Declines in funding, coupled with strong global demand for North American higher education, are leading many institutions to recruit more international students at the undergraduate level. These students are increasingly younger, more diverse, and less academically-prepared than the international students schools are accustomed to serving, and many campuses are finding their existing resources and services insufficient to serve their needs.
The strategy that can help you increase student support—without hiring more staff
This study profiles the high-impact strategies and programs innovative institutions are employing to meet the needs of this new and growing population of undergraduate international students. It focuses on four key areas of support that EAB research identified as particularly important for international students: the transition to campus, academic integrity, career development, and mental health services.
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Defining today's international student
The number of international students on North American campuses has grown significantly across the past few years and is continuing to do so, but there is no consensus on what an “international student” is. It is a broad term that can be used to refer to many different groups of students, such as: undergraduates, postgraduates, short-term exchange students, and non-enrolled ESL learners, among others.
For the purposes of this research, we are defining an international student as one who is studying at the full-time, undergraduate level in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K., but is a citizen of another country. Learn more about today's international students.
Best practices to help ensure international student success
Section 1: Navigating Successful Campus Transitions
When international students first arrive on campus, they are overwhelmed, in culture shock, and (often) jetlagged. However, it is at this time that they receive a plethora of information and are required to make a variety of important decisions.
To help students get their bearings, universities have historically tried to accelerate the learning curve by sharing a lot of information upon arrival. While the intentions are good, many interviewees suggest that the reality is an information dump, which is neither effective nor helpful for students. To address this issue, innovative institutions are doing more to smooth out the learning curve. These colleges are developing opportunities to educate and inform new students before they arrive on campus, as well as during strategic moments across the first semester.
Section 2: Revamping Academic Integrity Initiatives
One area where international students struggle particularly is with academic integrity. Many of the problems international students face arise from misunderstandings as to what constitutes academic work in North America, and how these expectations differ from the cultural norms in their home countries. To tackle this problem, many colleges have invested time and resources in developing sessions on academic integrity as part of international student orientation
Section 3: Developing Customized Career Resources
While initial and transitional support represents some of international students’ greatest needs, research shows that they are increasingly focused on career prospects both during the recruitment process and once they arrive on campus. However, while these students are eager to find employment in North America, they encounter a variety of obstacles in the process, including complex visa regulations, employers unwilling to sponsor them, and differences around cultural norms and workplace expectations.
Section 4: Recalibrating Mental Health Outreach
While international students often report levels of anxiety and depression that are higher than their domestic peers, they are far less likely to seek help. One of the biggest challenges for universities is raising awareness among international students about campus support resources.
Find helpful audits, worksheets, and exercises in our International Students Toolkit.