking at a much-needed overhaul, and we are going to deep-dive into that very aspect.
Following a decade of consistent growth in international student enrollment up until 2019-2020, US institutions saw a decrease of almost 20,000 international enrollments the next year. Then came COVID-19 and its side effects, dropping international enrollment in the US by 16%! Now, more than ever, universities are looking for smart ways to improve student experience across the entire admissions cycle. But how can a process-oriented approach drive recruitment and enrollment? Let’s find out.
What is Student Recruitment?
Before we go ahead with details on approach changes, let’s first discuss what Student Recruitment entails. It is highly possible for folks who are new to the world of education to not know about this concept. For the uninitiated: Student Recruitment is the process of finding and recruiting the best students to a university or campus, in a way that is timely, efficient, and cost-effective. It involves a set of steps that a university or school undertakes to ensure that they are attracting, engaging with, and subsequently enrolling (or “converting”) the relevant cohort of students to their campuses. Thus, by extension, Student Recruiters are professionals who do exactly this. They ensure that the Student Recruitment process is running smoothly. Universities can accomplish this task internally or outsource it to Student Recruitment Agencies who support such functions.
Why is this process important, you ask?
Having a well-defined recruitment process can make student selection hassle-free!
The type and caliber of students that join a certain university can make or break its image. Well-qualified students add to the reputation and hence revenue of the university, whereas not-so-good candidates can take it a notch lower. University revenue is a key indicator of their relevance and value in the Education business. Hence, a robust Student Recruitment process determines a university’s standing in the pecking order of the education world.
What is the current process?
The current recruitment process differs from case to case, but there is a general outline that exists. Here it goes-
- Marketing and Communications strategy: Marketing for a university entails a lot of things. Some of these factors could be how colleges represent themselves on social media, and the kind of events/initiatives the students get to participate in.
- Definition of Academic Requirements: Academic requirement is the first factor after marketing that any candidate/student would consider before deciding to lean into a university’s application process. These being concise and clear, and in accordance with the university's reputation, is absolutely vital to attracting the right talent.
- Screening and Evaluation: The Admissions Committee usually handles this part. They screen the best students’ applications after careful consideration and extend admissions based on the fulfilment of various criteria.
- Student Assistance: In a survey conducted by iSchoolConnect, 48% of respondents revealed that they wanted help in obtaining their visas. Whether it is the visa application process, health insurance, or anything related to forms or eligibility, the university staff needs to be approachable and competent to address all student issues and assist them in any way possible. Since this is the first big decision most students make in their adult lives, providing assistance and guidance for things that they may not be aware of helps boost the impression of the university.
- Integration: New students are generally lost. This is where student reps or other cultural bodies come in and ensure that the new students get seamlessly “integrated” into the way of life at their new campus/university. Follow-ups by the relevant people, wherever necessary, is also a good practice at this stage.
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Some recommendations on the Student Recruitment process
Student recruitment processes should be friendly, and not domineering.
A lot has changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Processes have gone for a toss; and well-known and understandable checklists now need to be revamped. Education, more than most, has gone virtual. Things that were easier to do in person, like student engagement mixers, are now on screens that don’t feel as personal.
In such a case, an overhaul of the existing student recruitment process has become necessary. Sometimes, going back to the drawing board and hitting reset yields terrific results. And that is precisely what we did. Here’s what we propose universities add to their institute’s Student Recruitment process-
1. Respond in time
- There is no longer a set time or a formal ‘season’ for Student Recruitment. Universities need to be on their toes all year round to attract prospective students.
- Students are planning on their applications all year long. If they are online all the time, then the universities need to be too.
- It’s important to ensure that the time to address queries be as minimum as possible. The information requested around various topics needs to reach the prospective student ASAP, or there is a risk of losing a lead.
2. Revisit the marketing strategy
- Increasing the overall awareness of a school, and the positive highlights of the university beyond the traditional website, are very important for a university.
- The ultimate goal is to get a prospective student to commit to being enrolled, and hence a lot of presence everywhere helps.
- Universities can (and should) always utilize their alumni base for testimonials etc. Existing students and alumni can share interesting bits about the campus and their experience therein to attract prospective students.
- Fresh and engaging content is key to the success of a good marketing and communications strategy.
3. Analyze student data
- Data is the new oil. Whatever data can be gathered, should be gathered. After all, one can’t manage what is not measured.
- Check out every bit of feedback that is received. These include social media posts, feedback from students on various portals, email responses, etc. Compile them in a single place, and then see what needs to be fixed. Create more channels for feedback to understand what’s working and what’s not. Keep reiterating until there’s a fit.
- This is a two-way street, too. Showcasing and sharing data that students would want to see - placements, salary ranges, improvements to the curriculum, etc. are some of the things that can improve the number of enrollment.
4. Plan in advance
- Recruitment is very important for the long-term success of a university. It is therefore critical to have a ‘well-defined’ strategy for recruitment in place.
- Research says that most schools just wing it and create guidelines to follow rather than strategize to yield sustainable outcomes.
- Strategies, unlike guidelines, are robust and can adapt based on the changing environment of the Student Recruitment landscape.
5. Assess, iterate, adapt
- Based on all of the above, universities must keep mixing it up with respect to tasks on Student Recruitment.
- Sometimes overcommunication may be a good thing to make students feel comfortable and at home, and sometimes, giving them the space to grow and figure things out may be the best course.
- Universities should adapt to the best possible steps in any scenario. It is good practice to switch out the cases where the strategy doesn’t work out and replace them with a more suitable measure.
Student Recruitment has changed rapidly in recent times and will continue to evolve. The future of Education being online still has a question mark on it. Students returning to campus may compel universities to adopt a hybrid approach, increasing reliance on educational technology.
iSchoolConnect, too, has developed AI-based tools to help institutions increase their recruitment percentage. Their Enrollment Center assisted a premier institution from US’s West coast in driving their international enrolment figure in 2021 by 22% from South-East Asia.
In conclusion, making a robust and sustainable Student Recruitment strategy and executing it through effective use of technology will allow universities to endure any changes to the global education landscape readily.
Learn about iSchoolConnect’s Enrollment Center