The Challenge for Chinese Students

Dismayed student holding laptop over head

Message from the Director: Straight talk from Vinnie

This section is meant to provide useful information for Chinese families based on the experience of our founding director, Vinnie Apicella. It was originally part of a larger online presentation he gave for Finding School, which provides comprehensive information for Chinese students about private boarding schools in the United States. The following briefly summarizes some important points for students to consider:

There are some families who visited us and requested our assistance after working with another company that they were not happy with. This happens for many reasons: the company was too large or too busy and did not place enough attention on their student; the company misinformed them about schools that weren’t the right fit for the student; others made claims they could “guarantee” students would be admitted to any of the schools.

We have heard many different stories from families that consult with us. One point of fact: if a company guarantees they can get a student admitted to a “top” school overseas, then in all likelihood, that school is not worth going to. They may be desperate for new students and are happy to take them from wherever they can get them. So please be wary of companies that make such promises and guarantees; there is usually something else at play and is not likely in the best interest of the student.

Here are the facts

  • The number of Chinese students applying to US boarding schools continues to increase annually, so as the numbers keep going up, the competition also increases;
  • Boarding schools have a limited amount of space available for each new term;
  • Many of them also place limits on the number of students they will accept from different countries;
  • Some of them are looking only for students of a specific background or ability.

Now when you add all this up, it means gaining admission to an American boarding school for a Chinese student has become increasingly challenging.

Here’s one other point you might not want to know, but should be aware of:

Boarding school admissions officers are growing more and more suspicious of Chinese applicants and some of the agencies that represent them. Why? Because there are some unethical companies out there who will say and do anything in order to get your business. We’ve had admissions officers tell us about fake student applications, falsified documents, forged transcripts, and the like. This is becoming more and more common.

The sad truth is, when these things happen, it negatively affects everyone involved—the families, the consultants, and the students. So with everything else, Chinese students are now faced with this problem not of their own making, but yet must deal with additional scrutiny because of the immoral actions of others.

Set realistic expectations

Setting realistic expectations means to understand and accept the current situation as it stands today. There is increased competition; there is limited space available; many of the top schools have way more applicants than they need; and frankly, many admissions people are overworked and tired, meaning they may be quick to dismiss an applicant without fully getting to know them. And then of course there’s the “trust” factor.

Personally, we as an Education Consulting Group have worked hard to reverse this trend and prove our worth to the school admissions officers. We are in constant communication with them, learning their requirements, understanding their admissions policies, and trying to build a trusting relationship with them. In so doing, this of course is no guarantee of success for any of us. But we believe it’s gone a long way toward gaining their trust so when we do contact them about a student, they will think a lot less critically of that student, and will give them the attention they deserve.

So what is the answer?

Well of course we can’t turn back time; we have to live in the present, and this is what we are faced with. But in reality, tremendous opportunities continue to exist for Chinese students willing to put in the work and do what it takes to set themselves apart.

That’s a key philosophy in our approach to consulting with families. What can we do to allow the student to stand out from the crowd, in a positive way? What will make the admissions people take notice? This is where we go to work, finding ways to maneuver through these existing challenges and work together with the students to help them develop and improve their chances of gaining acceptance at the right school.

For parents, the answer lies in better understanding the challenges that exist and broadening their focus. Consider why you wanted to send your child to an overseas school in the first place; were there advantages you felt could be attained as opposed for them to continue their studies here at home? Let that guide your thinking and don’t be misled by inaccurate school rankings and this idea that because your child is academically skilled, they can be accepted into any school they choose. I think now the message is clear—this is not the case.

For additional information, including useful tips and insights from school admissions officers, please view the video interview on our Personal Statement page.