As existing trends show, the number of students going abroad for further studies is growing steadily. Being mindful of the extensive influence it will have on their lives; students are very particular about the choices that are involved in making the decision to head overseas.
Before beginning their official enrollment process at a college or university of their choice, it is very important that the provisions they get at their disposal meet their exclusive needs. Therefore, it is imperative for education consultants to understand the needs and expectations of their clients beforehand. One of the foremost factors in meeting their expectations is to understand the reasons why students opt to go abroad for higher education.
As students make the major decision of their lives before going abroad for further studies, your responsibility as a counselor is to ensure that this decision works out in all respects of the students’ expectations. As well as being a guide, mentor and mediator, you will also be a confidant who understands their expectations and works to address them to the highest possible degree. You share a large part of the responsibility of converting their expectations to reality.
Why do students go abroad?
Apart from wanting to “see the world”, this also depends on where the students are coming from, mainly social status, attitudes, and country of origin. Other major reasons that influence their decision relate to experiencing a different learning culture, destination country and city, and career opportunities.
They also envisage a brighter future by way of personal development and gaining life experiences. Social, cultural and financial reasons do play a role as well. Students from developed countries wanting to study abroad generally have more experiential reasons to do so, while those from developing countries may see it as a stepping-stone to success. Those eager to study languages find it more practical to live and work in the country where the language originated or spoken widely by the locals. It is one of the best ways to learn a language. However, students from developing countries may want to, but may not see it as financially viable for the long-term.
Many students from developing countries, more often than not, have financial liabilities back home, in the form of student loans. To clear it, they tend to look for courses that can give them quick returns once they commence their careers or the option of applying for permanent residencies, work visas and so on. This is not to say that they do not have experiential aspirations from their courses. Study abroad benefits exist in many different ways, dependent on a combination of factors, but mainly cultural and economic. This is the most important thing to understand before meeting their other expectations.
Students expectations of University
While assessing study abroad benefits, students naturally want to know about the teaching and learning methods practiced in academic institutions before they enroll there. Time-relevant facilities, excellence in teaching, academic support, recognition and involvement in innovative learning methods are usually the benefits of studying abroad that tend to encourage students to become a part of the institution.
The availability of spacious and well-equipped libraries, laboratories and new technologies often win the confidence of potential scholars. Overseas students, at least in their first year, are prone to being particular about accommodation facilities at the university, as they will be living abroad on their own, and in a new culture. Other facilities like financial support, medical care, and career counselling also matter.
Never Miss Out
Subscribe to the latest published post along with industry news that you can't miss.
Besides the tangible provisions, students expect their academic institution to be well-rated in the country, if not the world. The learning environment must be safe, and free from discrimination and harassment. University policies on equal opportunities and inclusiveness tend to win the hearts of clients from diverse countries and cultures, becoming a boon for the institution itself.
You can help students choose universities that increase their participation in the local communities. With a wish to enable their personal growth and widen social horizons, students will enjoy participating in local events, volunteering, and other co-curricular activities.
Students expectations of Course & Career
Various surveys have shown that future employment prospects influence the decisions of students in their choice of colleges and universities abroad.
They also make their decisions based on the quality and standard of the courses available. Many universities provide an extensive variety of courses. For example, official figure shows that universities in the United Kingdom offer nearly 30,000 courses. While on one hand, students may be attracted to the range of courses on offer and on the other hand, they may be very particular about the course they have decided to undertake, and the quality they expect from it.
In most cases, particularly true of students from developing countries, they are genuinely interested in migration or work opportunities once they finish their courses. Studying abroad is a huge risk they undertake, financially and emotionally, so this attitude is understandable. While a number of students do return to their native countries after completing their studies abroad, there are many who opt to settle in the diaspora. Thus, depending on life choices, some students make their course decisions based on its prospects in their home or host country. Given that they have a general tendency to seek courses that have economic benefits, as a counselor, it is also your duty to guide them in the right direction by identifying their aptitudes and passions.
