NAFSA International Enrollment Knowledge Community (IEM KC)

Contributors: Andrea Drake, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Rose Francois, Enroot Education; Jim McLaughlin, IC3; Jessica Sandberg, Duke Kunshan University

Following the emergence of COVID-19 at the end of 2019, health and safety protocols --and concerns surrounding them-- play a bigger role in the international student recruitment and admissions process than before at any point in recent history. Where International Enrollment Management (IEM) practitioners may have previously relied on their colleagues in Student Affairs and International Student Services (ISS) to tackle these matters during onboarding, they must now become adept at communicating campus health protocols, protections, and services to students and parents throughout the enrollment process . The purpose of this resource is to help international enrollment professionals refine their communication plans to prospects, applicants, and other stakeholders, such as parents and agents, to effectively prepare students for public health matters at their institutions. These resources were compiled by professionals whose backgrounds in ISS, Education Abroad (EA), and pre-departure advising uniquely qualify them to give advice on this topic.

Learn from campus health experts.

  • Start by learning from your colleagues about practices and resources that are relevant to incoming students including health insurance requirements, costs, and inclusions; health-related visa and travel requirements; campus vaccination policy; campus health services; and access and proximity to specialized care.
  • Speak to EA colleagues and study the protocols your institution uses for sending domestic students abroad. Such resources will help enrollment professionals better understand the decision making process from the student and parent perspective and adapt materials accordingly.
  • Arrange training for all international enrollment professionals with appropriate departments (e.g. Campus Health, ISS, EA, and International Health & Safety).
  • Keep the lines of communication open with campus partners throughout the cycles.

Take ownership of the health-related communications during the admissions cycle.

Act as a liaison between prospective students and campus health experts throughout the admissions cycle. Seek out answers to student questions as needed rather than transferring questions to a campus colleague. Taking ownership avoids the risk of lost calls, misinformation, and delays.

Proactively communicate health and safety protocols to prospective families.

Admissions offices should work to ensure that health and safety protocol information is communicated across various channels and at key points in the admissions cycle. Information should be:

  • Clearly labeled and easy to find on the admissions web page.  
  • Transparent about associated costs. Health insurance costs should also be clearly outlined in information devoted to tuition and expenses.
  • Provided both in English and in translated languages whenever possible.
  • Available to parents and other stake holders (school counselors, agents, etc.) via preferred communication channels (email, dedicated social media group, etc.)
  • Offered in a dedicated information session(s) for admitted and confirmed students and families, to be led by key leaders in student health services, both before and after the enrollment deadline.

Be a resource.

Help families understand how to assess health and safety in their college search process and encourage them to ask questions.

  • Offer assurances about disclosing medical information during the admissions process.
  • Be prepared to respond to questions about how your institution (or nearby facilities) may be able to support a particular medical condition or obstacle.
  • Share appropriate data points and resources from reliable sources such as the CDC. For example, families may be want to check on data such as the rate of COVID-19 vaccination in your region, proximity to hospitals and specialists, and ICU capacity. Much of this data is available from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
  • Articulate campus contingency plans and policies for when individual and widespread illness occur. This may include a leave of absence policy, refund policy, and plans for an alternative delivery of instruction.

Tailor messages for an international audience.

Given that domestic students comprise the majority of U.S. institutions, general communications about health and safety are typically created with a domestic audience in mind. Ensure health-related messages are tailored and relevant to international student audiences, and take into account critical regulatory aspects that may only apply to international students. Furthermore, evaluate if additional distinctions are necessary and appropriate for citizens of particular countries.

We hope that these suggestions can get the conversation started at your institutions. If you have suggestions or feedback, please contact us.