Meet the Explorers – An Emerging International Student Segment


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A recent research report by WES Research & Advisory Services divided the U.S.-bound international student body into four different segments – Strivers, Strugglers, Explorers and Highfliers – based on their academic preparedness and financial resources.


Given the budgetary challenges currently faced by many public institutions in the United States, students from the emerging Highflier and Explorer segments are of particular interest to higher education administrators. These two segments are  comprised of students with the resources to pay for their education. Highfliers (high academic preparedness, high financial resources) are typically headed for top-tier institutions, while Explorers (low academic preparedness, high financial resources) tend to be less selective in their school choice.

The proportion of Explorers differs by place of origin. The report findings, based on a survey of 1,600 prospective students, suggest that while only 13 percent of Indian students and 28 percent of Chinese students could be categorized as Explorers, half of Saudi students and 40 percent of Korean students fall into this segment. The study also found that Explorers have a higher need for support services. The academic preparedness of Explorers tends to be lower compared to some other segments, in part because of their lower English proficiency. According to the study, 37 percent of Explorers had plans to take an ESL course as part of their U.S. studies.

Low levels of academic preparedness often prompt Explorers to seek third-party help during the college search and application process. This segment is the most likely to use the services of education agents: 24 percent of Explorers participating in the study used an agent as compared to 9 percent of Strivers (high academic preparedness, low financial resources).

Moreover, among all segments, Explorers are the most interested in the personal and experiential aspects of studying in the United States. Nineteen percent of this segment reported that information on student services was among their top three concerns during the college search.

Higher education institutions seeking to recruit more students from the Explorer segment should consider the variables discussed above when building their recruitment, retention and integration goals for their international student body.

To learn more about the different segments of international students and their information-seeking behavior, click here to read the full report.

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WES Research & Advisory Services offers research-based consulting solutions on student mobility, international enrollment, and transnational education.

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Posted in Archive, Mobility Trends