What can we learn from the insights of 24,000 prospective students?

Exploring university choices: 24,000 prospective students share their social media and search insights

The Keystone International Group, in its annual State of Student Recruitment report, has uncovered intriguing findings from a survey of nearly 24,000 prospective students eager to study abroad.

keystone education group

In this article, we delve into the nuances of where and how international students conduct their university research.

Read on to discover these insights and their potential implications for your strategic student recruitment efforts.

Social Media: A Growing Influence

Social media has seen a 6% surge in popularity compared to 2022. Instagram leads the way as the most popular social tool for discovery, capturing 27% of the vote.

insights from 2400 higher education prospective students

This is followed closely by Facebook. LinkedIn retains its position in third place, while YouTube experiences a remarkable 26% increase in popularity among students seeking their educational path.

The research for 2023 also affirms that online search remains the preferred method for initial research into institutions.

Effective and competitive SEO strategies for targeting international students therefore remain vital.

YouTube shines over TikTok

The video-sharing platform continues to expand its user base and, as this report proves, remains a valuable recruitment tool for institutions around the globe.

nsights from 2400 higher education prospective students

We’ve seen some innovative uses of the platform among universities over the past year, from impressive drone tours of campus to short documentaries bringing courses to life.

Using video in these new ways to attract potential students will continue to be pivotal for successful higher education digital marketing.

Interestingly, TikTok, despite its popularity among Gen Z, failed to gain mention in this year's State of Student Recruitment report, accounting for just 1% of social media discovery in 2022.

Crucial information: Scholarships and funding

Scholarship and funding remained the most important information sought from both undergraduate and post-graduate students.

And, informative guides were cited as the primary resource to be supplied by institutions.

The need for speed

Another key finding was the increasingly discerning attitude and lack of patience among prospective students pursuing information about institutions.

insights from 2400 higher education prospective students

There has been a 21% increase in students expecting a response immediately while 62% expect a response within 24 hours.

This rising expectation for instant communications perhaps reflects a growing world of effective and intuitive AI-powered chatbots.

However, only 9% of those surveyed were happy with instant messaging as a means of communication, with a whopping 76% preferring email.

So effective email marketing remains key, as well as making online journeys as bespoke, seamless, and insightful as possible.

insights from 2400 higher education prospective students

Shorter lead times

The survey also indicates shorter lead times for international students applying to universities. 
In 2023, 56% of students sought a place to study less than six months before applying, up from just over 45% in 2022. 

insights from 2400 higher education prospective students

Moreover, there was a 26% increase in students seeking to commence their studies in the same year, now totaling nearly 63%. These shorter timeframes offer valuable insights for digital marketing strategies targeting international students.

The shifting popularity of international destinations

Migration patterns for international students have undergone significant shifts since last year. 
Canada has replaced the UK as the top study-abroad destination, experiencing a remarkable 29% increase in popularity compared to 2022.

This shift coincides with a temporary suspension of the cap on hours international students can work in Canada.

insights from 2400 higher education prospective students

The UK has dropped to third place, with a 20% decline in popularity, positioning it slightly behind the USA. However, the UK remains the preferred choice for master's students.
Course Matters

More than half of students still prioritize the course they intend to study. For this group, internship opportunities provided by institutions weigh heavily in their decision-making process.

Thus, institutions should emphasize not only the course but also internship and career prospects, location, and the overall appeal of the host country to enhance international recruitment efforts.

Have you observed any new trends or behaviors among international students? We invite you to share your observations in the comments below or on our social media channels.