Selecting a college or university is a challenging task for many students and parents. Information overload about US colleges and universities is tremendous and comes at parents and domestic and international students from all directions and in recent times, from all over the world. Today recruiting international students is the goal of many colleges and universities all over the world, and not just the
as it used to be until just a few years ago. This is because colleges and universities understand the power of creating a “mini world” within their campuses, but more important, Presidents of educational institutions know that recruiting international students is lucrative to the bottom line!
Unfortunately, it is difficult to sift the “truth” from “media messages” in one of the most important and life-changing decisions that parents and students will make in their lifetime. The challenge of college selection is exponentially greater for international students and their families and this is the case in spite of technology (or may be because of technology?). International students often struggle to find an ideal school at an affordable price that will deliver the goods and eventually result in a dynamic career. There are no short cuts and if you are committed to getting the best education for the best price, you must do your homework!
In my previous post, I wrote about the importance of being careful and thoughtful in how you select a college or university. I emphasized the importance of closely studying facts about the institutions and examining how it fits with your educational needs. In this post, I want to share with you the importance of the statement: Know Thyself!
Before you select a college or university, you must have a clear idea as to what you are looking for in a college or university. You may not know exactly what you wish to study or your career goals and that is okay. I will discuss five simple things you must consider even before you browse through the web pages of colleges and universities and I will cover these five issues in my future posts also:
- Urban or rural? If you are an urban bird, don’t select a school in an isolated rural environment or vice versa.
- Small or large? If you like a small intimate setting, selecting a university with 52,000 students is likely to cause pain!
- Career-focused or life-focused? Some colleges and universities are interested in preparing you to deal with life – they believe a career will follow. Others focus on a career – and don’t pay attention to your all-round development. True, no school will admit this! Of course, some are focused on both. If you can find such a college, go for it!
- Does anyone look like me? If it is important for you to find students from your cultural, ethnic, or economic background – if you don’t wish to stand out like a sore thumb on a campus and if that is important to you – look at a school with diversity.
- Residential or non-residential? Is living on campus important to you or do you want to live on your own? Some colleges have strict residential requirements and hence you should pay attention to this.
Dr. Uma G. Gupta is the President of USAsiaEdu.com, a global consulting company that advices educational leaders on campus internationalization issues.
I am not the first one to moan, worry, and sweat about how today holding a degree or diploma means very little. International education, in places like India, face the same fate. Once upon a time you could safely assume that a college degree or diploma holder could read, write, do basic math, understand fundamental business and economic principles, and have some awareness of the world around him or her. Today, these assumptions are no longer true and many frustrated employers will attest to it. In fact, even many students will happily confess that they want a college degree not because they want to learn, but because they want to get a job – any job that pays well! And all this is happening while the cost of college tuition sky rockets and parents and students pay dearly to get that piece of paper!
Ironically this situation exists primarily because those who are paying for a college degree are not engaged in taking a closer look at college admissions, classroom instruction, or “life thereafter” including jobs, career prospects, and income potential. The words “dumb, fat, and happy” come to mind; “sleeping at the wheel” comes to mind; and more tragically, “the next bubble to burst” comes to mind.
So if you are a parent looking for a good college for your child, I recommend that you set aside the glossy brochures and the marketing hype, ignore the phone calls from admission counselors, and instead dig deep into the college, its curriculum, and its graduates.
- Think about selecting a college the same way you think about buying a car or a house. You don't buy a house or a car because the paint color looks good. You don't select a college because they were "nice to me during orientation," or they have good social clubs, or their brochures showed a diverse student body.
- Once you have narrowed your list of colleges, write down five "fact-based" reasons why you think this is the best college for your child or for yourself. If you can't get past Reason 1 – smell trouble and run.
- Touring a campus is great, but no employer gave a student a job because he or she graduated from a "good-looking" campus. Instead, delve deep into the background of the faculty, career placement, quality of students that are admitted, and average salaries of their graduates. If the college responds that such information is not available, buy a big red flag and wave it as high as you can.
More to follow!
Dr. Uma Gupta is an educational consultant who helps US colleges and universities expand their market presence and brand identity in India and is an expert on international student recruitment.
There is hardly a college or university that is not planning to expand its base of international students in the United States and yes, there is hardly a college or university in the United States or anywhere in the world that is not facing hurdles and unexpected challenges in achieving this goal. International student recruitment is more than "tours" to a country. It entails understanding the political, social, economic, and cultural systems and nuances of the country, learning to navigate these systems successfully, and more important, creating lasting and deep roots in the country to have a sustained presence in the country. Without a long-term, well thought out strategic plan for campus internationalization, efforts to recruit international students becomes a futile endeavor in which colleges throw good money at transient goals.
There are three pillars at the core of a good internationalization strategic plan.
1. Define what your institution means by internationalization. Is it attracting a few students from Canada? Is it attracting some students from all over the world? Is it focused on certain parts of the world, based on existing ties your institution may have with that part of the world? Ask yourself the question, "What do we mean by internationalization and what parts of the world make the most sense to us and why?"
2. Penetration is the key: Once you have identified the regions of the world from which you wish to attract students, plan a marketing blitz in that country. Often, many US institutions naively assume that simply because they are well-known in the US, they must be well known and well regarded in other parts of the world. This is not true. You must build your brand and your image in the country or countries of your choice. Once you have a brand, then word of mouth will attract high quality students to your campus and you can systematically reduce your marketing dollars.
3. Understand the educational system of your targeted country: This is key to attracting high quality students. You must have intimate knowledge about the educational system and standards of your target country. Understand the quality factors that define the educational parameters in your targeted country. Gain in-depth knowledge about the grading systems and do your research to find out the aspirations of good students so that your marketing is effective.
In short, campus internationalization is not about planting a few flags on your campus drive. It requires a passion and commitment to truly understand other cultures and yes, it requires enormous patience and perseverance.
Dr. Uma Gupta is the President of Global Cube, a company that serves as a gateway between US colleges and universities and those in India.