Challenges Families Face When Applying to College from China

To send their children to American universities, Chinese families need to understand how the college admissions process in the US differs from that in China.

Janet Rosier, a Certified Educational Planner and College and Graduate Admissions Consultant who has first-hand experience in assisting Chinese International Students with attending school in the U.S., offers us some valuable insight into the challenges international students may face when applying for schools.

“In general, I would say that there is a greater need for these families to first understand the overall process of how colleges evaluate students in the US. They are coming from a system that is very focused on the scores of one exam, the Gaokao, which determines the colleges to which the student is eligible to apply,” says Rosier.

The parents of Chinese international students belong to a society where a student’s Gaokao (standardized test) scores almost fatalistically determine one’s academic and vocational futures. The U.S. system, meanwhile, utilizes a more holistic approach; American universities consider a wider variety of factors in an applicant, including community service, extracurriculars, and academic honors.

U.S. schools also come in more shapes and sizes than Chinese schools; American universities vary substantially by size, religious affiliation, majors offered, emphasis on athletics, and academic honors options. There is more individuality between different universities, which requires more decision-making and research for applicants seeking to attend American colleges. These differences may confuse applicants.

American families are already so familiar with the stresses of the college application process. Chinese international students, who come from such a different cultural background, might find this system especially confusing, nerve-wrecking, or frustrating. For example, college admission concepts like “Early Decision” and “Restricted Early Action” might seem foreign to Chinese internationals, or the parents of first-generation Chinese Americans. According to Janet, “There are many details to be aware of and first generation families may feel overwhelmed by so many decisions.”

The Chinese tend to place a great deal of importance on attending quality universities, but from across the world, the average Chinese only recognizes the most famous universities. One Chinese international student at Fairfield University currently plans on transferring to New York University, uprooting her social life and local career advances to attend a more famous university. Fairfield University has very strong academic programs and a great reputation in the northeast, but a potential employer in China likely has never heard of Fairfield. Meanwhile, if that employer hears that Yale University in New Haven and Fairfield are thirty minutes apart from one another, they may interpret that proximity to mean that Fairfield University is a quality organization. This logic, faulty as it may be, plays a major role in where international students may ultimately study.

US colleges tend to limit how many international students they will admit, and within that percentage, admit students from a plethora of countries. “Since many may have limited knowledge of the more than 2000 four-year colleges in the US, there is usually a disproportionate number applying to the “name” colleges, making it more competitive still.”, according to Rosier.

Chinese international students may improve their chances of attending American universities by applying to less famous colleges, learning about the U.S. higher education system, and setting reasonable expectations for their applicants.

If you are interested in Janet Rosier’s educational consulting services, you may find her website at:

If you would like to read the greater content of this interview which was not condensed into this article, click here.

Share This:

Leave a Comment