International Student Recruitment and Admissions: What's Next?

Panelists discuss what's next for international student recruitment during Forum 2021

On October 28, 2021, College Board Forum featured a session entitled, “International Student Recruitment and Admissions: What’s Next?” Moderated by Timothy Brunold, Dean of Admissions, University of Southern California and joined by speakers, Linda Liu, VP, International, College Board, Shannon Neuse, Director, Graduate and International Admissions Center, The University of Texas at Austin, and Satyajit Dattagupta, Senior Vice President & Dean of Admission, Tulane University.

The panel shared unique challenges higher education institutions went through to recruit international students during the covid-19 pandemic, including Tulane University opening a semester in Shanghai, China in 2020, and how they all had to deal with VISA processing issues.

To be more student centric, all 3 institutions introduced more flexible admission policies and shared how their considerations varied on international students’ deferral decisions.

Linda shared the perceptions of international students and educators based on the results of College Board’s Annual International Students and Educators Survey. The 2021 survey revealed international students sustained interest in studying outside of their home countries. Interest expressed in the 2021 survey (93%) was 10% higher than the average results of the last 3 years (83%). More than half of the educators stated that covid-19 had changed students’ geographical interest either a great deal or a fair amount.

Additional key findings include:

  • More than 40% of international students started college planning activities earlier compared to pre-pandemic. However, 27% of these students finalized the list of which universities to apply to later than pre-pandemic due to the uncertainty.
  • 51% of the students planned to apply to more universities in the study abroad destinations.
  • 27% of the students planned to apply earlier in the cycle.
  • 27% of the international counselors felt somewhat or much harder to advise students on studying abroad due to the admission policy changes.

This information enables higher education to adjust their plans for international recruitment outreach. Linda shared that international students now have better access to the SAT, with 93% of SAT test centers outside of the U.S. open during academic year 2021-22. This compares to the previous year, where 77% of centers were open.

Before the live Q&A, the panel expressed the future of their international student recruitment plans. In addition to conducting more studies to review the impact of the current flexible admission policies, panelists said virtual recruitment events for international students are here to stay. These recruitment events allow all institutions to tap into the untapped markets in Central/South America and Southeast Asia to help enhance an even more diverse international student body and enrich the campus culture.

During the live Q&A session, a participant asked, “Since institutions are being flexible with testing policies, is College Board considering cutting back on testing locations or administrations internationally?” Linda responded “No, in fact, quite the opposite.” She went on to share that College Board continues working with higher ed institutions to extend the flexible admission policies and believes that the SAT is the most accessible assessment globally, providing international students options to submit their SAT scores to demonstrate their readiness for college. College Board will provide as many opportunities as possible in as many places as possible for students to take the SAT, especially given the importance of diverse geographic reach of the international student body that the panel discussed during this session.