Posted at 08:50h
This month, we are joined by Melissa Abache from Koç University in Turkey. As the Global Engagement Development Manager, Melissa is at the forefront of Koç’s internationalization efforts. We met with Melissa to understand how she and her team engage with prospective students along their enrollment journey to better increase conversion.
Could you outline to us your student recruitment team and tell us more about your main responsibilities?
We are a team of two people and we are now recruiting for another position. We also get additional support from Erasmus interns or some of our undergraduate students who help us with some administrative tasks.
Our main responsibilities include planning for online and offline activities, budgeting and of course looking after the recruitment and marketing activities. This entails updating our online profiles (providing content and news) as well as staying on top of all the email inquiries going to our study app email and main email address, as well as managing educational agencies that we have started to work with this year. We also work internally, along with professors, administrative staff members and other branches of the University to identify activities that we can do to help our international recruitment. Finally, we report to our senior managers about our international recruitment activities, providing annual statistical insight on our international student population: how many there are and where they are from (which country, schools or universities).
“We know our online efforts have extended our outreach in a very cost-effective way”
Technology has become a critical element in order to reach, engage and recruit students globally. What do you think about integrating online student recruitment channels with offline channels? What impact has it had on your international student recruitment?
I think it makes sense because we now live most of our lives online for better or worse. And that’s even more predominant among the students who will be joining universities in the next 2 to 5 years. So there is no choice about whether we do, it’s more about how much of it we can do successfully. We have started working on online student recruitment channels in the past two years. This year, we’re trying to advance our outreach by using online channels to promote our presence when we do recruitment trips. Again, we have barely started to use the full potential of this approach, but we are now able to track very valuable information and assess success. Therefore we know it has increased our feasibility in some of our target countries quite well, and in a very cost-effective way if you compare that to the cost of attending fairs or organizing recruitment trips abroad.
The other type of offline recruitment activity we do is through our professors and through our exchange students. When one of our professors or one of our current students travels to other universities for research, teaching assignments or is on Sabbatical, we provide them with informational material to share with interested students. We really want to spread the message that we are looking for the best students and that we provide great scholarships.
Otherwise, we are pushing our efforts to welcome prospective or interested students here on campus for visits and presentations. We want to be accessible in every possible way and provide the students with a great experience.
Do you see a difference in how you go about attracting students in Europe and students in Turkey?
Yes. When we mention our university to Turkish students, they are impressed because it is a very well-known university in Turkey. For European students and Asian students (India and China for instance), we work to show how prestigious of an institution we are. Moreover, since international students tend to focus on the UK, US, Australia, Canada and a few other European countries, we focus primarily on promoting Turkey as a great place to study with many opportunities.
Students want to fully know their future university before enrolling. What do you think are the most effective touchpoints to engage with prospective students along their enrollment journey to better increase conversion?
For us, what really works is to engage as early as possible. For example, we let Masters and Ph.D. students know about summer or short-term study programs. Essentially, we inform them that they can come and experience our University life, see the campus, use our facilities and get a feel for the atmosphere before they commit to our full degree program.
For undergraduate students, we organize “High School Visits” and engage with High School Counselors. Again, connecting with them early on is important, so we start meeting them before their final year of high school.
With the student enrollment journey happening more and more online, universities essentially have only a few minutes to impress prospective students. How is Koç succeeding in impressing prospective students and what role has Goodwall played to help you achieve this goal?
For us, what is always impressive is the fact that we give “Full Scholarships” for our Graduate Programs. Whenever we mention that it’s 100% tuition scholarships for Master Programs and for Ph.D. Programs, this really grabs attention. At the undergraduate level, the fact that we provide all of our Programs in English is a very strong point. Furthermore, compared to a US or UK, our tuitions are more affordable. We don’t emphasize scholarships but we emphasize affordability. The last thing which concerns all students is showing what our campus looks like. It is a beautiful campus and students always react enthusiastically when seeing pictures or videos.
“Beyond having a good message, the challenge is to get it out there, and Goodwall has helped us achieve this goal.”
Moreover, we have used the platform to deliver a much more personalized experience to students: since we can target them based on country, age and academic interests, our messaging is always
relevant to them specifically, and that creates a great relationship. Also, the platform is really wide in terms of diversity of students, so it has allowed us to access high school students in countries that we had never targeted, whether offline or online.
Is building relationships with students a key differentiator of student recruitment in an era where universities are a Google search away?
I think it definitely is important because the students who will be enrolling this year, next year and in the next five years are used to receiving a very personalized service from everything else. Think about online shopping or online registration for events or activities and the kind of service you get thereof. Thus, communication must be done the new way, by adopting less formal language and responding quickly, because that is the standard that they’ve gotten used to. Our target is to respond to every email within 24-48 hours, and even 48 hours I think is a bit late.
“Even though most of the inquiries have answers online, whether through Google, the University website, or our social media, I think it makes an important difference to students to have a person of reference via email.”
Of course, the bigger the University, the harder that is to achieve. Sometimes, the tendency can be to refer students to contact other units, but this is something we want to avoid.
One thing we do to provide valuable information is to recommend online resources where they can compare universities in Turkey. Indeed, some students have very specific questions that we can answer internally, and some are just starting to look around and might not have access to support in school or at home to guide them through university search and application. We want to support all students, not just those who plan to study at our institution. Often times, we will recommend other Turkish universities if the students are looking for programs we don’t offer or if they simply want to know more about the opportunities here.
What are your predictions about international student recruitment for the next three to five years?
We will see it become easier to automate processes. More tools will be available to provide and deliver information, reach students and communicate with them. We are also seeing growing interest in alternative countries for international higher education like Turkey or Malta for instance.