Why The Majority of International Schools Prefer Hybrid Recruitment [& How Universities Should Respond]

67% of BridgeU counsellors want universities to continue with hybrid recruitment. But why - and how can universities make a success of it?

It’s now clear that COVID-19 and its aftermath has irrevocably changed our relationship with work - and how we connect with peers and colleagues in our respective industries. 

Whether you've had to switch back and forth between in-person and virtual set-ups or if your team had the flexibility to work how you want, the past two years have sparked vigorous debate on how best we can work in a post-pandemic world. 

Across the sector of international higher education, much of the debate has centred on the question of whether universities will return to predominantly in-person recruitment, or whether digital recruitment will remain a cornerstone of international admissions. 

It’s certainly true that, as borders have reopened, many higher education institutions have embraced in-person meetings again. 

As universities continue to adapt to a post-COVID, hybrid approach to international recruitment, it’s increasingly important to pay attention to one particular audience - school counsellors and careers advisers.

Read counsellors' tips on how universities can optimise their hybrid recruitment

Download our latest survey of international school counsellors' and learn more about how your university can adapt your hybrid recruitment to better suit students' needs.

The next generation of globally mobile students will increasingly emerge from the international school system. In fact, we estimate that students graduating from international high schools in 2026 could comprise up to two thirds of all candidates for international undergraduate admissions globally. 

Counsellors are often integral to the success of a guidance curriculum within any school. But in international schools, where students might be coming from a whole range of countries and backgrounds, a student’s application outcome is often tied to the quality and quantity of the guidance provision they receive. 

When we surveyed a sample of our international school counsellors across 138 countries, 67% told us that they wanted universities to maintain a hybrid approach to international student recruitment. 

This might seem unsurprising in a world where many of us are adopting some hybrid approach to work. 

But if universities are to realise their international enrolment goals in the years to come, it’s important to understand why a hybrid approach to recruitment is so vital to international school counsellors (not to mention their students). 

Understanding the ‘why’ means that your admissions teams’ strategy will be truly international and adaptive in its approach. 

Why do international school counsellors value hybrid recruitment strategies?

When we use the word ‘hybrid’, it can be easy to think of it as simply mixing the in-person and the digital - and literally speaking, that’s what it is. 

But in our conversations with international school counsellors, it became apparent that they valued hybrid recruitment efforts from universities for reasons that go beyond ease and flexibility (though these factors do of course play a part). And these reasons were often specific to the context, culture or curriculum of the school they were working in. 

Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why an international school counsellor (and by extension their students) may place more value on hybrid engagement with universities. 

Hybrid engagement helps counsellors put their school on the map

Many university reps may profess to having missed the chance to travel overseas and meet prospective international students in key recruitment markets. 

But, for many international school counsellors, the traditional methods of international student recruitment masked a number of inequities. 

Perhaps the most significant pre-COVID inequity was the fact that too many international schools just didn’t sit under the traditional flight path of many university admission reps. 

The proliferation of digital channels of recruitment through COVID-19 has meant that many international school counsellors and students have had the chance to meet with universities who may not have typically had cause to visit their school. 

Many of our counsellors have told us that they welcome more opportunities to engage with universities digitally, as it has allowed them to introduce their students to a wider range of prospective international destinations. 

Hybrid engagement gives counsellors & students added flexibility

International students are a varied audience, and their diversity is reflected in the schools that they study at, and the counsellors and teachers who guide them. 

This means that international schools’ needs can be very different, too. So as you’re designing or implementing your institution’s recruitment and outreach strategy, it’s vital to take this range of needs into account. 

For example, a counsellor working in a small school where they are the only person responsible for higher education and career guidance will likely have limited time and resources. It’s more likely this counsellor will prefer digital outreach and recruitment. 

Why? 

Because it saves them time having to book space in the school cafeteria, or organise the logistics of having you and your team visit in person. 

Alternatively, there may be other international schools where students are keen to meet university reps like you in person, or where counsellors at schools in a particular city wish to pool their resources and run a regional university fair. 

In this case, it’s clear that an in-person event is probably worth both your time and resources, as there’s active and tangible demand. 

There are yet more reasons why counsellors might value the flexibility that hybrid engagement provides. 

For example, it might be the case that you reach out to an international student where only two students have a particular interest in your institution, or a degree programme currently being offered by your institution. 

Now it’s probably not worth either you or the counsellor in question dedicating time and resources to an in-person event. But if these students are actively interested in your institution, why not take the time to offer a one-off virtual meeting with them? You might discover two future applicants who will end up enrolling at your institution! 

How to succeed at hybrid international recruitment

So what techniques and strategies can your university employ to ensure you’re making a success of hybrid recruitment? 

Use data to profile schools before you make your approach

In 2022, it’s vital that universities learn more about the specific profile of an international school, and take some time to understand counsellors’ and students' needs before planning a recruitment visit (digital or in-person). 

We would always recommend that universities consider the following factors when reaching out to international school counsellors. 

  • What curriculum does this school teach?
  • What are students’ favourite subjects at this school? 
  • What countries do students at this school typically apply to?
  • What are their typical application outcomes?
  • What are students’ most common queries or concerns about the university application process

Having a better understanding of a specific international school’s curriculum and culture makes it easier for you to ensure your recruitment efforts have maximum impact. 

 

Align your recruitment goals with the needs of your target schools

We’ve discussed why hybrid recruitment has, broadly speaking, been advantageous to counsellors working in international schools. But we know that you and your admissions team will have recruitment priorities and goals of your own. 

For example, it may make sense for you to prioritise in-person recruitment in those high-impact markets where you think you will yield the most enrolments. 

Conversely, digital-first recruitment might be better suited to those countries where you don’t want to expend too much time and resources, or where you are starting to notice emerging interest in your institution. 

But it’s vital that you don’t put your recruitment priorities over the needs of international schools in these relevant markets. 

Many of the international school counsellors who responded to our survey told us that, in certain instances, their students are fatigued by the constant flow of digital interactions of the past two years.  By considering how you can adapt your recruitment efforts, you'll ensure you're not alienating target schools and prospective students. 

Here’s where your international schools strategy comes in handy. 

A deeper understanding of the international schools ecosystem and student demographics in a given area will ensure you’re offering the right mix of in-person and digital outreach. 

Ensure your content is compelling

Researching a school's location, curriculum, and demographics can be a great starting point. But if you really want to take your outreach to the next level,  nothing beats  learning directly from the very people who know a school's students better than anyone else: counsellors. 

Our most recent eBook gathers the latest insights from international school counsellors from around the world. By downloading it, you'll get firsthand access into their survey responses and lear top tips on how to make your recruitment efforts as successful as possible.

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