Better Subject Lines: How to improve your next email campaign



It can be hard to effectively target your emails at a student audience.

You may feel like you are saying all of the right things and yet your open-rate is still way below where you want it to be. On top of providing value to students searching to study abroad, it is important to know which approach to take . 

In order to find out what students respond to, we conducted a qualitative analysis of the open rate of email campaigns to prospective students according to the subject line and then by grouping them into categories based on their tone and content.

Below we have put together a list of our top 5 performing subject lines for international student recruitment email campaigns. Use these tips to improve your open rates and start capitalizing on your email marketing!


1. Ask a Question

Asking a question may seem like an obvious approach to email marketing, and yet many universities fail to utilize this method.  

In our study, we found that, ‘’Do you know what to study next year?’’ and ‘’(Student name), are you an entrepreneur?’’ were the most successful opening lines in our email campaigns.

They also show how questions in the subject line can be used to successfully target a broader or narrower audience.


2. Promote Scholarships

Aspiring international students respond well to opportunities to earn scholarships abroad. This may be unsurprising as hunting for scholarships in a new country can be a daunting prospect.

However, advertising scholarships as a first-contact to the global student market is a comparatively underutilized tool with only 13% of direct emails on using the tactic.

Interestingly, we found that open rates were largely the same between full scholarships and partial scholarships. 


3. Program + Degree Type + Location

This classic formula delivers an above-average open rate, and is most often used by universities that do not feature a well-known state or city in their name.

This direct approach also had the least amount of variation between individual mail-outs, indicating that it is difficult to botch the subject line.


4. Emphasize Study Abroad

Play up the sense of adventure and freedom that can be found through an international degree.

These subject lines usually begin with phrases like “Explore the world,” “Pack your bags” or “Start your international journey” and conclude with the name of the university or name of the program.

Although these subject lines are typically utilized by universities who aren’t pushing a certain program, the response rate for program-targeted and broader email campaigns performed equally well.


5. Career Aspirational

Either appealing towards achieving a career goal or emphasizing how an international degree will give students a global edge in the job market, these subject lines vary from “Become a (job title)” to “Start your international career” and typically end with the degree type or location.


Test out some of our top-performing subject lines for international student email marketing campaigns and start improving your open rate today! 


Want to know more about student trends? Click below to download out 2019 Student Trends Report!

Download 2019 Trends Report


Picture of Darrah Caughey
Darrah Caughey

Darrah Caughey is the Digital Marketing Manager for In addition to her specialty in graphic design, Darrah has worked since 2014 as an email marketing specialist to help Higher Education institutions reach their recruitment goals.