Internationalizing Your Private School - Recruiting International Students

Today we want to share with you a few tips on how to set up an international student recruiting program for your school. As the former Head of an international boarding school in Canada, I was tasked with aggressively expanding both domestic and international enrollment. Something that takes both foresight and investment.

When I was the Head of an international girl's boarding school I was challenged with expanding  international and domestic boarding enrollment quickly. This was a challenge when faced with a limited budget and assurance that the school would continue to only accept students who reflect the mission of the school. In some ways, having a finite budget makes one more deliberate on where the most value from the investment comes from; a habit that I further expanded as I required all marketing results to be measured on an enrollment basis (or ROI - Return On Investment).

Here are few tips that I uses when I was at the school to help increase international student enrollment. Some of it may be more suitable for a boarding school, while others may be more applicable to a day school. Either way, these strategies should not be done on a one off basis and certainly shouldn't be done separately - they should be done in combination to build momentum and....enrollment.

  1. Attend 3-5 agent recruiting fairs a year, culling the bottom bottom list of your current agents and replacing them with new, more productive and eager agents (new agents always want to please you at the start).
  2. Attend 4-7 international student recruiting fairs globally in key markets that provide the best return (e.g., Korea, China, Taiwan, Mexico, Germany). Note: regional demand is always dependent on your school's location and program.
  3. Visit agents at their office in each city and update your school's files and hold a meet-and-greet session with local parents/students at the agent's office (who also promotes the event) and they get their cut.
  4. Host alumni cocktail sessions in each city with current/former parents/students and have them invite a new parent to the event.
  5. Have multi-lingual parents come to your recruiting booth at the recruiting fair and have them talk to prospective parents...who better to sell your school than a happy parent.
  6. Set up a graduated commission fee system with agents whereby they receive bonuses on top of their regular commission when they reach specific milestones, with the top recruiters being invited to your school to meet the Head and Board, visit your campus, have a photo shoot and framed photo and trophy or plaque to commemorate their achievement to take back home (parents always ask where this trophy came from...who doesn't like to brag!), and even give them an inscribed watch etc. Whatever it may be, you need to recognize and reward them and ultimately separate you from the other schools.
  7. Ramp up your recruiting office with regional admissions staff focused on specific markets.
  8. Always add a new market each year as part of your expansion and diversification.
  9. Prepare marketing materials and web site in multi-languages.
  10. Set up a back-end to your website portal that allows agents access to the most recent marketing/enrollment materials for your school that they can use for their presentation to parents/students.
  11. Set up a sister-school program in other countries to attract students.

As a Head, I set up a progressive commission system with recruiting agents to incentify them to put my school at the top of their list. It worked very well, doubling enrollment over a three year time frame. Take a look over the list above and see what's applicable to your school and put a budget, timelines, and staffing against each strategy.

Next Step:

If you're interested in finding out more about expanding your schools international student enrollment or other services HEG provides, please contact our firm directly by email to or call HEG at +1-604-868-0002.