3 Key Shifts in Student Decision-Making Factors & What You Can Do

4 min read

Keystone Education Group

What are the most important decision-making factors influencing your potential students, and have these perhaps changed in recent years, especially post-pandemic?

To get the scoop, listen to Keystone Education Group's Abby Guthrie on the ICEF Podcast, talking about emerging student trends and sharing global insights from educations.com users.

Listen now or read along to see three key trends that stood out.



1. Career paths play an increasingly important role to students

Since the pandemic began, finding job security in the face of economic uncertainty has become more of a priority than ever. International students from around the world have made huge leaps in focus on how their degree will place them in the workforce. Achieving career goals has become the top motivation for students looking to study abroad overall, with the highest percentage prioritizing this factor in the regional area of the Middle East, Caucasia, and Central Asia (54%). When looking at the most important aspects of a program, 70% more European students prioritize graduate career prospects as a top program factor in autumn 2002. Particular regions of Asia are also looking towards their future career path. Southeast Asia and South Asia saw a 26% increase since 2020 in the proportion of students valuing graduate career prospects in a program the most.

What you can do:

● Collect and distribute information about employability from your graduates

● Survey graduates of faculties or programs on job titles and career paths after graduation - don’t forget to include these on program descriptions and share them out with portals.

● Give or provide a link to information about work visas after graduation in your country for international students.

2. Students are less loyal to a particular country for study abroad and looking to programs and increasingly individual schools 

Around the world, double the percentage of prospective students are looking at the school as a first consideration when decision-making as compared to 2019’s numbers. African, European, and Asian students are especially more interested in looking at the institution first since 2019, with an increase of 133%, 96%, and 93% respectively. Students from Oceania are a notable exception. Here, the proportion of students considering the school first has decreased by half in the same time period.

The study abroad country is diminishing in favor of other factors as a first consideration in several regions. The country has decreased in importance over the last two years in Latin America by 38%, in Europe by 34%, and by 25% in North America. Though there’s been a slight drop worldwide, the program became more often a first priority in decision-making in North America, Europe, Oceania, and Latin America. Growth levels shot up especially high in Oceania and Latin America over the last few years, where 59% and 21% more students respectively say that finding the right program is the most important when decision-making.

What you can do:

● Your programs are the first port of call for the majority of students - make sure that they put your best foot forward.

● How is your institution positioned beyond ranking and portal websites? A sharp and balanced presence across channels including digital PR, social media, and portals will make your university stand out to the growing number of students looking to university first.

● Treat your “about us” section of the site as a landing page. Does it describe your institution succinctly and communicate why you would be an excellent choice for students? Do they know what to do next?

3. Peer-to-Peer continues to be increasingly influential

The weight of peer-to-peer communication is hard to ignore. By autumn of 2021, 63% of prospective students said that they want to talk to international students at the school before applying to a university. Compared to only 17% that want to talk to the alumni of a program or university, these statistics indicate the importance of student ambassadors who are currently studying abroad. In another survey question this year, 39% of prospective students cited student stories of studying abroad as a most helpful factor when deciding where to study. Student stories hold even more influence than the global average in Oceania (56%), North America (52%), and Europe (47%). Noting students’ increased preferences towards more personal communication is paramount. Peer-to-peer signals a desire for prospective students to hear about the international student experience from someone that they authentically relate to.

What you can do:

● Consider working with a peer-to-peer chat service such as Unibuddy

● Leverage your student ambassadors on social media and social messaging platforms

● Feature student vlogs and blogs on your paid social media campaigns

Data sources

Regional student trends report, educations.com

Student insights dashboard, educations.com

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