State of Student Recruitment 2022
Is North America a target market for your international student recruitment? Our findings will help update your understanding of how students from Canada and the United States are thinking about study abroad and making decisions in 2022 and beyond.
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Our Global Student Survey reached 877 prospective students across North America and more than 20,000 students from around the world overall. View respondent data and customize country groupings with our State of Student Recruitment Dashboard to find out more about specific regions or countries.
Included Countries: Canada, United States
Watch the State of Student Recruitment North America webinar
- Australia and Germany bounce back as top study abroad destinations for Canadian students, rising by 109.3% and 198.3% respectively
- Canada has the highest proportion of students in the world interested in studying abroad in Italy (8%), South Korea (2.9%), and New Zealand (2.9%)
- The United States has become the region with the highest percentage of students in the world who want to study abroad in the United Kingdom (21%) after a 48.2% increase in interest since last year
- North America holds the highest numbers of students in the world interested in studying Health Care & Medicine (19%), Social Sciences (17.6%), Journalism, Media & Mass Communication (11.2%), and Natural Sciences (10.2%) at the postgraduate level
- North American students plan to start studying earlier than ever before, with 229.8% more students planning to study abroad ‘this year’ than last
- ‘Studying for free or for less’ is 79.7% more important as a study abroad motivation for North Americans since 2021, with the highest proportion in the world coming from American students (31.8%)
- Photos and videos of study abroad destinations are most globally appreciated as helpful resources in Canada (26.4%), with the United States coming in second (18.4%)
- Online delivery has soared by 355.9% in importance as a top study abroad program factor since last year’s survey
- North America has the second-largest percentage of undergraduate (4%) and postgraduate-interested students (2.9%) in the world looking at TikTok for more information about studying abroad
Study Abroad Trend Overview
Top Destinations: Australia and Germany bounce back as top study abroad destinations for Canadian students, rising by 109.3% and 198.3% respectively
First things first. Where do North American students want to go? To give you a better idea of the preferences between Canada and the United States, the top destinations for Canadians and Americans are shown separately.
Australia and Germany are the standout destinations for Canadian students this year with increases of 109.3% and 198.3% respectively since 2021. New Zealand and Switzerland have also made jumps in popularity for Canadian students, surpassing last year’s popular destinations of Japan, Denmark and Ireland.
With borders reopening overseas, it seems that Canadians are more open to countries in Europe, Oceania, and Asia. Canada has the highest proportion of students in the world interested in studying abroad in Italy (8%), South Korea (2.9%), and New Zealand (2.9%) and the second highest proportion of students interested in Australia (7.4%), France (6.9%), and Ireland (1.7%).
Though the United Kingdom is at the top for both Canadian and American students, this destination is significantly more popular for students in the United States. The United States has become the region with the highest percentage of students in the world who want to study abroad in the United Kingdom (21%) after a 48.2% increase in interest since last year.
South Korea has dropped considerably (76.9%) after its spike in popularity last year. The Netherlands (+232.0%) and Canada (+163.8%) have overtaken South Korea and China at the top instead. France has also become less of an interest for American and Canadian students alike this year with respective decreases of 25.1% and 39.6%. Despite this change, France can still be spotted at the top of the list for students from both countries. American students’ interest in France (7.7%), Ireland (3.6%), and Japan (3.4%) are the highest globally, and proportions of interest in Spain (9.6%) and Italy (7.5%) are the second highest in the world.
Study Subject: North America holds the highest numbers of students in the world interested in studying Health Care & Medicine (19%), Social Sciences (17.6%), Journalism, Media & Mass Communication (11.2%), and Natural Sciences (10.2%) at the postgraduate level
The study subject of Health Care & Medicine is at the top for North American prospective students interested in all degree types, with the highest numbers globally at the postgraduate level (19%), second highest globally after Europe at the undergraduate level (22.5%), and third highest after Latin America and Europe at the PhD/Doctorate level (25.7%).
North America also holds the highest numbers of students in the world interested in studying Natural Sciences degrees at the undergraduate (9.1%) and postgraduate level (10.2%), and Social Sciences degrees abroad at the postgraduate (17.6%) and PhD/Doctorate level (23%). Another subject option in the survey, ‘Other Social Sciences’ was also chosen the most frequently by North American students (11.7%).
A few other study subjects were more popular in North America than anywhere else. American and Canadian students looking for postgraduate degrees abroad have the highest global proportions looking at studying Journalism, Media & Mass Communication (11.2%). At the PhD/Doctorate level, North Americans are the most interested in Teaching & Education (13.3%).
Student Journey: North American students plan to start studying earlier than ever before, with 229.8% more students planning to study abroad ‘this year’ than last
Excitement over opening borders seems to have spread in North America, as more students are engaging in short-term planning for their studies abroad than ever before even when looking at data prior to the pandemic. The proportion of students planning to study abroad ‘this year’ in particular has spiked, with 229.1% growth from 2020.
Surprisingly, despite the clear drop in students looking to study abroad many years in advance, the percentage of North Americans planning to study abroad in 3 years or 4+ years actually reaches higher levels than any other region in the world.
The overall shift to a shorter term student journey is also reflected in a survey question asking how early North American students are planning to start researching their study options before submitting an application. The data shows that 31.6% will start researching less than six months before, and 39.4% will start only 6-12 months before submitting an application.
