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Small Colleges Competing for International Students: How Do They Keep Up with The Big Boys?

Content Team
Content Team
Get essential news and information about international higher education from the i-STUDENTglobal content team.

Money can’t buy happiness, but it can certainly pave the way for massive takeovers on the hearts of thousands of high school students ready to say “I do” to the best university that sweeps them off their feet. Effective marketing methods require universities to have significant budget spends that depend on what they want to order from the marketing menu. Be that as it may, money can’t buy happiness. Regardless of the menu, unis and colleges can’t get closer to their international students if their branding efforts come across as austere and completely focused on “selling” rather than “offering.”

This is something that smaller yet successful colleges and universities know and use in their favour. Going against marketing instincts and adopting a personal and intimate attitude is what sets them apart and gives them the ultimate edge to keep up with the big boys of higher education. A sense of community/belonging and familiarity goes a long way, and it should be included in every university’s international campaign menu as chef’s special.

International students in the USYasmin Pineda Segura, Admission Counsellor at Wesleyan College in the US, confirms this and explains how important it is for them to have a direct relationship with students like you. The school’s long history and colourful approach to education played an important role in supporting this mindset. Founded in 1836, Wesleyan was the first college in the world chartered to grant degrees to women. In the 2017-2018 academic year, the college welcomed and supported 33 international students throughout their entire stay and studying. This round-the-clock loyalty and assistance can help universities cash in on something more valuable than money: your trust, the students’ trust.

Welcoming nearly 700 students from across the US and more than 17 countries, with 30% minorities and 25% internationals, Wesleyan was ranked the fourth-most diverse college in Georgia, US (source: Niche). And rightly so. We invite you to read an inspirational interview with Segura from Wesleyan to find out how a small college with a big heart can become home to international students from China, Mexico, Ireland, Taiwan, Guatemala, Japan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Nigeria, Myanmar, Nigeria, and more.

The first hello

“There are few well-targeted activities that we think work best for recruiting new international students. For example, we make the most of what the internet can offer, we maximise brochure and magazine use. However, we put a lot of thought and effort into having our current students share their experience through their eyes, spreading out the word about their life at Wesleyan.”

The cycle of transition

“We do everything in our power to help internationals feel welcome at Wesleyan. I answer their emails in less than 12 hours. I treat them as a person, not as a number. I provide them with information about campus activities, details on arrival matters and visa processing. Sharing my experience as an expat in this country and understanding their fear is a massive icebreaker for my first interaction with them. I put them in contact with current international students so that as soon as they arrive, they already have friends waiting for them on campus.”

Holding hands

“When international students struggle to adapt to the new culture, we offer them emotional support, according to their needs. When new students arrive, we take them for short trips around the city, we take them to eat, to shop and invite them to my house as host family for dinners.”

The link between domestic and international

“I think the most common fear domestic students have concerning internationals is saying a comment that will offend their culture, about their food, tradition, or religion. So far Wesleyan students adapt pretty well to international students.”

The stages of culture shock

“And the most common fear that internationals face during their first year is the accent of the language. South Georgia, US, has an strong accent. Also, they fear that they won’t find their new home easy; the weather, the food is different. Plus, they don’t have the freedom to move because they don’t have a car in the new country upon arrival.”

Shaking the blues

“To get these two groups ready to interact with one another, we organise a fair with our clubs the first week of class. Students can join the clubs and meet current students, and they also join weekend orientation with local students as well, not just from Wesleyan.”

University expectations versus realities

“There is a long list of what international students should expect from their study abroad adventure in the US. From what I’ve seen, students love the US culture and the easy way to travel around the country to visit big cities. It takes them a few days to learn about currency and transportation. Every state, of course, has different rules on different aspects, but we at Wesleyan College try to provide the best experience to our international students.”

The one and only

“For me, the main qualities that international students should possess to be able to make the most of their overseas studies are to be responsible, dedicated students and focus on their studies to be successful in their courses.”

The best thing

“The best thing about working with international students is that every student has a different story; they want to have an opportunity away from home, they want this to be a success, and they do everything to achieve their goals. They are dedicated and respectful. They definitely appreciate your job.”