In the Southern Hemisphere, the academic year starts in February 2019 – but for institutions, getting things ready for the new intake needs to begin much sooner. So what should schools do to prepare?
Remind international students of the recruitment calendar
Oceania is a special place where Christmas is held on the beach and the sports seasons reach their summit in July and August! For locals, this feels normal, but international students may not always be aware of the Southern hemisphere’s topsy-turvy calendar.
It's essential that an institution's marketing tools – from their website and social media to print material such as the prospectus – make the admissions deadlines very clear. Inbound students might not expect to see application deadlines hurtling towards them as early as December. Social media, in particular, can be used to nudge curious international students to submit their application as soon as possible to improve their chances of success.
The proportion of students using agents rose by 18% between 2007-2013 and nearly half of all Chinese students, for example, now work with education agents as they plan their further studies. But intercultural experts with local marketing strategies can bridge the cultural gap between schools and their recruits, side-stepping the need for agents with a multilingual approach to materials and communications.
All parties benefit from improved communication and understanding during the marketing, application, and registration processes. As schools prepare for the next intake, they should reach out to agents to establish relationships and share information.
Offering up-to-date visa help
Getting the correct staying permission is certainly not something to leave until too late. Schools should take time to create clear, step-by-step guides to the visa procedures for students from each represented country and make them easily accessible online.
And aside from the nitty-gritty of the application process, it’s important to once again flag up those dates to incoming students. Social media, email, and other messaging services can be used to reinforce the local timing of visa deadlines.
Visa applications can feel complicated and stressful to incoming students, so preparing a service to respond to their queries promptly will reflect well on the school and smooth the process for everyone.
Prepare on-arrival support
Even the best-prepared students are likely to be caught off-guard by the administrative and cultural nuances of making a new life in a new country. But institutions have the resources to prepare a straightforward on-boarding process.
The school should be prepared to offer airport transfers that allow for early and late arrivals, unpredictable levels of luggage, and the appearance of several recruits at once. Schools should also take responsibility for ensuring that students have somewhere decent to stay, especially in those first weeks while they’re finding their way around and looking for something more permanent.
And the social aspect can be prepared for in advance by establishing a mentoring service and connecting students with their mentor. Well-organized integration days will connect students with each other and empower them to solve problems together as they begin to feel at home
Set up on-going services for international students on campus
A university’s international student office is the first stop for foreign arrivals. Officers may be dealing with hundreds of students, but for some of those new arrivals, their officer will be the only familiar name on campus.
Students will have all kinds of needs and questions, from requests for academic help to language tutoring to career services. They may also have more personal worries. A counseling center to help against loneliness or homesickness can make for a reassuring base when students touch down on the opposite side of the planet with limited experience and high expectations.
It’s a lot to think about, but it’s also a very optimistic moment as ambitious eyes look towards Oceania for a new start next February.