70% of parents said that the US was their first choice of destination for their child, while only 9% said it wasn’t. However, 72% also indicated that the current presidency had made them less interested in sending their children to study in the US.
“US news is making parents much more concerned than they used to be”
And when asked to identify their biggest worry about their child studying in the US, 85% of the parents in the sample responded “safety.”
The other 15% chose a mix of unfriendly political environment and difficulty obtaining a visa. They were given an option to choose “other,” but no one did so, the report explained.
“US politics and news about violence [is] making parents much more concerned than they used to be, but still the US is by far their top choice – so those sending their kids are doing it with more anxiety,” Intead CEO Ben Waxman told The PIE News.
With 84% of respondents reporting that they consume US news, Waxman said that US institutions should invest in more positive messaging showing the “normalcy and vibrancy” around their campuses, employing students and researchers from China. Videos will work best as “words won’t allay the fears,” he explained.
Other recommendations include institutions looking after their institutional website and their digital footprint in China, joining the #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, and investing in targeted marketing material in Mandarin.
Conducted on a sample of parents whose children had applied to study in the US, the analysis revealed trends in parental reactions to the American political environment, their expectations towards a US education, and the factors and sources of information that most influenced their decisions.
“Educational choices were a family discussion”
When it comes to choosing a university, parents in the sample reported using mostly online forums, particular GTER (43%), and university websites (41%), while only 21% consulted university rankings.
However, 46% confirmed academic reputation and rankings were an important factor in their final choice, while 23% chose graduate careers or safety. Only 1% of respondents said they looked for institutions with a large population of Chinese students.
As for their preferred source of information, the sample was “unusual,” the report noted – only 35% of respondents said they had worked with an agent. What the parents in this sample found particularly trustworthy when choosing a university was information coming from the admissions staff themselves.
“Personal contacts with an admissions staff is likely to be persuasive with parents,” the report advised.
Parents expected a US education to give their children opportunities in China, with 36% choosing that option as the best advantage, over only 5% saying they hoped their children would pursue a career in the US.
Gauging parents’ expectations is particularly important in China, the report warned, where the family has a big role to play on a student’s educational decisions, maybe more so than in other countries.
“Educational choices were a family discussion,” Intead’s digital analytics associate, and former international student, Wanhua Yuan, recalled in the introduction to the report.
“Even more so than in other countries, parents play a large role in making these choices, and not just at the undergraduate level,” Yuan explained.
43% of parents in the survey said that sending their child to study abroad was their own idea – the idea originated from their children in 29% of cases.