Recruiting International Students

Getting Started
If your school has decided to enroll international students, there is a good chance that administrators have decided to contract with an international student recruitment agent or agency for recruitment purposes. The good news is that agencies tend to bring students at the beginning of the school year. The bad news is that school counselors, faculty, and staff are often out of the loop before the students arrive. The following questions can help you prepare the community.

Note that working with agencies is not the only recruitment option. Sending a representative to a recruitment fair in the desired international location, partnering with a high school abroad, or utilizing print or online advertising or social media-based outreach are effective strategies.


Frequently Asked Questions

A: Schools must register with Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) to be able to enroll F or M visa students. In the public school system, the designated school official (DSO) managing the students’ SEVIS records, must be a school district official with explicit authority. For basics on Getting Started with SEVIS, visit the SEVIS Help Hub.

Q:  What should we do to prepare our campus for incoming international students?
A:  Make sure your faculty and staff are informed and adequately trained well ahead of time, not just the week prior to international students’ arrival on campus. Ensure that facilities are available for additional students and their unique needs. Consider issues like ESL instruction, host families, and academic and college advising in advance of international students’ arrivals. Create a team to help with these various elements of international student support and programming; it is a difficult job for one person.

On the student side of the equation, create a group of US students that can act as buddies and ambassadors for new international students. As your program grows, returning international students can take on similar roles and guide the newer students through assimilating to life at the school.
Q:  How should I evaluate and select an agency partner?
A:  Investigate and interview a number of agencies before finalizing contracts. Do not feel the need to jump into contracts, especially at their urging. When searching for potential agencies to work with, speak with other secondary schools about their experiences and protocol for working with agents. These perspectives from colleagues in the field tend to be better indicators of performance and working relationships than information provided by the agency.

Consider what responsibilities you want to agent to cover, and be sure to get feedback on these aspects. If, for example, the international students at your school will be living with homestay families, consider working with an agency that handles homestay placements. This can be a highly complicated and time-consuming endeavor.
Q:  What are some important points to convey to staff when training faculty and staff on how to teach and interact with incoming international students?
A:  Teachers and administrators should first be rooted in approaching international students as individuals, not as a set ethnicity or cultural group. Encourage teachers and staff to get to know students’ interests, their academic strengths, and the talents that they add to the student body. Help your school community understand that students from a similar region, such as Asia, or even the same country, like China, do not necessarily speak the same language or share the same background and experiences. Seek to avoid these stereotypes. Even if teachers or staff have traveled to the region before, it does not mean they understand the intricacies of International Students attending high school in the US.

Q:  What type of English language learning support and instruction should we supply?
A:  First, students’ English language proficiency should be thoroughly understood prior to their acceptance. Set a standard for the level of English you require students to have early on and build an English Language Learners (ELL) program on that foundation prior to students arriving.  English as a Second Language (ESL) curriculum is a program of techniques, methodology and curriculum that teaches ELL students English language as well as cultural orientation. These programs may require specialized teachers. For example, one should not assume that Special Education teachers can also teach ESL. Require testing of this level as part of student’s application process and consider retesting students once they arrive on campus as well.

Looking ahead, it is important to discuss with your administration what criteria international students must meet to achieve a diploma from the school. Discuss whether ELL/ESL courses would fulfill world language requirements and appropriate completion standards for standard non-ESL classes.

If you are working with an agent, ensure that they understand your school’s English proficiency requirements, the support services that will be available to students, and the impact on graduation requirements and time to diploma.

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Related Resources

Guide to International University Admission

A comprehensive resource for counselors and students about undergraduate college options abroad.

The State of College Admission Report

Examining the transition from high school to postsecondary education through survey data collected from colleges and universities across the country.

Commissioned Agents and NACAC's Guide to Ethical Practice Series

A series of six periodically released resources aimed at guiding NACAC members in the responsible use of commissioned agents in international student recruitment.