Friday, June 14College Admissions News

US College Admission and “Crazy Rich” Chinese

US College Admission and “Crazy Rich” Chinese

In reading NACAC’s spring Journal article, “History of Chinese Student Mobility and Today’s Trends,” I was struck by some of the differences in my experiences and observations working with Chinese families, who by law are not permitted to attend international schools.

Working on the ground in China gave me a lot of insight about why Chinese families choose the US for their child’s education. In 2009, when I was first working in China, it quickly became clear that many Chinese love Americans and everything American—food, music, clothes, education….

For the next five years, I consulted with a small Chinese company that sought to bring the US AP curriculum into their public schools. We traveled all over China to meet with Chinese families, from Beijing to Harbin to Shenzhen to Chandu to Shanghai.

In 2015, Xi Jinping removed all western education from Chinese public schools (APs, IBs). So, from then until COVID-19 struck, my work in China shifted to consulting with start-up Chinese college admission businesses who send Chinese students to the US.

Consulting and writing US college admission advice columns for the China Daily and a website meant meeting with parents in large and small groups, as well as meeting with families looking for US college advice. This gave me a new insight—while love for the US may have been the driver, the fuel was wealth. Parents’ dreams extended in relation to their bank accounts.  If Chinese families were making some extra money, they’d send their 3 and 4-year-olds to English classes or their high school graduates to Australia for an English-language university. As incomes continued to rise, they would send their children to the UK for university. And when they started getting really rich, America was the only way to go!

By 2015, it was typical for families with students on a US-college track to be looking for US high schools and any other high school opportunities they could find to achieve eight years of an American education. The conversations shifted significantly over the years. During my early days in China, parents typically asked me, “When should I let my daughter go to America after two years of university in China?” A few years later I was asked, “Where can I send my son to a US high school?” By 2017, it was, “Where’s a good seventh grade for my child in the US?”

As I learned more about the Chinese, I noticed they rank everything from colleges to shoes and luggage to haircuts and cars—and “the best” is determined by cost. Perhaps this is what makes US education so appealing? Sorry, U.S. News & World Report. Mainland Chinese families only need one data point.

The numbers of Chinese students coming to US colleges grew from 1,000 in the 1970s to 370,000 in 2019. Chinese students added $15 billion dollars to the US economy in 2018.

COVID-19 and the related anti-Asian sentiment have marred America’s reputation among Chinese parents who want to ensure their children are safe. Add to that Chinese perception of our lack of gun control, Xi Jinping’s moves toward tighter control of the people, and the major growth in China’s economy… we have a lot of work to do to win back this population.

Of course, the greatest loss isn’t the money Chinese students bring with them. It’s that we’ll be missing many models of hard-working students and their voices in our classrooms, locker rooms, music halls, and dorms—and the possibly of them joining our nation’s workforce. International students, including the Chinese, are worthy of pursuing.

For 25 years, Joyce Slayton Mitchell was the college advisor at Newark Academy (NJ) and the Nightingale-Bamford School (NY). She is currently a consultant specializing in US college admission in China. She is also the author of Who is This Kid? Colleges Want to Know! Writing Exercises for Winning Applications, 2019.

Published at Tue, 08 Jun 2021 14:00:04 +0000

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