By Jessica Lisenba, IEP Campus Coordinator
After three years of begging to be included in the freshman orientation agenda at one institution, the study abroad office was finally invited to participate this summer. Not only did the office have a table at the mini-fair for the parents and students, all students were brought to the office for an info session. That’s right, professional international education staff had the opportunity to speak to every one of the 1800 incoming freshmen. Integrating your study abroad office into freshman orientations is an excellent way to spread the word early in their college career and increase study abroad participation.
During orientation, students spent their morning on a walking tour around campus with 10 minute stops at each location, including the study abroad office. There were 15 groups per session, with about 12-15 students in each group, two sessions weekly. As you can imagine, these days were rapid-moving and truly devoted to student outreach.
To make the most out of a 10 minute study abroad presentation, below are some tips that will help you grab freshmen attention, collect interest, and continue the conversation after freshman orientation:
If you are crunched for time, you’ll want to focus on busting the myths of study abroad. Can I go? Can I afford it? Will it delay graduation? Show students (and parents) that study abroad can be a reality, not just a dream. Don’t forget to pass around an interest sheet while you are speaking to collect names and emails of students! They may not have a chance to do so after the presentation. Make sure to go over study abroad program options (exchange, affiliate, faculty-led). Mention that they can do more than just study abroad, like interning and volunteer work. Once you’ve laid all of the options out, talk about funding and scholarship opportunities. Share your contact information and how to start the process and wrap up with a quick Q&A session. You will be surprised at how quick 10 minutes go by. This is short and sweet, so keeping them engaged and wanting to learn more is the key to the spiel.
You’ll want to have an area to lay out some general brochures, marketing materials, and catalogs. This is an excellent way to clean out the shelves and hand out those catalogs that are soon-to-be outdated. Students love free things! Although your contact information is most likely on your website or on the brochures, we find that putting a sticker with your contact information or a direct link to schedule an advising appointment is helpful (see image below).
Seeing students write their names and emails on the interest sheet is truly rewarding. You have grabbed their attention and have them wanting more information! Now that you have their emails, you can start sending them a monthly newsletter! If you are using lead capturing software, putting them on an automated email schedule will free up some time and help manage communication.
The Bottom Line
Here at IEP, we are all about data. We encourage you to collect data on student participation and use it to leverage access to orientations. For example, if the most popular year for students to go abroad is their sophomore year and average advising of a student takes over a year, you can accurately communicate the need to have access to freshmen. Once students become juniors and seniors, their curriculum may become more specific, making study abroad more difficult. Take advantage of the best time to capture student interest while they still have time.