Building connections with international students

International Recruitment Officer Rohini Chatrath (right) presents a successful applicant from Istanbul, Turkey, with an offer of admission to York University

As the University welcomes international students to its campuses this fall, York’s recruitment and assessment teams are continuing to work together to make the out-of-country applicant experience more pleasant and personal than ever before.

Since 2008, York’s international recruitment team has been travelling abroad to inform students and guidance counsellors about all the University has to offer and hand-delivering acceptance letters to successful applicants. This strategy has been gaining ground in recent years. This fall marks the beginning of York’s most extensive international recruitment season to date with a growing team of international recruitment officers, a longer list of countries to visit, repeat visits planned for the winter semester, and a larger number of international applicants who will receive offers delivered in person by representatives from the University.

Three high-school students from Hong Kong receive their offers of admission to York during International Recruitment Officer Sara Alsayyed’s recent tripThree high-school students from Hong Kong receive their offers of admission to York during International Recruitment Officer Sara Alsayyed’s recent trip

“Our recruitment team takes great pride in initiatives like this one,” says York’s Manager of International Recruitment and Marketing Elisa Tortola. “This program is evidence of our continued commitment to offer international students the best level of service possible.”

The connections between York’s recruitment team and the international applicants do not begin when the recruiters arrive at their destinations. Contact is established as soon as the international locations are decided. The recruitment officers open the lines of communication by reaching out to applicants by e-mail to introduce themselves and announce their plans to visit.

This year, York’s international recruitment officers will be making multiple trips to York’s priority markets – once in the fall to promote York and encourage students to apply, and once in the winter to meet with applicants and hand out as many offers as possible. Since the ability to extend an offer depends on when students submit their documents and when York receives their grades, the international assessment team has to be on board too. It is a collaborative effort because there would be no offers to deliver without the assessment team’s prompt evaluation of files, issuing of offers and coordinating with the recruitment officers before departure and throughout their travels. Once the international assessment team is made aware of the season’s scheduled visits, they begin compiling a list of admissions offers that will be deliverable in each region. The students who will be receiving in-country offers are informed so that they can arrange a meeting with a recruitment officer.

Once in the country, where they typically spend between one and two weeks per visit, York’s international recruitment officers host one-on-one appointments during which applicants and their parents have an opportunity to get their questions answered and hear more about York University and what their experiences might be like if they were to attend.

“These private meetings make a difference, especially to parents who are sending their kids halfway across the world to a place they often haven’t visited or heard much about,” says Rohini Chatrath, one of York’s five international recruitment officers. “They’re young and they’re going on this big adventure and these meetings really help establish a level of trust. It makes the gap a lot smaller and creates that personal connection with the student, their family and the country.”

International Recruitment Officer Rohini Chatrath (right) presents a successful applicant from Istanbul, Turkey, with an offer of admission to York UniversityInternational Recruitment Officer Rohini Chatrath (right) presents a successful applicant from Istanbul, Turkey, with an offer of admission to York University

Beginning this fall, students will be encouraged to bring newly available academic documents to their appointments so they can be electronically added to their applicant files. For the first time since York began its hand delivery of offers to international students, recruitment officers will be scanning new academic documents while they’re abroad and sending them back to the assessment team at York for timely processing and evaluation. This will allow many more offers to be extended than would have otherwise been possible. Although York requires original documents for application purposes, the assessors are able to accept copies as placeholders so as to facilitate the delivery of more in-country offers.

The recruiters also visit students at their schools to meet anyone who didn’t schedule an appointment and to inform other perspective students about all the incredible opportunities at York. 

This past winter, Sara Alsayyed, another one of York’s international recruitment officers, visited three countries: Hong Kong, South Korea and Indonesia. In Hong Kong, she delivered more than 30 offers – 18 at one school alone. She also handed out four offers in Indonesia and one in South Korea.

Since more than 100 students applied to York this year from Hong Kong, Alsayyed decided to host an applicant reception there, where she was able to reach out to those who applied, establish connections with students, exchange information and even hand out a few offers. Despite being back in Toronto when the remaining offers were made, putting a human face on the University is important.

“There’s a misconception that York is big and impersonal,” says Alsayyed. “And although we do have a lot of students, we’re really working hard at making students feel like they are a part of a community and that they are given the personal attention they deserve.”

Chatrath travelled to Turkey in February, which is the earliest offers can be made for September admission, and she was able to hand deliver 23 offers. However, on her travels to both India and the US, timing prevented her from extending any. This year’s shift to two trips per region will make timing far less of a hurdle.

Beyond being a strategic decision to increase the visibility of York University across the globe, the international recruitment team is first and foremost providing a service to its applicants: a knowledgeable voice, an ear to listen to concerns and a support system remaining well past the trips abroad.

“Students and parents alike are impressed by the level of attention international students receive given York’s size,” says Tortola. “They’ve even gone so far as to tell us they haven’t received this type of service from anyone else, including much smaller universities.”

After the recruitment officers return home, they keep in close contact with the applicants and their parents until offers are made and accepted, at which time they are handed into the welcoming arms of York International. There, out-of-country students have access to knowledgeable advisers and countless opportunities to get involved in the York community. It’s a place they can go to connect with fellow international students who will help ease the transition to Canada.

What does the future hold for York’s hand delivery of international offers program? Judging by the expansion of the program this year, allowing for the most hand-delivered offers to date, the international team won’t be slowing down any time soon.