Chelsea Samantha

Building a digital presence across international student journey touchpoints


Online counselling, webinars, and virtual campus tours have become the norm in 2022, and now,  an increasingly competitive landscape for international recruitment, institutions are being called upon to bring this digital experience into the marketing and recruitment process to stay competitive. 

Replicate the face-to-face journey as closely as possible 

Creating a seamless end-to-end digital journey through every stage of education, before, during, and after enrolment is increasingly becoming a key differentiator for universities. Institutions can maximise engagement and drive conversion by accompanying students through every step of the recruitment process in replacement of physical, face-to-face interactions.  

Bringing back the human element into these virtual interactions can be a challenge, but there are a few things universities can do to foster meaningful interactions even in the presence of physical distance. According to Claudia Zambrano, Campaign Clients & Partnerships Manager at Studyportals, keeping the size of the group small is one of them. She also added that having a virtual onboarding strategy and materials can help students feel like they are a part of something even if they are not there. 

Tania Gutiérrez, Campaign Manager at Studyportals suggests creating virtual communities that incentivises prospective students, staff and alumni to interact and support each other: “This is something that is growing fast in the industry as more universities are testing using channels as WhatsApp, Telegram etc. to invite and have an on-going discussion with prospective students, alumni and staff. This enables a more natural environment for students to participate and share with the university.” 

Just like every other marketing initiative, a strong digital strategy starts with a good understanding of the students. The article “Segmenting and targeting international students” in this series explores how those two practices can help institutions deepen their understanding of prospective students by going through the process of clearly defining them. 

Having a comprehensive understanding of prospective students allows institutions to create personalised online experiences that are increasingly being expected by students today. Universities should identify the different places where students are engaging with them and the different touchpoints that are important. 

A journey map pinpoints the relationship between a student and the university over time and across all channels that they interact with.  


These are the key elements that comprise a journey map:  

Student journey steps  

Student goals  

Interaction touchpoints  

Experience or pain-points 

Whether through social media, webinars, or virtual tours, the aim should always be to deliver consistent experiences that are developed with prospective students in mind.  

One additional advantage of a digital journey is that it can be tracked and measured. Identify gaps and opportunities by mapping what is offered now, and what is asked by international students. 

Keep an open communication line at each stage of the journey.  

In today’s uncertain times marked by constant changes in travel bans, border restrictions, and regulations across many countries in the world, students are requiring more personalised attention than ever. Even with regularly updated FAQ and information pages, students will still have unanswered questions that are unique to their situation. 

Universities need to make sure that they maintain an active presence on each of their channels that exist across various touchpoints in the student journey. The more channel a university opens up, the more likely students will touch base. Ashley Dunlop, Director at University of Winnipeg, says that this can be fundamental in guiding students down the enrolment funnel: ‘We found that using digital to take those leads by the hand, give them multiple touchpoints that give the student access to you, has helped us with the conversion’. Additionally, lead follow-up and nurture also play an important role in converting prospective students into enrolments. ‘We’ve spent a lot of time investigating what the logical next steps for each student should be. You could have hundreds of leads sitting there, but unless you have a strong strategy of how to engage with those leads, it’s a lot of money and it’s going to have very little impact.’ 

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