Place, Prestige, Price, and Promotion: How International Students Use Social Networks To Learn About Universities Abroad

Natalia Rekhter, Donald Hossler


This qualitative study aims to explore the social media component of international student’s college choice process for studying abroad.  One of the emerging evidence was that participants applied social media specific criteria, such as the number of “likes”, the number of followers, and the ratio of followers to following to rank Higher Education Institutions (HEI) and measure their prestige.  Another emerging finding was that participants with no connections abroad relied exclusively on social media for their college choice decisions and without social media would not even consider an option of transferring abroad.   Videos and pictures offered by social network sites (SNS) provided emotional benefits by helping “to see” an unknown reality, develop sense of belonging, diminish apprehensions of moving abroad, and solidify the choice of HEI, while traditional sources of promotion, such as websites, were perceived as not trustworthy. Higher education professionals could hire individuals with proven expertise in social media to create consistent and meaningful content on different social media platforms to connect with potential international candidates.    


social network sites; social media; international students; higher education marketing; higher education recruitment; admission; international transfer students

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