Are You Making a Good First Impression?

If you belong to a university concerned with international student recruitment, this article is for you. If your institution isn’t concerned with international recruitment yet, but you’re aiming to become a world-class university, the ability to attract the highest quality candidates from all over the world is probably going to be on your agenda soon…

QS spent four months travelling around the world, speaking to prospective international students to learn more about their motivations when applying to universities abroad. More specifically, we wanted to find out just how much first impressions matter and what would turn a student that’s never heard of your university into a student who will apply tomorrow and just how long that transition takes. We’ve met students from the Americas, China, South East Asia, India and Europe and asked them a series of questions around their first interaction with a university online and in person.

As a result, we produced a short white paper outlining the top 10 tips on how to make ‘the right’ impression when interacting with prospective students. The truth is, there’s no one way to make a good impression, which means there’s room for creativity and expressing your institution’s personality, but there is a number of rules that will always enhance the interaction. It’s also true that, often, first impressions are made within the first few seconds and that they’re easy to make but difficult to change.

Here’re the highlights of the findings:


Although this seems self-explanatory, it’s incredibly powerful and very rarely practiced. Studying abroad is an investment and so students want to be convinced it’s the right decision for them. Whilst a reputable university will attract a number of students based on their reputation alone, the majority will apply based on a cultural and practical fit and in the knowledge that studying there will add to their employability. One of the best ways to make an interaction personal is to be and act interested. In fact, start your conversation by asking a question and quickly learning about your student.

This brings us nicely to our next point…

One of the main motivations driving young people to study abroad is the desire to improve their employability prospects. This is simply it. Your ability to demonstrate that you produce employable graduates will really set you apart from your competition. Does your university provide opportunities for students to develop their soft skills? Do you have a careers centre and provide support with work experience/internships? Which employers do you partner with and are they involved in your curriculum? The more examples you can provide, the better.


It’s all good and well when students get the opportunity to meet universities in person, but most of the time, they don’t. In that case, all they can go by is the quality of online interaction and the first thing they’re likely to come across is your university website. Students from all over the world have repeatedly told us that university websites tend to be difficult to navigate, lack some of the necessary information and that if they email someone, they rarely get a response. For many of them, this would mean they stop trying and simply move on to a more accessible university. It’s therefore incredibly important to make practical information easily accessible on your site, to at least give students the opportunity to consider you and apply.

You can download the report for free here.


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