Homestay Programs: Tips for Retaining and Recruiting Families

Homestay Programs: Tips for Retaining and Recruiting Families
Homestay Programs: Tips for Retaining and Recruiting Families

Enrollment Management//

May 21, 2023

For many schools, the viability of their international student programs depends on the support of host families. Finding and keeping reliable host parents is a common challenge.

Juggling the recruitment and retention of homestay families, and mitigating your program’s risk can quickly become overwhelming–especially if you’re a team of one. Here are some tips for managing a successful, supportive homestay program as you prepare for the next school year.

Maintain Relationships With Existing Host Families

You probably spend most of your time seeking new families for your homestay program, but maintaining close contact with your current families is just as—if not more—important. It is vital to ensure they are connected to your resources and program, feel supported through the process, and are continually thanked for their commitment.

Here are a few initiatives you can take to build connections and provide support.

1. Outline available resources.

Make a list of “what if” questions and point to the person host families would contact regarding that concern. This would include school counselors, advisors, your school’s healthcare staff, and coaches. Doing this not only makes the family aware of resources but also improves the student’s experience.

Although veteran host families may already be familiar with your school’s academic and cocurricular programs, providing them with an up-to-date list shows your intentionality and dedication to their success.

Also, don’t overlook local community resources. Consider partnering with local libraries, which run learning programs or can provide materials your school may not have the time or finances to supply. Connect with your surrounding colleges and universities. They're often open to collaborating with local secondary schools’ international programs.

2. Plan social activities.

Provide a dedicated time and space for your host families to meet one another, ideally at the start of the new school year. This gives them an opportunity to reconnect, share their experiences, and form a support system for themselves and your students.

These gatherings can also be a space where current host families can invite friends, family, or neighbors who may be interested in your school’s homestay program. Here, they can hear from others, meet your program staff, and ask questions.

3. Connect them with your school’s leadership.

Welcoming your host families into your school community makes their commitment and generosity known and therefore more openly appreciated. Planning an event or time where these families can get to know your leadership staff can foster that appreciation, as well as show top-down support for your international student and homestay programs.

For example, organize a series of “Breakfasts With the School Head” where host families can get to know your Head, and your Head can learn more about the families and the students. Another idea is to set aside time at orientation and other social events for Leadership Team members to interact with host families.


Tune in to live webinars every week during the school year to get specific, research-backed insight you can immediately apply at your school.


Recruit New Host Families

Here are some do’s and don’ts for approaching this process.

DO start early.

Seeking new families is an ongoing, year-round effort. Coordinate with your Advancement Team (Director of Marketing and Communication, Director of Admission and Enrollment Management, and Director of Development)—they have experience with making “the big ask” and can advise on relationship building and networking.

When you identify an existing host family that has had an extraordinary experience with your program, ask them for a testimonial. Their story is an important piece of your marketing to new families, as it conveys authenticity and encouragement to interested families and prospective international students.

If you feel overwhelmed by this recruitment aspect, consider delegating some of the communication to your Advancement Team members.

DO develop a match system or process.

If you don’t already have a process for pairing students with families, consider creating one. Not only does this help ensure family and student expectations are met, but a match system also encourages a more pleasant and mutually beneficial experience. This can be done through interviews, surveys, or referrals.

DON’T oversell your homestay program.

As much as you may feel the need to emphasize your program’s benefits and features when recruiting new host families, be careful not to overvalue it.

Avoid comments such as, "Learn to love a new child,” or "You're going to gain a new family member.” Those relationships don't happen right away or even with each placement, and every host family’s and student’s experiences are different. While some may foster a close relationship with their visiting student, others may not have the same close-knit experience.

Don’t set the expectation that "Your family is going to learn a new language," as this can put a significant burden on the international student.

As you develop marketing messaging about your program, share what the program is and what it isn’t—keeping expectations realistic.

DO be proud of your program.

Homestay programs have great potential to be positive, educational, and perspective-broadening experiences for all involved. Highlight success stories from past—as well as current—students and families, and present the ways your school supports and takes pride in its program.


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International Scholar Protection (ISP) is an intuitive portal that allows international families to seamlessly compare insurance plan options, easily enroll, and pay directly online. Our plans ensure your students are in excellent hands while studying in the U.S. ISP provides tailored content and resources to help international families learn about U.S. health care options, choose the right plan for their children, and explore health and wellness tips. Add value to your international program with the resources and coverage they need.



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