How to develop strong relationships with international schools and recruit good-fit students

According to ISC Research, there has been a 59% increase in international schools over the last ten years, with the figure rising to over 12,500 and student enrolments now close to 6 million. Meanwhile, 90% of these students seek global higher education destinations.  

Undoubtedly, this market holds great potential, and it might be your grand key to recruiting outstanding international students to your educational programmes. The question is, are you harnessing this market? Are international schools a channel in your student recruitment strategy? 

Just as you are keen to recruit top international students to your university, schools also want their graduates to end up at top-quality institutions globally. To this end, most of them employ expert education and career counselors to help prepare their wards for entry into higher institutions, build contacts with diverse colleges, and manage the students’ transition into life beyond high school.  

Here is how to develop strong relationships with global secondary schools to create awareness about your institution and recruit best-fit international students. 

Benefits of collaborating with international schools 

  1. Recruiting top talents 
  2. Enhancing campus diversity 
  3. Creating awareness about your institution and its programmes 
  4. Boosting your institution’s global rankings 
  5. Helping to shape the future of education   

Getting started with international schools as a student recruitment strategy 


1. Set an overall goal 

Before you set out to form partnerships and build relationships with international schools, have a clear understanding of the goals of the partnership. There must be a realistic and actionable KPI. Too often, institutions enter into agreements without having a specific plan, which can lead to wastage of resources on all sides.  

By establishing an overall goal for the partnership – such as increased enrolment, higher position on colleges’ global rankings, or diverse campus – institutions can ensure that both parties are working towards a common goal, thereby minimizing the risk of underperformance or the clash of interests. Meanwhile, employing a dedicated partnership team can be an excellent way to get started. 

2. Employ a dedicated partnership team 

Strategic collaborations can be a significant boon to universities and colleges. However, successfully initiating and managing them requires a great deal of time, effort, and commitment. It can be a daunting task. That’s where a dedicated partnership team comes in handy. More institutions are realizing this and employing a dedicated partnership team to manage their partnerships and collaborations 

The right partnership team can identify, qualify, and execute successful partnerships while mitigating risk. They know which specific countries you are targeting per time, the top schools to focus on, the quotas expected from the selected schools, and most importantly, how all executed collaborations fit into your institution’s overall goals. Moreover, they are better equipped to manage partnerships and build strong relationships that remain mutually beneficial over a long period. 

3. Understand the partnership landscape 

Before entering into any partnership arrangement with whichever schools, it is crucial to understand the landscape. You need to adequately research your target sphere and identify your potential partners, what they offer, and how your institution can benefit from them. Also, do you share similar values and goals? What are the values they inculcated from the school before graduating?  

You might also want to know your target schools’ reputation and rankings within their local authority or district and national level. Likewise, you should be aware of where your institution stands. Most top schools only build relationships with equally top-tier universities and colleges. After all, they want the best for their wards. 

4. Join educational alliance networks  

The education landscape is constantly changing, and you should keep up with that. One of the best ways to be at the forefront of the evolution is by joining educational alliance networks. These organizations enable sharing of resources, ideas, and strategies, pooling individual strengths to create a more robust and compelling whole. They also usually offer a wide range of services that can help your college or university find new opportunities and expand its reach.  

Beyond that, most of these organizations have direct access to several international schools and have countless educators globally as part of their members and can help you connect to them. Some of the most recognized ones include the Central & Eastern European Schools Association, the Association of School and College Leaders, and the International Association for College Admission Counseling.  Joint organizations like these exist both at local and international levels.  

5. Involve your current students and alumni 

It can be helpful to involve your students and alumni who once attended your target schools or are from your target countries involved in developing your partnerships—from outreach to collaboration execution. They can provide authentic first-hand insights that might be most relevant and impactful when reaching out to the determined international schools. Moreover, many of them might still be in contact with their ex-school counselors and could help initiate the communication with them. Make some of those students your student ambassadors.  

3 steps for building meaningful relationships with international schools 

After figuring out where to begin your international school outreach, you would need to immediately start forging authentic relationships with the schools, school counselors, and possibly the potential students.  

1. Personalize your approach 

Just like you are reaching out to international schools, other institutions are doing the same. So, to gain an edge over the others, you need to personalize your approach. When reaching out to a school, the counselor, or any other entity that might get your foot in the door, your presentation has to be tailored to that school’s values and needs. Doing this ensures a much deeper level of trust right from the beginning. 

2. Be of help 

Schools are constantly in need of assistance, and offering this to them when there’s a need shows your commitment. For instance, you could volunteer to be a guest speaker at their upcoming career guidance seminar or set up booths at their university fairs. You could donate books to their library or offer scholarships to their best students. You could invite their students to a physical or virtual tour of your campus.  

 3. Continuously share vital information and keep them updated 

Following the establishment of those early ties, check in with them regularly by offering news and information relevant to your mutual objectives. Constantly keep them in the loop. Is your tuition increasing? Are your application requirements changing? Do you have a newly created scholarship that might benefit their wards?  

You should share all this information with them early, even before it becomes public knowledge. That is what partnership is about. Finally, the partnership should not end once their students are admitted to your institution; you should endeavor to sustain it for long.  


There is no doubt that partnerships with international schools can be an excellent channel for recruiting talented students worldwide to your institution. Meanwhile, your student recruitment strategy can only be as efficient as your admission management system so endeavor to use one that’s up to the task.  

 P.S. Did you know the local school web directory could be a great starting point for your right-fit school search? For instance, School Web Directory UK contains the constantly updated information of over 31,000 UK state and independent schools and colleges. 

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