11 things I've learned from working in international higher education overseas

International Education Week is here, which is a joint initiative between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to encourage more Americans to study overseas.


This is such an important initiative to highlight the need for more cross-cultural engagement in our society and the benefits that can be gained by going abroad to study.


And as someone who has studied abroad multiple times and spent most of her life working in international education--both in the U.S. and abroad, this week I've been reflecting on my time in this industry thus far and decided to take a closer look at the main takeaways from all of my experiences.



Universities overseas don't always understand the U.S. high school education system


How does a GPA of 4.0 from Poway High School compare to that of La Jolla Country Day? What about weighted and unweighted GPA? Is an Advanced Placement exam equivalent to an SAT subject test? Are community college credits equivalent to university level study?


These are all valid questions, and I have certainly been asked many times by admissions teams to provide context on U.S. qualifications when I worked in student recruitment overseas.


I, like most Americans probably, wrongly assumed when I first moved overseas and started in this industry that the whole world would know everything about the U.S.


And while that may be the case when it comes to pop culture, boy, did it come as a surprise that there are still many question marks in regards to education.


Most U.S. counselors, students and families don't understand overseas admissions


Equally, there is a widespread lack of understanding by U.S. school counselors, students and families alike when it comes to the admissions process for college abroad.


Are essays required? Reference letters? And if so, can students submit the same ones to University College Dublin as they're submitting to UCLA? Can you apply on the Common App?


Now that more students are applying overseas, the word is getting out there about the differences in admissions procedures and timelines, but nevertheless, there is still a clear need for more guidance in this area since applying for college abroad is so night-and-day different from applying for college in the U.S.


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Diversity is important, but universities do prioritize recruitment in particular regions


When you factor in the cost of travel and running events in certain countries, it's no secret that the U.S. is a more expensive place to recruit students than somewhere in Asia, for example.


Universities, like businesses, also have to think about ROI, or return on investment.


By spending x-amount on recruitment, how many students will end up enrolling from a particular region?


Working for universities in Australia, my focus was largely on recruiting U.S. students for one semester of study abroad, whereas for The University of Edinburgh, it was mostly about recruiting students for their entire bachelor's degrees.


Universities have different recruitment strategies


You may have heard of what's known as an "education agent," and depending on the country or university, you'll find that some universities rely heavily on them to do the recruiting for them.


In exchange, these providers receive compensation from the universities for recommending them and providing all the support necessary to get them onshore and enrolled.


The problem, however, is that quality of agents really varies, some being excellent and some not so great, and as a prospective student, it may be hard to know whether you're receiving advice that's really in your best interests--or advice that would result in the agency gainin