Ten years ago, less than one percent or fewer than 20 of Skidmore’s students were international. Today that number has significantly increased, as ten percent of the freshman class and 8.7 percent of the overall student body do not hold U.S. citizenship.
The increased interest among international applicants for a Skidmore education is also reflected in application trends. Whereas Skidmore had 600 international applications in 2012, last year the college had 1600 applications from abroad. Skidmore’s appeal to international students is more than just coincidence—it is the result of a deliberate strategy on the part of the admission’s office.
While Skidmore’s growth inevitably stems in part from increasing worldwide demand for a U.S. education, Skidmore’s growth is much more dramatic than what is happening at most U.S. campuses. According to a recent report from the Institute of International Education, Skidmore’s growth far outpaces national trends. During this ten-year period, Skidmore’s increase in international students has increased almost 1000 percent. The national population of international undergraduate students has increased approximately 66 percent.
Unlike prospective American applicants (especially those in the Northeast corridor), many international students are not able visit Skidmore before they apply, or even before they arrive for their first day. As a result, international outreach is particularly important for institutions, such as Skidmore, that want to have a global footprint.
In addition to having to confront that many international applicants can’t visit Saratoga Springs, recruitment of international students is also challenging because of their unfamiliarity with U.S. schools. As a result, key strategies for increasing international enrollment include educating international high school counselors about Skidmore and its offerings and meeting prospective students in their home countries.
“The biggest challenge [for international student recruitment], if you are not Harvard, Yale, Princeton, UCLA, etc., is name recognition and students being willing to go to an institution that they have not heard of before,” explains Vice President for Enrollment at Puget Sound University Jenny Rickard.
Although Skidmore admission’s officers have been traveling internationally for the past 15-20 years it wasn’t until the last eight to ten years that they have increased their global presence.
Some things that Skidmore has done to help with this issue is that “we have traveled more consistently internationally, attended more conferences dealing with international admissions, and we have teamed up with 9 other upstate NY colleges/universities to offer a summer tour of the region for international guidance/college counselors,” said Ken Dunbar, member of the Skidmore Class of 2000 and Associate Director of Admissions and Coordinator of International Admissions.
One of the biggest pieces of advice for focusing on international student recruitment from admissions counselors around the world is the need to focus on one region instead of multiple regions. This is because admissions counselors at colleges need to build “relationships with schools, counselors and students” said Rickard.
Consistent with this, Skidmore’s admissions officers attempt to build international enrollment by focusing on key markets and building strong relationships with counselors. “Of course we add new schools each year, but there is always the core schools in each city that we visit” Dunbar said. Cities that Skidmore consistently visit include: Istanbul, Athens, Thessaloniki, Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Johannesburg, Amman, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Lima and Quito.
For both international and American students, the cost of higher education is an important factor in a family’s decision to send a child to a particular school. To enhance international access, Skidmore has become a member of the Davis United World College Scholars program. This is a privately funded program that helps to bring international students to American campuses and pays a portion of their tuition. And, unlike some schools, Skidmore does provide some aid for international students. “We have been smart with the limited financial aid we have for international students,” explains Dunbar.
While reaching out to students and counselors is important, the secret to Skidmore’s success is what people think of the campus and Skidmore. As Dunbar explains, “being in NY helps a lot and having business and other ‘pre-professional’ programs is a nice feature of our curriculum that goes a long way internationally.” Skidmore’s reputation for providing academic support and helping international students master English -- and even its U.S. News and World Report ranking-- makes Skidmore attractive to international students.
It were these factors that led Freshman Cen (Tammy) Liang from China to Skidmore. For Liang, she had narrowed her college process down to wanting to attend a liberal arts college in New York because “I like New York and my friend studies here [in NY].” After narrowing it down, she then did research on liberal arts colleges in NY and learned about Skidmore. She looked at both the Skidmore college website and Skidmore’s ranking on US News and to her both seemed very good.
Perhaps the most important factor in increasing Skidmore’s international enrollment is by making sure those who have come to Skidmore share their experiences with prospective students. “Hearing happiness directly from a student is better than anything admissions can do,” Dunbar exclaimed.
Looking ahead at the next ten years, Skidmore's goals include increasing the student body's international cohort by ten percentage points, up from its current 8.7 percent. Ten percent of this year’s freshman class is international, and so Skidmore looks well on its way to achieving this goal.