It’s International Students Day: Challenges & Strategies for Attracting Diverse Students

By: Aylin Dunham
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1.1 million international students were enrolled in US institutions in the 2019-2020 school year, a number that has steadily decreased since the start of the pandemic.

Students were significantly impacted by COVID-19 restrictions both personally and professionally, with a 72% decrease in student enrollment in 2021. In honor of International Student Day, let’s look at key challenges and strategies being used by admissions departments to attract and support them in the new learning climate.

Key Challenges Facing International Students

On top of going through the normal admissions and rigorous visa process, nearly half of international students report that homesickness has impacted their academic performance.

International students often face:

  • Communication Barriers: While many international students complete English courses prior to beginning their studies, applying what they learned in a course can be challenging during their first semester.
  • Cultural Differences: Integrating into a new culture can be difficult for international students, who often experience feelings of isolation. International students may struggle getting used to their new social life, food and other cultural aspects when beginning their education.
  • Academic Expectations: Students coming to a new campus (or learning remotely) may not be familiar with the location’s teaching styles or may also struggle to understand new academic expectations, especially if they’re not familiar with their University’s grading system.

Image of a person using a laptop at their desk space.

How Universities Attract Diverse Students

School leaders can take more initiative to make their campuses welcoming and accessible to international students. These students play a significant role in creating a diverse student body, so retaining them is key.

Universities and college leaders can attract more international students by:

  • Building Stronger Relationships: During the admissions process, take time with each student to develop a strong relationship with them and their family members, who often are involved in the decision making process for international students. Providing them with opportunities to connect, such as hosting a live Zoom session with live captions, can be helpful for families who may need an extra visual aid to participate and comprehend.
  • Creating Inclusive Learning Environments: Tools like the captioning and transcription offered by AST help improve comprehension for non-native learners in their classes, and they can be implemented on all live informational sessions and events, as well as the university’s recorded videos to ensure comprehension
  • Offering Ongoing Resources: Students benefit from receiving ongoing support throughout their first semester especially. Admissions professionals can provide them with periodic check-ins and a dedicated resource page that they can access at all times.
  • Create Buddy Systems: The concept is nothing new, but pairing each international student with a local student or another international student who has been at the institution for longer can help them to forge relationships with other students more easily through networking.

Create Lasting Impact

Attracting international students is an essential part of the admissions process but retaining them is another story. Ensuring students are given the right tools and support throughout their education will help them learn more effectively and remain engaged.

AST provides the captioning and transcription solutions that are being used by many schools known for their international programs, including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), John Hopkins University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Captioning and transcription tools like those designed by AST are helping ensure accessible and engaging learning experiences in class and at campus events for international students and their families, who are also a key element to consider.

Reach out to us for more ideas on how to better support your school’s international student body.