Admissions office expands reach in Latin America

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The admissions office has expanded its reach in Latin America, doubling recruiting trips over the last two years.

Nearly half of admissions officers’ travel abroad this fall targeted Latin American countries, a region that sent 10 percent more students to GW over the last year.

Admissions representatives visited students and high school counselors in 14 Latin American countries this fall. That’s up from just six foreign trips in the fall of 2011 as the University looks to meet its strategic goal of increasing international recruitment.

The pivot to Latin America follows the explosive growth of GW’s Chinese student population, which now accounts for nearly half of the more than 3,560 international students. The Chinese student population has nearly quadrupled in the last four years.

GW added six South American countries to a Latin American travel itinerary that only included a stop at a college fair in Mexico City last year. Slavko Bradic, director of undergraduate international admissions, called Latin America an “emerging region.”

Bradic said the travel and enrollment increases are in line with national trends, and said that in addition to the increased face time with prospective students, admissions officers are making more efforts to connect prospective international students with GW’s campus, even if they can’t visit.

Following Skype and alumni interviews during the application process, Bradic said the admissions office is working to connect prospective students with alumni abroad to “share their GW stories and professional successes.”

And for the first time last year, GW organized formal admissions interviews in Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia.

The Latin American gains contributed to a 14 percent increase in GW’s overall international student population this year as the University gives more face time to high school counselors and students while also boosting alumni involvement abroad. The biggest jumps in Latin American students came from Mexico, Brazil and Chile this fall.

Those increases come after top University officials have latched onto China, where one admissions officer spent a full month visiting high schools and college fairs, and where University President Steven Knapp traveled with seven GW administrators to make progress on strengthening academic ties.

With most international students at GW and at other universities hailing from Asia, more colleges are targeting their recruitment efforts in other regions to ensure their international students represent more than just Asian nations, said Eddie West, director of international initiatives for the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Last academic year, the population of international students in U.S. universities increased by 7.2 percent from the previous year.

“To really do right by their students, including American students, they have to provide them an international experience, international learning opportunities and exposure to a global perspective,” West said.

The renewed focus on international admissions at GW in the last few years resulted in double-digit gains in international enrollment this year as University strives to enroll 15 percent of undergraduate students and 30 percent of graduate students from abroad in the next decade.

International students now account for 8.8 percent of the undergraduate student body and 14.9 percent of graduate students this year. The increases are also a financial boon for the University, as most international students, particularly undergraduates, shell out the University’s full sticker price.

Associate Provost for Enrollment Management Laurie Koehler said she was pleased to see “steady,” continued growth this year and said admissions officials will continue to focus on recruitment efforts that involve “targeted international travel,” more online communications and expanding the involvement of current students and alumni.

While in-person interactions with high school counselors is an important tool, West emphasized that student and alumni involvement is key to a successful international recruitment strategy.

“Current students and alumni are often the best of all ambassadors for schools and are often very enthusiastic about getting out the good word about their school, and frankly are often much more believable than an admissions officer, in terms of their credibility with their peers,” West said.

– Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.

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