It is apparent that students going abroad to pursue higher studies are seeking academic degrees that have global recognition. Facilities that help to increase their knowledge and gain professional expertise through firsthand experiences are what students expect their universities to provide. Internships and training programs that help them hone their skills in their chosen career often encourage students. As the qualification students receive upon graduating often become the determining factor for future employment opportunities, they carefully scrutinize this connection between degrees and prospective jobs. They will look at the prospects of what the course can offer – the relevant experiences they will garner and placement opportunities provided by the college or university.
Students expectations of destination country
The first choice your client will decide upon is the country they wish to study. While a number of developed countries make it to the list of the most preferred destinations, students will look into the attributes of these potential places before making their final decision. In varying degrees, blogger Laura Bridgestock, in her article titled ‘15 of the Best Places to Study Abroad in 2015’ ranked Paris, Melbourne and London as the first, second and third most preferred places.
The cultural context of the host country is a big factor for your clients. How accepting is the environment there? Does the country or city has a history of racial tension? How is the local food? What are the recreational facilities? Is there part time work available? Try answering questions like these. It will give your clients a realistic assessment of their destination. Societies that are more welcoming to multilingual and multicultural activities often become the choice of destination for international students.
It is quite common for clients to choose places that are globally recognized. Apart from the academic activities that ensue in their careers, they will also want other things, which the new communities have to offer. In this, clients may expect to get opportunities from their new surroundings that will help their personal and professional growth. Local festivals, history and vivacity of life in the new place are other factors that attract international students. For example, Boston in the United States is the ‘Athens of America’ for its intellectual pursuit. Melbourne in Australia is one of the most cosmopolitan and student-friendly cities in the country.
Students expectations of You (Education Counselor)
Education counselors are valued advisors to students who seek guidance in their pursuit of higher education. This is after all what a client expects from you as well. You must understand the motive, expectation and concerns of the clients and look for ways to address them accordingly. Giving your clients a number of options can be a great way to initiate the whole process. That way, the students get to know they have more options than they expected, while it also convinces them of your eligibility. The common goal here for both client and counselor is to seek the best possible ways for academic achievement of the client. The client will expect you to have a well laid-out plan for the process, be practical, informative, and quick to respond.
One of your responsibilities is also to show the client what they might be missing out should they be adamant about their career path. Students are generally young people with a lot of enthusiasm and may be thinking of careers that do not really match their abilities or interest. Many families in developing countries coerce their children to take up careers for which they have no genuine passion. Such attitudes eventually lead to frustration and anxiety. The information you provide to them as a mentor must be dependable. The goals you help the client set should be realistic and result-oriented.
Your goal should be just out of reach, but not out of sight. – Denis Waitley and Remi Witt
Being aware of the sensitivity that might be associated with the information clients provide is essential to your profession. You have to safeguard all information and the relative backdrops shared by the client, and strictly maintain confidentiality. Developing proximity with the clients so that the entire process becomes one of mutual collaboration and not just a profession is one of the best ways of winning the client’s trust.
Get closer than ever to your customer. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realise it themselves. – Steve Jobs
A quick test to find out if you have been doing it right
Ask For Testimonials
Getting feedback is one way to evaluate how effective your service has been. The results will help prepare your business plan, outreach, and processes. Working with feedback helps analyze the performance of your service, and explore ways to make the service more effective in the future. Ask your clients for honest testimonials of your service, including suggestions on improvement. Include good and positive testimonials on your website or social media page.
Ask new clients how they heard about your service, whether it was word of mouth or if they saw it advertised somewhere. Incentivize them to refer your services to their friends. While asking for referrals, you can also get clients to mention why they like your service.
Conduct Online Surveys
Websites like ‘Survey Monkey’ help conduct surveys, which you can customize as per your needs and preferences. You can pick the type of survey and audience. The site has millions of qualified respondents who will be involved in the survey. ‘Formstack’ is another website, which is a versatile online form builder. You can use these surveys to help save time, stay connected and be consistent. If you have a Facebook page, it too has options to conduct online surveys.