Make the Case
How can admission officers make the case to college and university officials to invest in recruitment and on-campus support services for international students? The EducationUSA network is ready to help. The information that follows is available for your use in publications or other materials.
As Secretary of State John Kerry stated in his welcome message to the 2013 EducationUSA Forum: "The international students who learn in our classrooms enrich our campuses and our country. And when the 765,000 international students who studied in the United States last year return home, the bonds that they have built here and the friendships that they have forged will last a lifetime. Ten, twenty, thirty years from now, when a young man from Ghana starts a thriving global business, or a young Colombian woman becomes her country’s foreign minister, when a young Vietnamese man becomes a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, or a young woman from Afghanistan is elected president, they will think of the memories and the friendships that they formed with their American friends.... None of this is a fantasy. I have met many prime ministers, foreign ministers, finance ministers, other leaders, all of whom came to school in the United States. And when they went back home after their studies, they left here with a strong connection to our country and our people."
The U.S. Department of State is proud of the United States' position as the leading higher education destination for students from around the world, and maintaining that position is a priority. International students enrich U.S. universities and communities. They bring unique perspectives and experiences that expand the horizons of American students and make U.S. institutions more competitive in the global economy of the 21st century. Moreover, the relationships international students build will help them better understand the American people and values.
A quick glance at the biographies of world leaders today reveals that many studied in the United States. And international students on U.S. campuses today will follow in their footsteps. "Foreign Students Yesterday, World Leaders Today" is an excellent way to garner support for international student recruitment.
International students and their families in the United States bring a strong economic benefit to the United States. NAFSA's publication, The Economic Benefits of International Education to the United States of America: A Statistical Analysis, articulates these benefits and suggests ways to promote the value of campus internationalization.
Comprehensive international student services are critical to ensuring positive experiences on U.S. campuses and addressing their needs. Here are some tips to ensure your campus' internationalization extends to all aspects of campus life:
- Make certain that campus leadership and the professional staff who work with international students are aware of, trained, and actively engage in the many legal, regulatory, educational, and cultural issues that surround international educational exchange. Institutions should maintain membership in appropriate international educational exchange organizations and regularly attend training workshops to stay up-to-date on regulatory changes and best practices.
- Facilitate the admission of international students on campus with appropriate legal and ethical guidelines.
- Employ professional staff dedicated to the admission and retention of non-immigrant students from other nations.
Recommended activities and programs for an International Student-Friendly Campus include:
- Set realistic admission deadlines for prospective international students.
- Provide airport pickups for new international students.
- Separate orientation for new international students to ease initial adjustment. (International students should also attend the regular new student orientation.)
- Invite current international students to assist new arrivals in settling in.
- Provide housing on campus that meet the specific needs of new international students, such as being open and staffed over holidays and providing additional cooking spaces, and multi-faith prayer rooms. Off-campus housing needs should be addressed as international students may require additional help in finding suitable housing, understanding rental agreements, managing multiple utility bills, and signing internet, cable, and phone contracts.
- Ensure food services provide food of special importance to students from other cultures, including kosher/halal meal options, the proper cooking of sticky rice, and a variety of international options.
- Integrate international students into mainstream student life on campus and in the community.
- Provide additional English instruction for non-native speakers, if needed.
- Offer guidance for writing papers at both undergraduate and graduate level students.
- Identify local host families to introduce international students to American family life.
- Factor in international student arrivals and non-U.S. holidays when setting major academic dates.
- Work with current faculty, staff, and students to build on programs with an international focus.
Websites are important resources to help international students learn about the quality and character of institutions before they visit. Include the following elements to make your website accessible to prospective international students. Useful elements for the web page include:
- Clear link for international students on your home page that links directly to the admissions page, and/or prospective students' page.
- Display the EducationUSA logo on the international student admissions home page to link to EducationUSA.state.gov. Encourage applicants to use the resources of the EducationUSA Advising Center in their country early in the college search and application process.
- School description, including institutional type and overview of campus life, with the proportion of international students at the university and quotes from and profiles of current international students
- Tuition and related costs for the program as a whole, as well as the amount required for the first year of study and which will be listed on the student's I-20 or DS-2019 form.
- Admissions Timeline, including important testing and application deadlines with clear mailing or uploading instructions, acceptance, arrival, orientation and enrollment.
- Contact information with names and numbers for all offices dealing with international students. Specify who does what.
- Visa/SEVIS information
- EducationUSA's "Your 5 Steps to U.S. Study" Step 4: Apply for Your Student Visa
- The Department of State's official consular website, Student and Exchange Visitors section.
- The Department of State's J1 visa website.
- Online non-immigrant visa application.
- All visa application forms.
- List of U.S. embassies and consulates.
- DHS Study in the States website with SEVIS and other information needed before and after arrival in the United States.
- The site to pay the SEVIS fee.
- DHS' Study in the States Website - Contains SEVIS and other information needed before and after arrival in the U.S.
- Accreditation information, detailing how your institution is accredited and what that means for students entering the workforce or pursuing advanced degrees.
- International metrics. Include campus size in hectares, average local temperatures in Celsius, and distances in kilometers.
- Number of credit hours. Specify the type of university calendar, and how many hours are needed to enroll full-time for each term, including summer.
- Course catalog. List all courses with course descriptions.
- Downloadable application in a variety of formats. If possible, provide application fee waivers. Allow students without credit cards to mail application fees after completing on-line applications. Consider using the Common App.
- Information on program eligibility, listing the programs that are open to international candidates and any which are not.
- FAQs. List commonly asked questions and answers about your institution/foreign student admissions and services.
- Information on Curricular Practical training (CPT), explaining which programs permit CPT and relevant university policies.
- Work with your IT department to ensure flexibility for international students with database naming conventions.
In addition, keep in mind that the following terms and concepts are not appropriate or do not exist for international students:
- Social Security Numbers. Most international students do not have social security numbers unless they were previously employed in the U.S.
- GPAs. Many countries do not recognize the concept of GPAs.
- Zip codes or a U.S. address.
- Terms fall and spring. These are confusing to students from the southern hemisphere or areas with no seasons.
- 1-800 numbers. They are not toll free outside the United States. Also, automated responses are often not received overseas.
- College to refer to university-level programs. College is equated with high school or even grade school in some countries.
- Original copies of academic certificates. Many international students cannot obtain multiple originals of their academic certificates. Define what you mean by certified, and provide a PDF example. Provide instructions for submitting a signed copy provided by the home university or school. Refer students to an EducationUSA Advising Center for assistance.
- Databases that limit the number of characters for students entering their names because many students have multiple names and/or very long names.
To see how your institution's international admissions web page fares considering these recommendations, you are invited to take the International Student Friendly Website: Is Yours? interactive quiz developed this past year to help equip international admissions officers with tools to encourage their institutions to evaluate their sites. After completing the quiz you will receive an email with your responses and a score (1-100) of how your site rates, with 70 being a minimum passing result. Disclaimer: This quiz, using the criteria above, looks solely at the content of your site, not the format, design or accessibility of your site. If you would like "best practice" examples of international student-friendly website, please contact the EducationUSA Outreach Coordinator.