The research, carried out by US-based higher education consulting firm Noel-Levitz and CollegeWeekLive – a website connecting students and parents with universities through live chat – asked students from ten world regions to rate influencing factors on a scale from one to five.
Websites and college rankings took the top two spots, not surprisingly. More unusually, however, was that conversations with students and college representatives came next – both trumping on-campus tours, university brochures and agents or counsellors. In addition, when it came to talking to university representatives, students from India and other Asian countries showed a distinct preference for them to be current international students rather than university staff.
Students said they most wanted to speak with representatives from admissions, international student services and financial aid
All that said, agents were still the most influential factor for students from China and sub-Saharan Africa – both major student markets.
Drilling down, the study found that email and traditional college fairs were the preferred channels of communication with university representatives followed by live instant messaging and campus tours. Being contacted via social media, phone and text messaging were less favoured, except by those in sub-Saharan Africa who ranked phone calls highest, perhaps due to restricted access to certain technologies.
Students also said they most wanted to speak with representatives from admissions, international student services and financial aid, while conversations with current international students were preferred over chats with professors or alumni of the programme.
The study explored other trends influencing international applicants, too. Funding was shown to be the biggest barrier for attending college or university outside of their home country, affecting 56% of respondents. Students from Asia (excluding India and China), the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa also expect US colleges to provide financial aid or scholarships.
Funding was shown to be the biggest barrier for attending college or university outside of their home country
Forty-four per cent of respondents said they would apply to 3-5 colleges while 27% said 6-10. Most Chinese students said they would apply to 11 or more universities.
Robert Rosenbloom, president and CEO of CollegeWeekLive said that the study aimed to help institutions create more effective international recruitment and communications plans.
“We felt it was important to provide insight into the most important topics and communication channel preferences for students in different regions of the world,” he said.
Of the 1,980 complete surveys, 72% of respondents were in their final year of secondary school. The ten regions polled included Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia (excluding India and China), the Middle East, North Africa and Arabia, India, and China.