As China’s population continues to grow, students there aren’t finding enough seats at the country’s universities to meet growing demand for higher education. The US higher education system is equipped to take on the overflow and this group of students is particularly attractive because an increasing number do not require financial assistance. As colleges and universities extend their reach internationally, here are some tips for recruitment taken from a Winter 2013 Journal of College Admission by Zinch*.
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1. Prospect Follow-Up: The Best Return On Investment
Most schools already receive inbound requests for information from Chinese students. Frequently, the exact catalyst for this interest is not clear—Was it an article in a newspaper? A visit by faculty? Mention by a current Chinese student to a friend?
No matter the source, prompt and friendly follow-up is absolutely essential. Some specific suggestions:
- If you can, add a personal message to the beginning of your standard emails, to make it more engaging. For example, “I see you’re interested in business. How did you get interested in that?” or “I see you’re from northern China. I’ve always been curious about that place—is it very cold in the winter?”
- If you can’t modify your CRM messages, then send an additional message, using the approach above. Try to see the CRM messages from the Chinese student’s perspective—most messages come across as impersonal, without a clear call to action.
2. Chinese Student Videos: Keep It Real
Instead of investing in a lot more Chinese language videos that are professionally produced, turn instead to your Chinese student interns. Specifically, ask them to make short videos that describe their enthusiasm for your program. Specifically:
- Make videos about three minutes long.
- Don’t fuss about the video quality. Instead, focus on the audio quality.
- Make it clear that the video is from the student, not from the admission office.
- Aim to create approximately 50 videos, so that you can release one per week.
- Don’t obsess about the “loss of control.”
- Once the videos are created, ask your student intern to post the videos on your official Sina Weibo account (see below) and/or send them to Zinch China (posting is free).
3. Chinese Online Alumni Group
Alumni from many schools are already finding each other on social networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. They are self-interested in this effort: they want to network and share fond memories.
4. Sina Weibo.com Postings
- Get your student intern to set up Chinese student alumni groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. As you may know, Facebook is blocked in China, but many Chinese people know how to reach it and use it, especially if they have lived overseas already. If your program already has alumni groups for all students, it’s important to still set them up for Chinese students.
- In parallel, ask the interns to also set up alumni groups on Renren.com (China’s Facebook) and on Ushi.com and Tianji.com (China’s LinkedIn).
- Ideally, ask your interns to set up these accounts by creating an official school account. This way, when the intern graduates, you can maintain control.
- After the groups are created, get the interns to use Baidu.com (China’s search engine) and Google to search for alumni. When found, send them a personal invitation letter (from you) to join each of the groups—they will be delighted!
In recent years, Sina Weibo (self-described as “China’s Facebook + Twitter”) has exploded in popularity. Like Twitter, Sina Weibo is a broadcast-like medium, meaning that it’s mostly used by people and institutions to say something.
Once you have created your Sina Weibo account, you should post to it often, ideally with videos (use the student videos described above) and photos of your school. The goal is to post at least once weekly, and ideally once daily.
5. Chinese PDF Download: Distill and Fine-Tune Your Message
Chinese parents and students evaluate overseas programs in unique ways. They are, of course, interested in rankings, but they also are focused on other key factors. Schools that are successful in China take the time to step back and fine-tune their marketing messages so that their program is presented in the best possible light. A Chinese-language, one-page PDF is an essential part of any marketing effort in China.
- Make a list of the top five reasons why your program should appeal to a Chinese prospect.
- Track down no more than five images that support the “Top 5” benefits that you have developed.
- Find a graphic designer who can put the top five messages, the supporting facts and the key images together into an attractive layout that fits on the front and back of a single, A4-sized page (in China, the standard paper is A4, not 8.5 x 11).
- Once you have a layout you like, get the page translated into Chinese.
- Update the layout, using the Chinese.
- Once the language and layout is finalized, save the document as a PDF, and post it on your Web site.
*Zinch China is part of Zinch, the online social network connecting students with opportunities: colleges, scholarships, study abroad programs, and graduate schools. Zinch is owned by Chegg, the academic hub that connects students to peers, educators, content, and services to help them save time, save money and get smarter. Since its founding in 2007, Chegg's growth has made it one of Silicon Valley's most successful start-ups.