“These students normally want to find internships (for the work experience and for the money) but they are barred from working under US immigration policies, unless they are working on campus,” states the Zinch study. “This is great news for admissions offices.”
“Remember that you are trying to create a conversation and a connection”
Zinch claims traditional selling channels such as education fairs can cost schools up to $25,000 a year, public relations up to $30,000 and an agent network $35,000, not to mention upwards of $130,000 for online and print advertising.
In response it puts forward five “shoestring” tactics that cost as little as $500 per year, involving Chinese students on work placements “who know the language, where Chinese people their age find information, and what’s interesting about your school to a Chinese audience”.
One is prompt follow-up of direct requests for information from China – often overlooked by schools, according to the report. Zinch suggests personalising email responses (but not directly calling students who are wary of “spam” calls) or getting a Chinese speaking intern to get in touch.
“Being immediately contacted by a Chinese student who is happy in your programme is a close second to hearing from you, and may be less intimidating,” the report states. “Overall, remember that you are trying to create a conversation, and a connection, so that your program stays on the prospect’s short list.”
It also suggests placing a “steady stream” of DIY student videos on Chinese servers which have significant reach. Interns can make these free on smart phones and admissions offices should not “obsess” about controlling content. “As long as the videos don’t veer into something inappropriate, take a deep breath and embrace the power of ‘social video,’” it states.
“It is increasingly common for Chinese students to pay money to Chinese students in the USA for admissions help”
Other free strategies include getting an intern to set up alumni groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and posting on Sina Weibo, which is used by twice the number of students that use Twitter in America. Schools are also urged to fine-tune their marketing messages to the Chinese mindset with Zinch offering a five-step guide.
While Chinese interns should be readily available on campuses throughout America and other major study destinations, the report warns interns “typically need to be supervised carefully”. It advises schools develop clear FAQs that define what interns can and can’t say and that conflict of interest policies be made clear.
“It is increasingly common for Chinese students in China to pay money to Chinese students in the USA for admissions help,” it states. “Neither side sees this as unethical. If your program does, be sure to say something.”