For the sake of discussion, let’s take off the table all fully-funded international students (the usual suspects, if you will) and let’s focus on international student applicants from developing countries that all universities seem to want but can’t quite seem to attract.
#1. The Online Application Fee
There is no more divisive tradition than the application fee, which can run from $40 to $250 or more for international applications. While most American administrators find this fee innocuous and necessary, typically covering processing costs and courier fees, international students from developing nations will specifically choose universities without application fees (in a heartbeat) over higher-rated and more prestigious institutions that charge application fees.
Seriously, this is the biggest difference between one applicant and fifty applicants.
#2. The Online International Application
If your online international application portal was designed by an American programmer under the guidance of your admissions committee, I can already tell you that you’re in trouble. We spend hours on hold with colleges and universities explaining that international phone numbers are not ten digits or international students do not have social security numbers or even addresses requiring zip codes (do you mean pincode?), which all just goes to reinforce in the minds of the international family that your institution is out of touch with the needs and desires of your intended international population.
#3. The Courier Fee
If your college or university cannot cover the cost of sending original acceptance documents to your accepted international students using FedEx or DHL then consider using USPS with tracking. It will take a little longer, but it’ll make it to the student in the same kind of cardboard document folder but at a third of the cost.
#4. Scanned Documents
If your university policy is to review only original (not scanned documents from certified or licensed agents), you are effectively eliminating hundreds or even thousands of potential applications each year. Ask the university down the street with the vibrant and diverse international population about how to process scanned documents; simply require accepted international students to submit original documents when they arrive at your doorstep.
#5. Processing Time
If your university cannot process an international bachelor application and issue an acceptance letter and I-20 within 7 business days, you have a huge problem. And while we’re on the subject, a graduate application, regardless of how archaic or non-centralized the process might be, must be completed within 14 days of the submission. Competing colleges and universities in the US as well as at other English speaking countries are regularly producing documents at this pace, which is the expected rate amongst the international community you are attempting to recruit.
#6. Transcript Evaluation
If you thought a $75 app fee was a deterrent, try asking a student from a developing nation to pay $230 or more for a transcript evaluation. If you cannot interpret transcripts internally, your prospective student will be graduating from another US institution or at a Canadian university near you.
#7. IELTS or TOEFL
Yes, I agree language acquisition is essential in the evaluation of a prospective international student; however, let us not confuse language acquisition with intelligence. And if your minimum IELTS or TOEFL score is the same as the Top 100 universities in the US, your tier 3 college is effectively attempting to compete head-to-head with academic institutions with better reputations, better rankings, and a much larger endowment, which is to say that your professors might be happy but your admissions office is not.
#8. International Deadlines
While I fully concede that deadlines are crucial for admissions officers to complete the tedious task of evaluating thousands of applications, US application deadlines are typically not aligned with academic calendars in developing nations. If diversity and growth are important to your institution then either allow flexibility with international submissions or change your deadlines.
#9. Recommendation Letters
Who told US institutions that the same personal one-on-one relationships between students and professors in the US system exist outside our continent? Demanding an international student to ask three professors to write personal anecdotal recommendation letters and submit them into a portal with English instructions is futile.
#10. International Agencies
Has your institution considered partnering with a certified international student placement agency? Why are you flying your limited admissions staff half way around the world to a college fair when a qualified international agent can bring fully-vetted international applicants to your door step? McGovern Education Group is a contractual partner with hundreds of US colleges, universities, and boarding schools and we still have hundreds of capable international applicants who remain unplaced at the end of each recruiting cycle simply because of submission deadlines.
What sense does it make to have capable international students eager to attend your university but instead of reviewing their documents after a deadline, you choose instead to fly your staff to international cities to set up a booth in a conference room with a hundred other universities to compete for the attention of the same international students?
Ask yourself: Do you want a diverse, vibrant international student population in those empty seats or not? If so, it’s time for administrative leadership to get the team together and start making some important policy changes.