In Country Representatives: A Tale of Two Models

intl student recruitmentA growing number of educational institutions are turning to in country, including regional, representatives to assist them with international student recruitment.  While this option obviously costs more than other recruitment tools and techniques because it includes the cost of a local salary, benefits (?), and other expenses, including travel and marketing, it can potentially be more productive.  It all depends on your representative, her/his skill, network, and a variety of market conditions. 

There are basically two models from which to choose:

An Independent Consultant:  You hire someone, ideally, a host country national who speaks the language, perhaps has studied overseas, and has a good education-related network.  Your rep essentially works at home, which saves your institution money.  You pay her/him directly via international wire transfer.  Sounds simple, right?  

An Outsourced Consultant:  A host country national who is employed by a legally licensed company but who represents your institution exclusively.  The Viet Nam-based employer assumes legal responsibility for your representative and handles payroll and other administrative issues, in addition to providing “supervision lite”, and offering strategic advice.

The main difference between the two models is that the first is technically illegal while the second is legal.  Regarding the former:  is anyone ever going to call you on it?  Probably not but they could – either within Viet Nam or from abroad.    

The problem is that foreign entities are not permitted to operate in Viet Nam without an official (read legal) presence, i.e., a license.  Consider this food for thought for those who currently employ an independent consultant from afar, or are considering doing so.

Peace, MAA

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EducationUSA Fairs: The Importance of In Country Follow-Up

new edusa logoEducationUSA fairs in Viet Nam and other countries can be a cost-effective way to recruit students.  The location of the fairs and the network of the local EducationUSA office that organizes the events determine who comes, more or less. 

As I’ve written before, sometimes the goals of the US State Department and recruiters diverge.  For example, one of the goals of the former is outreach and the exercise of soft power.  This means that they occasionally organize fairs in locations that are not promising in terms of ability to pay and therefore realistic interest in study in the USA. 

The role of EducationUSA is simple.  Organize an event that offers decent quantity and, more importantly, quality attendance.  What about post-fair follow-up?  Obviously, EdUSA advisers promote study in the USA as a whole and not individual institutions. 

While US colleagues follow up in English, that is not enough.  They need to have someone contact students in Vietnamese, starting with the “hot leads,” via email, telephone and, if possible, Facebook, the #2 website in Viet Nam.  This will greatly increase the chances of converting leads into applications and admits. This can be done by trusted education agents or other in country representatives.  

Peace, MAA

The Art & Science of Creating Good Videos

youtube

Vietnamese get most of their information from online sources, including social media, primarily Facebook.  They also watch a lot of video, 2 hours, 43 minutes a day, to be precise, according to the results of the annual We Are Social and Hootsuite update.  As a result, YouTube ranks 4th among all websites in Viet Nam, according to SimilarWeb.  It is for this reason that videos should be an integral part of any digital marketing campaign. 

I see a lot of online videos intended to promote various educational institutions but not very many quality ones that young people, i.e., potential international students, would actually watch.  In all honesty, most fall into the bad and ugly categories.  Here are two examples.  It would be best to illustrate my points by showing you real videos but that’s not possible, for obvious reasons, the most important of which I would not want to embarrass the offending parties.

Low quality content:  A lot of videos I see are of the talking head variety.  Either students are sitting or standing in one location talking about their school and related experiences, or someone is interviewing them using a talk show format. 

In one video, the students being interviewed looked like prisoners, sitting with hands folder, and dutifully answering question after question.  In another, a student was obviously reading off of a script and looking into the camera with the occasional nervous smile.  Not convincing, invariably boring and, sometimes, painful, to watch. 

Vietnamese students will click on the link, watch for a second or two, and then quickly move elsewhere in search of more inspirational, educational, and/or meaningful content. 

Poor sound quality:  Content aside, many videos are not professional or even semi-professional.  Either staff or students are using substandard equipment and do not have experience making videos for the demographic in question.  It’s like with photography.  Everyone with a smartphone is a “photographer” but very few know how to take good photos worth looking at. 

nas dailyNas Daily is an example from Facebook that I often share with colleagues.  His daily one-minute videos are crisp, fast-paced, and a pleasure to watch and listen to with commentary, interviews, and background music.   He has over 5.8 million followers and over a billion views, which means he must be doing something right.  The point is his videos are worth watching. 

Peace, MAA

An Ode to International Student Recruiters

IMG_4587

One of the privileges and pleasures of my work is watching colleagues connect with young Vietnamese who are interested in overseas study, be it at a fair, coffee talk, info session, or individual meeting at a hotel. 

