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5 Tips for Marketing Study Abroad Programs in a Post-Pandemic World

5 min read

Julia Sachs

The Covid-19 pandemic hit study abroad programs perhaps more than any other higher education program. Border closures stopped students from being able to travel for over a year, and many students who planned to study abroad before the pandemic were not able to.

In a survey conducted by Keystone Education Group, we found that in 2022 students are planning a shorter recruitment journey, perhaps due to impatience following international travel restrictions during the pandemic or having to delay their study abroad plans.

Over half, 53.79%, of prospective students surveyed began researching study options less than six months before applying for a program. Over a quarter, 27.08%, began researching only six to 12 months before applying to colleges, dropping to 10.55% of students who researched colleges for 12 to 24 months before they applied.

Traveling to another country can be a stressful and intimidating process. Students often need a visa to study abroad, in addition to the cost and the prospect of living somewhere completely unfamiliar. Any university that markets study abroad programs must establish an appropriate emergency plan for its students in case they become stranded in their host country or are unable to travel to carry out their studies.

In the name of reintegrating study abroad programs in the aftermath of the pandemic, here are five strategies for how to approach marketing those programs in a different world.

  • Plan, plan, plan
Medical emergencies are likely to occur among a large student base, and being in a foreign country could make medical care stressful. Provide students with insurance, or a way to get insurance, for their travels abroad. In addition, provide an exit plan for students, whether it be for dire emergencies or family events. Be transparent about plans of action in the case of an emergency abroad. These plans should be publicly displayed on your department’s website for both you and your students to reference. Having these plans readily available should ease the tension caused by leaving home.

  • Scholarships and financial aid
Traveling abroad is often expensive, even outside of a university program. This prohibitive cost limits those who can access it, reducing the effectiveness of marketing study abroad programs. Financial aid should be extended to these costs, especially those with special needs or disabilities.

From 1997 to 2017, college tuition fees increased by over 150% (Source: United States Bureau of Labour Statistics) so it is unsurprising that the number one concern for students studying in America is the cost of tuition, according to our State of Student Recruitment Survey. 42.66% in our survey said they couldn’t study abroad without a fully funded scholarship. Nearly, a third (29.09%) said they needed some help from a scholarship, while only 9.33% said they were able to study abroad without a scholarship.

This financial aid should be balanced and accessible, allowing a larger number of students freedom to travel abroad to your campus. In addition, universities could offer employment for these students, reducing the cost and giving students an easily accessible income during their stay at home away from home.

  • Mental Health Support
Studying abroad alone can cause unnecessary stress or loneliness. Consider forming themed study abroad groups for students to travel together. These groups should also encompass marginalized groups, such as groups for LGBTQ+ students or students of color. These groups can also offer a curated list of destinations not to threaten the rights and safety of these marginalized students.

After all, traveling to a new country to learn should be a defining moment in a student’s history, not a possible threat to their livelihood. In addition, these groups can also provide support networks for each other in an unfamiliar environment that the university itself may not be able to provide.

  • Offer Additional Support
Studying abroad is an exceptional experience, but it is one most students never consider. Marketing student abroad programs should be a high priority for universities. After all, why have a program nobody knows about? Establishing after class hours for students to learn how to study abroad, such as necessary documentation, the cost and potential financial aid, locations they may visit, and other useful information, is an important task.

Ensure your university’s study abroad program can advertise freely and openly to as much of the student body as possible.

  • Utilize Alumni
In addition to universities providing info on students learning abroad, ask previous students who have used the program to market study abroad programs to new students. Invite them to talk to students new to the study abroad program. Whether at orientation or after-school learning clubs, letting students who are considering traveling abroad talk to those who have can be immensely helpful for their decision.

No FAQ can cover every single question a student may have about your program, but students who have undergone the process can fill the gap.

Though study abroad was more or less shut down for two years, many students are likely eager to be able to get out and travel once again. Focus on stories related to study abroad in your marketing—experiences that will help the student envision themselves in a study abroad program. Make prospective students more comfortable traveling abroad, by providing all encompassing emergency plans, making studying abroad accessible for all, or grouping up students by marginalized communities.

In addition, market these programs to the student body on campus and student orientation, and utilize students who have used study abroad programs to speak to the student body about their experiences. Doing these should allow your student body to be more comfortable studying abroad, giving them lifelong memories.
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