There’s a lot that goes into recruiting international students for your school. You have to figure out your budget. You have to manage paperwork. You have to look at political currents within various countries. It’s important that the curriculum at your school won’t be overwhelming for the students coming over (while balancing that with the needs of native students). On top of that, you may have to pay attention to global labor markets.

That might seem like a stretch. After all, with everything else going on, paying attention to standard wages in Thailand might seem a bridge too far. But in a global economy, demand in one area of the world can lead to supply elsewhere, and nothing is more important than human capital. As an international recruiter, if you are aware of growing needs in foreign countries, you can tailor your pitch to meet a specific market. And that can be the difference between signing students up for your school or merely sparking a passing interest.

Chinese laboratory

Chinese labs provide an opportunity to grow your international student body.

Chinese Labs: Filling a Need

To see an example of this, let’s take the world of science. Labs are usually seen as pretty isolated places, immune from the shocks of the world- beaker-filled havens of discovery and exploration. But as any PhD who has ever had to write a grant can tell you, scientific research is entirely dependent upon economic conditions. It’s unfortunate, but it is the truth.

In this case, we want to look at China’s rise in the world of science. Over the last 30 years, China has overtaken Europe as America’s top competitor in terms of scientific research, producing more scientific Bachelor’s Degrees and nearly as many white papers as the United States. Granted, some of this can be chalked up to the sheer enormity of their population, but no one can actually doubt China’s commitment to investing in science.

This has caused an imbalance in the labor market, as China’s relative wealth has allowed it to raise the wages for scientists, resulting in a relative flooding of their market and a draining of one here. American labs are trying to find ways to become more efficient and save money in order to pay competitive wages. In short, China is experiencing a classic rush, aided by government investment, and everyone is scrambling to get in on it.

The lessons of a rush for your school

But here’s what happens in a rush: the market becomes crowded, it becomes filled with lesser talents who, by sheer presence, crowd out the real skilled players. Everyone wants a piece, and it becomes hard for employers to ascertain who is actually qualified. A standout candidate for Chinese labs needs a way to differentiate him or herself from the competition.

One way to do that is to prepare oneself for the global economy and global scientific world. See, just because China is competing with the U.S. for scientific dominance doesn’t mean the labs are in actual competition; this isn’t the Olympics. Science is about collaboration across borders. Yes, everyone wants a discovery, but that is actually rare. As we’ve discussed, relations between the U.S. and Asia have been marked by increasing cooperation instead of enmity. Researchers read each others’ papers, help with research, share information, and work together to achieve a goal. It has always transcended borders; now that communication and technology has made borders irrelevant, this is even more true.

Studying abroad can be what makes a student stand out. They’ve already practiced their language skills in a hands-on, immersive environment. They know how to communicate across cultural barriers. They know how to deal with problems that arise between people of different nations- how to solve the silly misunderstandings that can sometimes blow up disproportionate to their actual import. They’ve learned how to be a citizen of the world.

That’s what your school can offer. A chance for them to stand out early on, to absorb the lessons that they’ll need to work in a global lab. Putting on that white coat doesn’t make them hermetically sealed. They need to interact with people around the world. Going to your school is a great way to start that journey.  Demonstrating to prospective students the very specific ways that attending your school will help them in the future, and showing a knowledge of their country’s economic climate, will do more to attract them than the prettiest pictures of an oak-filled campus ever will.


The international student experience is both challenging and exciting. Whether you are a student considering studying in America, their parent, the host family, the Head of School, an international coordinator, or even a potential classmate, there are as many opportunities for confusion as there are to learn. The ISPA is here to help bridge that gap, to ensure that this opportunity and adventure is met with the highest level of success.