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Many universities set ambitious targets to increase the numbers of students studying abroad, some as part of IIE’s Generation Study Abroad initiative, some to attract prospects who demand opportunities for global experience, and some who feel it’s simply part of their educational mission. The institution’s own website and social media platforms can have a big impact on the success of these efforts.

Segment your audience to make sure you understand them

Study abroad prospects are likely to be as varied in their reasons for studying abroad as their individual needs are. But the way institutions tend to present most information about study abroad is by destination (generally country) and discipline, when there can be other important ways to split the messaging.

As an example, groups of students interested in study abroad often fall into these categories:

• Career-oriented students who want the maximum bang for their buck on their resume

• Internationally minded students who want to live or work abroad after college

• Students just looking to have fun with their friends (which you may or may not want to encourage!)

• “Heritage” students looking to connect with their own backgrounds

• Serious students who need to study abroad for their particular academic field

Audit your sites from the perspective of your market segments

Simply deciding on the priority order of each of your segments and creating personas (fictional biographical representations) for each of them can be a great first step towards improving your existing marketing collateral. Once the segments and priorities are clear, the next step is to take a hard look at how well your current digital environment likely serves these personas.

A simple audit can start with the study abroad office’s primary website and social media sites, but should also include the major academic departments, schools, and programs that your persona would likely visit. This process can include a series of questions/tasks based on the standard “customer journey”, from deciding where to study abroad, to checking eligibility for the desired location, to applying and enrolling.

This process can lead to great ideas about how to make sure your existing online efforts really serve your study abroad prospects, and can even inspire ideas about new events, competitions, outreach to student groups or departments, or even types of programs.

A grab-bag of ideas from the web

There are so many great ways to promote study abroad, and many ideas can be modified to work for a particular institution or audience segment. We often advise universities to look at their competitors, third-party providers (who often have larger marketing budgets and teams than individual universities), and institutions that send large numbers of students abroad (this list of the top 12 institutions by percentage of students studying abroad from US News is a good place to start).

The University of Washington’s Study Abroad website is an all-around best practice that’s attractive, mobile-friendly, and clearly organized around user needs. The “Students” section is divided into the very logical categories of “Getting Started”, “Find a Program”, “Before You Go”, “While Away”, “When You Return”, and “Resources”; there are lots of resources for faculty and staff and parents; and an “Emergency”

• Student takeovers like the ones on Pace University’s Study Abroad Instagram account are perfect for study abroad – you generate authentic, attractive content while expanding your reach to the student’s own social network.

CEA’s homepage currently displays a big section to generate leads from new visitors that asks them to fill-in-the-blanks with the following to get a $750 travel voucher: “I want to {study or intern} abroad with CEA in {choose location} during {choose term}.”

• Arcadia University sends 87% of their students abroad – and nearly every single academic program includes information (and encouragement!) about study abroad as part of the only 4-5 major headers in the template (look at Public Health or Business Administration as examples).

The Global Exchange Ambassadors at the University of Amsterdam generate interest in study abroad by creating lots of content online (testimonials, a newsletter, etc.).

The sites on this list should provide some inspiration for changes that might improve your own outreach. And if you there are other sites that offer great models, please add them in the comments section!

Megan Brenn-White has nearly two decades of experience in international education and content development, most of which has been helping higher education institutions communicate more effectively online with international audiences. She founded The Brenn-White Group in 2010.​​

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