Providing the right information and support for students is even more crucial now than ever. With a renewed flow of international student applications in many countries, it’s clear that more prospective students are feeling confident about heading overseas. Yet, the student transition from thinking about studying abroad to actually applying to programs can seem mysterious at times.
In this article, we will dive into the mindsets of prospective international students heading into 2022. What are their expectations, and what gives them the final push in the crucial transition from being a prospective student to being a current student?
Data for these trends are taken from over 10,000 prospective students from 181 countries. To view specific respondent data for each topic and customize insights based on country and region, take a look at our Student Insights 2021-2022 Dashboard.
- There has been a 52% increase since 2019 in the proportion of prospective students expecting an inquiry response from an institution within the duration of a few days (56%). More than three times as many students expect a response in less than a day (17%).
- 63% of prospective students want to chat with current international students at the school as their first point of contact, while only 31% said that they would want to talk to school advisors or counselors.
- About 42% of prospective students cannot head overseas to study without some sort of scholarship or grant.
Decision-Making in the Application Process
When looking at expectations in the inquiry process, prospective students show significant changes over time. There has been a notable shift towards students expecting shorter response times than in previous years.
Prospective students were asked about how long they expect to wait for a response when asking a school for information. This year, over half said that they expect a response from their inquiry within a few days - a 52% increase from 2019. In the same time period, there are more than three times as many students expecting a response in less than a day.
A 2019 study found that the offer conversion rate, which is the proportion of offers that turned into enrollments, is 56% higher for prospective students who make an inquiry or make contact with a school before applying than those who never make contact. Meeting prospective students’ expectations when they inquire with a prospective university is crucial for recruiters.
In terms of the number of applications that prospective students are planning to submit, quantities have risen since last year.
There are 29% more students applying to 5 or more schools this year, indicating student interest in a wider range of schools or options. However, putting your institution on more students’ lists may require greater attention to authentic, personalized communication. Creating stronger links between current students and prospective students through peer-to-peer marketing can assist here.
Our survey found that 63% of prospective students want to chat with current international students at the school as their first point of contact, while only 31% said that they would want to talk to school advisors or counselors. Current students are not only able to give students the insider information they want, but can also function to take pressure off of school advisors.
Barriers to the Application Process
What barriers can be identified when students are considering study abroad programs, and how have things changed from last year?
Students chose three options this year when asked what might stop them from applying to a school. Several factors are standouts when compared to last year’s rankings, including notable rises of importance in the areas of scholarship opportunities, international student services, and the size of the international student community.
Other aspects are perceived as less of a barrier when compared to 2020, such as unclear information on a website, unresponsiveness or generic replies to inquiries, and too many promotional emails. It seems that institutions might benefit in the coming years by emphasizing a welcoming community and support services for international students.
As noted above, finances are the biggest barrier to international student applications overall. How are prospective students planning their budget?
About 78% of students say that scholarships and grants are a part of their funding plans, while family support or personal savings form the next-most selected budgeting options. Though the majority are set on scholarships and grants, how many of these students actually need them?
Our survey found that about 42% cannot head overseas to study without some sort of scholarship and that 45% need a fully-funded scholarship to study abroad. Only 13% say that they are able to study abroad without any financial assistance from a scholarship. An additional question found that a decisive 91% are interested in applying to a university that actively promotes international student scholarships.
What might encourage prospective students to study abroad? Each response indicates the student's nationality, age, and top study abroad destination.
- “Easy communication with people from abroad, not necessarily through calls, but we hope to really get our answers from them as much as possible.”
- Filipino; 18-21; Top Destination: United States
- “Better scholarships or student loans, and getting wider information about studying abroad opportunities in other countries besides English-speaking ones.”
- Spanish; 18-21; Top Destination: United Kingdom
- “I think that it has been difficult sometimes to understand the full application process - the essays and standardized tests required for the school individually, dates, and a process overview. Those are what I’d like to get clear rather quickly about a school next to learning more about its profile and culture.”
- Swedish; 18-21; Top Destination: United States
The most prominent takeaways from this year’s survey fall on student preference for timely and relevant communication, advertisement of scholarship opportunities, and peer-to-peer marketing. We can expect that prospective students will continue to favor more personalized support and the availability of specific, detailed information about their future study abroad experience.