Traveling to Viet Nam and other sending countries is still one of the most effective ways to recruit students, especially if the recruiter is good, which most are.  Sitting at home because of budgetary constraints or other reasons and relying solely on armchair techniques is not going to get the job done, especially in competitive markets.

From parents’ and students’ perspective, it’s a way to put a face to an institution, someone they can like, respect, and trust.  Someone who will follow up, be responsive to inquiries via email, Facebook, and chat apps, and stay in touch. 

Good recruiters enjoy their work.  You can hear it in their conversations and see it in their smiles and body language.  So can students and parents.  Those who do not take pleasure in their work seem (are?) bored and disinterested.  It’s obvious their hearts aren’t in it.  Fortunately, these individuals are few and far between.

IMG_4492As someone who helps create opportunities for colleagues to meet with Vietnamese students and parents, I have the utmost respect for my colleagues who do this important work and know how hard they work.  While the life of an international recruiter may seem glamorous to the folks back home, including exotic pics posted on Facebook, and it does have its rewards, it is time away from loved ones and not enough time for proper rest and relaxation.  

In addition, Viet Nam’s evening is their morning “back home”, i.e., for those from North America, which means they have additional work to complete, including emails and online chats with colleagues.

US colleagues, especially in higher education, have the added burden of essentially trying to counteract the statements, proposals, and policies of their own government, now more than ever.  Rather than providing support or not doing anything at all, the US government, through President Trump and his supporters, is continuously setting up road blocks that they have to get around or hoops they have to jump through.  The end results are huge amounts of wasted energy and growing frustration.

IMG_4496The main and immediate job-related reward for recruiters is admitting a new Vietnamese or other international student who gets a visa and arrives on campus ready to begin her or his new academic and cross-cultural adventure.  A potential long-term reward is the personal, academic, and professional transformation that many young people undergo after a rewarding and substantive international experience.

Peace, MAA

How Many Students Will You Send Us?

globeI occasionally receive inquiries from colleagues asking me how many students will I refer to their institutions by a certain term, i.e., semester or quarter.  The assumption behind the question is that the company I work for, Capstone Vietnam, a full-service educational consulting company, follows the traditional agent model of student recruitment. 

In fact, we have our own unique model that views students and parents as clients not partner institutions that happen to pay a per head commission.  This means we don’t drive, or pressure, students to attend a partner school but rather look for “best fit” schools, regardless of their status.

If a student ends up attending a partner institution, we refund our fee to the parents because we receive a commission later.  If s/he enrolls in a non-partner school, we retain the fee because that’s how we get paid for the service.  It’s an ethical approach to educational advising that also makes financial sense. 

That’s part of the answer.

educated consumerAnother is that growing numbers of Vietnamese students are applying directly to certain types of educational institutions, thereby bypassing educational consulting companies.  This is a positive trend that I applaud.  (It includes students who attend Capstone events.)  More power to them, in my opinion.  It reminds me of a slogan from a now defunct US discount retail clothing store chain, SYMS, that was ingrained in my memory, thanks to persistent and pervasive marketing:  An Educated Consumer is our Best Customer

MAA

Of Chickens, Eggs, & International Student Recruitment

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

chicken eggThis is the idiom that pops into my head whenever a colleague says to me, “You send us a few students, then we’ll join one of your events,” as if taking advantage of an institutional service such as a fair or info session were an expression of gratitude.  These requests are few and far between, fortunately.  Colleagues who make them lack an awareness of the nature of these events and assume that every education company is primarily a traditional agent.

In highly competitive markets such as Viet Nam, you should ideally be doing both, i.e.,  commission-based recruitment and participating in a variety of digital and offline activities, all of which cost money, one way or the other.  Joining an education fair, for example, creates a valuable opportunity for meeting face-to-face with parents and students and making connections that could translate into inquiries, apps, and admits.  Public events such as fairs, info sessions, and coffee talks are fee-based services that are expensive to market, which is why they should not be viewed as “rewards” for sending an institution students.  They are a means to that important end.

In addition, the company I work for is not a traditional education agent, meaning its advisers do not pressure students to attend partner schools.  Students and their parents are the clients in that instance not partner schools, which means the goal is always to look for best fit schools for each and every student, regardless of the institutions’ status.

MAA

Irony

Charlottesville & EducationUSA

Defined as:

a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.

That and surreal are the words that best describe a situation I encountered while reading an online US newspaper article about the white supremacist “rally” in Charlottesville, VA.  (This was before the violence, including deaths and injuries, that occurred the following day.)

Scrolling down, I suddenly noticed a two-minute EducationUSA video with a link to learn more.  Below are two screenshots. 

edusa1edusa2

The irony became much thicker after Donald Trump failed to condemn the actions of the white supremacists in this Tweet:

trump and charlottesville

MAA