Key trends in international university guidance and admissions
Key trends in international university guidance and admissions
Key trends in international university guidance and admissions
 CIS staff photo of Corina van Beelen


By Corina van Beelen, CIS Higher Education Events Coordinator


In conversations with members of our university and school community over the past year, we’ve observed key trends and developments in university guidance and admissions. We’ve drawn on one-to-one discussions, event networking, a CIS advisory group, written feedback, and our monthly live member connections where members virtually discuss and share information about topics vital to the profession.

Want to learn more about CIS Live Member Connections? Scroll to the end of this blog for more information.




The switch to virtual student recruitment during the pandemic, alongside the growing awareness of the climate crisis, helped us consider the environmental impact of in-person activities. CIS members are increasingly exploring how they can leverage virtual recruitment activities to reduce the environmental impact of recruitment and admissions activities.

Another conversation topic focused on how universities can improve the sustainability of their recruitment materials and resources. The use of hardcopy versus digital viewbooks and brochures came up several times, as has the role of the counsellor in asking universities for links to digital materials and virtual tours.

Our members discussed the benefits of providing digital viewbooks such as increased interactivity and choice. They also suggested that bringing fewer materials to in-person student recruitment events can elicit greater opportunities to interact with students.

Measuring successful student recruitment and admission in universities

Many admissions representatives at CIS universities have been rethinking how they measure the success of their recruitment.

For some, these efforts have historically focused on collecting student lead data via student recruitment events, student registries and/or purchased lead reports.

They described the contradictory pressures of collecting as many student leads as possible during their travels while also offering the best guidance to students, even if it means suggesting a different university to their own. They recognize that guiding students improperly could lead to lower retention at university and simply meeting a lot of students does not necessarily lead to successful applications. They suggested that the focus on student leads isn’t a holistic metric of successful recruitment. 

Universities are also aware that quantitative student data, especially in terms of nationality or location of secondary school, doesn't fully reflect the complex lived experiences and cultural backgrounds of students enrolling at university. At the same time, students are becoming less motivated to provide recruiters with their data, which is also driving recruiters’ need to change the way they work and measure their success. 

All this lead to an emerging question: How can universities use qualitative data such as individual student stories and themes that recur in conversations, in addition to the quantitative data, to measure the impact of their outreach programmes?

Learn about our virtual and in-person events to connect with students worldwide. 


Measuring the success of university guidance counselling programmes in international schools

Similarly, on the other side of the desk, the metrics used to measure the success of a school’s university guidance counselling programme have historically focused on the easily quantifiable data of student acceptance into “top 50” and “top 100” universities, which does not provide a holistic measure of success. Katryna Snow further explores alternative metrics to measure the success of a school’s guidance programmes in this post.

The evolving name and role of ‘university guidance counsellors’

‘The scope of the (university guidance) counsellors’ role is ever growing and is of increasing importance.’—Ruth McAteer, Higher Education and Careers Specialist at the Alice Smith School

In a parallel effort to help broaden and provide a more holistic definition of success for students and families, CIS member schools are moving away from the term “university counsellor” and towards “future pathways advisor”. The latter term is inclusive of students who may not be opting for traditional higher education pathways after graduation.

As Kyra Kellawan, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Benjamin Franklin International School and the Co-founder of Kokoro Careers explains:

‘Future pathways counsellor or future planning counsellor is perhaps the most inclusive title of all, given that we have seen a greater number of students opting for different choices than their predecessors—whether that means taking a gap year, working to save up for flight school, studying coding or UX design online or at in-person academies, taking a more traditional degree or a newer one at a more vocational institution, the number of options students have is greater than ever before. Students whose nationality commits them to military service, students who are caring for a relative, students who need more time to be certain of their investment and their true goal, students who need treatment for a medical issue: all of these future pathways are valid. By focusing our language on only one route, we marginalize the myriad of other routes, and so for me, seeing that a school has opted for and understood the role of a “future pathways counsellor” is a very positive sign that we will be aligned in our values and our desire to see, recognize, and validate all students’ different needs and destinations. Let’s make this an acceptable and celebrated norm in our work.’

Additionally, Alan Perkins suggests broadening student understanding of the role of a university guidance counsellor to go beyond helping students identify and select a university and instead focus on building a broad skill set to help students thrive whatever their future pathways—in their lives and careers, as well as at university.

Alan Perkins provides some suggestions for sessions, workshops or projects counsellors can put in place to develop skills for future needs in this article: How to futureproof your students’ choices | Times Higher Education.

Parent engagement in the university search and application process

Admissions representatives and counsellors have discussed strategies on how to engage with parents from a range of backgrounds and manage expectations in the university search and application process. Themes that emerge from these discussions include:

  • How can university representatives engage effectively with parents during campus visits, considering that there can be a wide range of parental involvement at this stage from very hands-off to having the entire family involved in the visit?
  • How can counsellors work effectively with parents to ensure that students have realistic goals in the university application process?
  • How can counsellors find a balance between encouraging students to be ambitious whilst also being realistic as they navigate university selection?
  • How can counsellors help parents to build essential social and emotional skills in their children?

Our new parent engagement video series for counsellors at CIS member schools (which they can find in our CIS Community portal > University guidance & transition > Counsellor essentials for learning and development) addresses the above questions and more. The series is specifically designed to help provide counsellors with effective and practical strategies to engage with parents so that they can, in turn, support their child through the transition to university. 

For a longer version of this article ...
... that includes themes such as the use of Artificial Intelligence in admissions, student mobility trends and how to strike a balance between in-person and virtual recruitment, our members can find the associated CIS Briefing in the CIS Community Portal > KnowledgeBase > Briefings.


More information about CIS Live Member Connections

CIS Live Member Connections provide a virtual opportunity for members to connect and share challenges and effective practices and learn and support each other. Our higher education team hosts monthly one-hour Live Member Connections for future pathway advisors (counsellors) and university admissions professionals.

Members are divided into small groups during the call so that they can discuss challenges that they and their students might be facing, share practices and knowledge, and learn more about the challenges faced by other members, and potential solutions to these. Discussions cover a wide range of topics including student well-being and success, shifts and trends in admission practices and government policies, student behaviour, student support resources, the impact of new developments such as AI, and anything else that members would like to discuss. Here are some quotes from recent participants:

The space is inclusive of members from various regions, and non-judgmental. CIS facilitates a space for counselors and admissions staff new to the field to learn from others including road warriors who have spent decades recruiting internationally.’

It’s the least expensive and most accessible development I can do from my home or office, from anywhere in the world, that said it’s the most valuable times I spend learning with and from others.’

The discussions were very interesting and I am looking forward for the next ones.

Join our next chat!

University guidance counsellors and university admissions representatives are invited to tune in to our next Live Member Connections. New dates added regularly.
Staff at CIS member schools and universities can register via the CIS Community portal > Events > Webinars & live sessions.



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Key trends in international university guidance and admissions
  • School & university collaboration
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Key trends in international university guidance and admissions
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