Top Motivations: ‘Studying or free or for less’ is 79.7% more important as a motivation for North Americans since 2021, with the highest global proportion from American students (31.8%)
Experiencing a new culture and personal development continue to reign Canadian and American students’ top motivations to study abroad. Achieving career goals rose to become the third highest motivation, a 19.7% increase from 2021.
The appeal of lower tuition fees also seems to have taken hold. North American students indicated that their motivations were connected to ‘studying or free or for less’ 79.7% more often this year, with the highest proportion in the world coming from American students (31.8%). Americans also are also the second-most motivated by learning a new language (24%) after Western Europeans. Canadians have the largest global proportion of students motivated by having an adventure (35.2%) and second-largest by the idea of making new friends (28.5 %).
This year’s survey also asked which resources students find most helpful in the decision-making process. ‘Scholarships and funding information’, ‘ranking lists’, and ‘study abroad counselors or advisers’ are list-toppers from last year that gained even more importance as helpful resources in 2022. Comparing the numbers from other world regions, however, shows that study abroad counselors and advisors are seen as the most helpful in the United States than anywhere else, and that ranking lists are actually prioritized least in the world in Canada.
‘Student stories of studying abroad’ remains at the top as the 2nd most helpful resource for North American students despite a slight drop, which is the second highest proportion in the region after the United Kingdom and Ireland. These factors point to the strength of peer-to-peer influence in North America, where students look to other students abroad to get the motivation they need to take the plunge. Marketing should also get as visual as possible in this region. Photos and videos of study abroad destinations are appreciated as the most helpful in the world in Canada (26.4%), with the United States coming in second (18.4%).
Top Considerations: Online delivery has soared by 355.9% in importance as a top study abroad program factor since last year’s survey
To learn about how North Americans make study abroad decisions, we asked what they consider first when deciding where to study abroad. Increased value on the program and school as first considerations when deciding where to study remains this year to continue a consistent year-on-year trend. The country continues to lose importance as a first consideration, decreasing by 24.9% since 2019 for North American students.
Notable changes have occurred in students’ study abroad program preferences as well. Though the top four factors in a study abroad program have shifted only slightly among themselves, last year’s top 5th and 6th most important factors have plummeted. These two factors, ‘study mode and flexibility‘ and ‘types of course assessment’ have dropped by 16.6% and 35.7% respectively. Even more interesting is the impressive trajectory of online delivery in this year’s survey, which has soared by 355.9% in importance as a top study abroad program factor this year.
Shifting preferences for class mode can also be seen when comparing Canadian and American student preferences from last year to this year. Both groups seem to prefer online classes more often than last year while demand for in-person classes has proportionally dropped. Looking at proportions within world regions shows that Canadian students have the second-highest percentage of students who prefer online classes in the world (11.9%), only lower than Southern Africa.
Top Influences: North America has the second-largest percentage of undergraduate (4%) and postgraduate-interested students (2.9%) in the world looking at TikTok for more information about studying abroad
Where does your institution have a social media presence? The global impact of social media is clear, but regional and degree-level preferences can vary greatly. What do North American students’ behavior on social media platforms look like according to their degree level of interest?
According to this year’s data, Instagram is the social media platform of choice for students interested in undergraduate, postgraduate, and PhD/Doctorate degree levels. North America has the highest global proportion of prospective students looking for postgraduate degrees interested in Instagram (45.4%), and second highest proportions for North American students looking to study at the undergraduate and PhD/Doctorate levels abroad after Latin America.
Though Instagram is the top platform in 2022, providing information to prospective students on other platforms is also important for marketing strategies aiming to reach Americans and Canadians. LinkedIn, for example, is the platform of choice for a fifth of prospective students searching for an international PhD or Doctorate program. Even more impressive is the growth of TIkTok. North America has the second-largest percentage of undergraduate (4%) and postgraduate-interested students (2.9%) in the world looking at TikTok for more information about studying abroad.
To understand the student perspective in this region more deeply, we asked: What are some common challenges for you and other students from your country who want to study abroad? Each response indicates the student's nationality, age, and highest completed degree level underneath.
- "It’s very expensive and when you’re from a country like Canada nobody seems to think of actually studying outside of there, most people tend to come here as opposed to leave here"
- Canadian; Under 18; Less than a high school degree
- "Either they don’t know those opportunities exist or they have some obligations that could prevent them from leaving. In most cases, it’s simply financial inability to go the distance, other than that most people have some foreign country that they really want to continue their education in."
- American; 18-21; Some university but no degree
- "Going off by yourself to a different country and possibly having a difficult time communicating there for help."
- American; 18-21; Less than a high school degree
We also asked: What might encourage you to study abroad?
- “I would need clearly written instructions on what steps need to be taken in what order (ie apply for visa, look for apartment/student housing, budget this much money, etc)”
- American; 22-25; Bachelor's degree
- “Learning about the experience of students who have studied abroad, and some benefits (other than the experience)”
- Canadian; Under 18; Less than a high school degree
- “The opportunities that succeed in my studies, I’d love to be able to know where I study is a place I can really stay and make a living”
- Canadian; Under 18; Less than a high school degree