May 27, 2017 By G. John Cole
For colleges and universities interested in recruiting new students, the NAFSA conference is a major event. Mark Landerghini, Director of Graduate Admission, Arts and Sciences at the University of San Francisco will be among the participants heading to the Los Angeles event. He agreed to talk with us and share his experience on the importance of working with recruitment specialists and networking in the fascinating field of higher education.
Mark has held his position at USF since 2001, having attained his B.A. at Regis University, and M.A.s from Boston College and the University of Chicago. His years of experience in higher education means that Mark is very familiar with the challenges of student recruitment, and the NAFSA conference is an important part of his recruitment strategy. Every year, the conference gives Mark and other administrators a chance to learn from each other and from experts in higher education, and this shared learning experience is even more pertinent given the 2017 theme of the NAFSA conference - “Expanding Community, Strengthening Connections.”
With his knowledge base and experience, Mark will be able to contribute a lot at NASFA. The community of learners, leaders, and change-makers heading to the Los Angeles Convention Center are eager to learn about the latest news, trends, products and services available for international recruitment. For Mark and the University of San Francisco, those trends are mostly positive.
‘For our programs, the number of applications has actually been rising the past few years (including this current cycle),’ Mark told us, ‘which is not true across most graduate schools.’ When asked about how he has managed to keep application numbers up, Mark says, ‘Keystone Academic Solutions websites, GRE Search, the online advertising tool Google AdWords, LinkedIn and the Google and Bing retargeting are the best tools I can think of.
‘Take Keystone’s website Masterstudies.com: the number and quality of leads from this website has significantly increased our pipeline of international inquiries, which has also expanded the funnel at the application level.’
For Mark and his team, it’s not all about impressive figures but rather the ability to target specific countries and regions: ‘It is important for us, as the diversification of our international markets and population is a key priority.’
Mark advises other schools looking to recruit international students to consider the quality and effectiveness of their marketing strategies in relation to their enrollment goals. For Mark and the University of San Francisco, the range of connections made through services like Keystone Academic Solutions is something to take seriously.
‘Instead of pay per click, or pay per lead, or pay per impressions, Keystone Academic Solutions provides unlimited inquiries each month, from students who actually request information from us for our university's specific graduate programs and who provide their contact information.’
The challenge, however, is to convert these applications into enrollments. This is the key reason for using the kind of targeted marketing that can deliver meaningful results. According to Mark, a university’s brand or a program’s reputation is also important – particularly so for graduate programs. The location of an institution can be a strong contributing factor in attracting international students, too.
As graduate schools see the number of applications stagnating, Mark leaves us on a positive note: the best response to difficult times is to market strategically and to allow relationships with potential students to develop over time.
‘With limited marketing budgets, the use of marketing resources must be very strategic and focused rather than a wide net. Patience is also important, as it can involve several recruitment seasons before inquiries become applicants, and applicants become students.’