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International students can be a source of pride for universities, showing diversity and an inclusive worldview. This mindset has spawned the birth of extensive and highly targeted university programs catering specifically to students from overseas.

Using this approach, colleges and universities in the United States have seen a steady rise in international students over the past 40 years, peaking at an average of 4.8% of total enrollment in 2015. However, in a recent survey of universities by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, 39% of responding institutions reported a decline in online applications by international students.

With such extensive infrastructure dedicated to the acquisition and engagement of international students, it’s important for student housing properties to understand and respond to the behaviors and trends of international students.

To better understand these trends, we aggregated data from over 1.8 million website sessions on student housing websites and identified five key takeaways for student housing professionals:

  • The top five international countries by number of sessions were China (14.3%), India (9.6%), Canada (8.7%), South Korea (4.8%), and the United Kingdom (3.9%).
  • The conversion rate from international sessions varied greatly by country, but averaged 2.15% higher than those from the United States.
  • International students stayed on the website an average of 32 seconds longer than those from the U.S., but viewed only slightly fewer pages per session.
  • International sessions had a 6.23% higher bounce rate than those from the U.S.
  • The average page load time for international sessions was 129% slower than those from the U.S.

These data points can help in understanding market trends, but when considering your own marketing strategies, the best way to target international students is to utilize data from your own website. Request a free website analysis from Catalyst, and we’ll evaluate your international audience to find the right strategy for you.

Top International Countries

As a student housing professional, it’s important to understand what countries international students are coming from. This can be used to target the most valuable groups with campaigns based on their language and culture.

The top five international countries by number of sessions were:

  1. China (14.3%)
  2. India (9.6%)
  3. Canada (8.7%)
  4. South Korea (4.8%)
  5. United Kingdom (3.9%)

China topped the list, which supports university data that shows China is the largest sender of international students to the U.S. at 31.5%. Specifically targeting Chinese students using their language and other cultural cues will likely yield the best results for your team. We recommend dedicated, professionally translated landing pages to truly engage these prospective residents.

Conversion Rate for International Students

Perhaps the best indicator of the importance of targeting international students is the average conversion rate from international website traffic, averaging 2.15% higher than sessions from the United States.

However, not all countries share a similar conversion rate. The conversion rate for website traffic from China averaged 7.11% higher than traffic from the U.S., while traffic from Canada averaged 3.25% lower. This further illustrates the benefits of specifically targeting certain demographics. Gaining specific insight on the highest-converting international audience in your market can help you craft appropriate web content to boost leasing from this segment.

Website Engagement for International Students 

When targeting international students online, it’s important to make your content as accessible and understandable as possible. Because international students tend to spend more time on websites, but don’t necessarily visit more pages, it’s likely that they take their time parsing through the content to comprehend it.

In addition, some international countries can have significantly lower online bandwidth, causing websites to load 129% slower on average. This demonstrates the importance of analyzing and optimizing page speed performance.

Ensuring your content highlights important features and directs visitors through the correct channels will increase engagement from international students and help them achieve their goals.


International students are a crucial part of a student housing marketing strategy. Directly targeting specific demographics with language accessibility and cultural cues can help your property stand out among competitors.