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10 Facts You Need To Know For Studying In The West

Popularity 18Viewed 8147 times 2014-4-30 07:41 |Personal category:Education|System category:Life| university, everything, referring, Internet, recently

As of this year, 2014, there are over 235,000 Chinese students studying at colleges and universities in the USA. This is a more than 40,000 student increase over last year. In 4-5 years, there are expected to be a half million students from China studying in the USA. Here are some facts that you need to know if that is your goal or the goal of your child.

Let me say briefly that I've never thought of myself as an 'expert' on the subject. However, I do know that I feel an incredible urgency to help Chinese students to prepare for study in a Western institution. I read, study and memorize everything I can in order to help my students fulfill their dreams. I research and delve into many colleges' websites searching for SAT and Toefl requirements, which U.S. schools accept IELTS, application requirements, extra-curricular requirements, financial aid to international students and high acceptance rates to international students (particularly Chinese students). I've gathered my information from highly credible sources (like U.S. News and World Reports, Wall Street Journal and mostly from schools themselves). Most of the information I know by my own experience working in this field.

Here are some important facts you should know if you or your child want to study in the West.

1. As of a few months ago, the U.K. no longer has an agreement with ETS and does not accept Toefl or Toeic in order to show English proficiency. This is not just for college/university students but for anyone wanting to immigrate there. The government (not individual schools) made this decision due to a major cheating scandal that was discovered there with the Toeic exam.

2. More than 3,000 of the 4,600 U.S. colleges, universities and community colleges, accept the IELTS ( a U.K. based English proficiency exam). Most people don't know this. They think that since it's a U.K. based exam that it isn't accepted in the USA. It is accepted at more than 65% of U.S. schools in the U.S. and many of those are the top rated schools (but not all).

3. USA admissions decisions are based upon the individual schools. This is not true in most countries. There is no centralized admissions process nationally in the U.S. This is good in the sense that you have a much better chance by dealing with the schools directly. It does however, require a lot more paperwork for each school. A short cut is to use the Common Application ( Not every school will accept the Common App, but many will.

4. USA colleges (especially top colleges/universities) will base their decisions of acceptance on more than scores. They want to know your extra-curricular activities as well. They require personal essays about your life and your goals. They also require reference letters from teachers and school administrators (and other adult authority figures who have influenced your life).

5.  A student can apply for early acceptance and have a better chance for a specific school. You can get accepted early in your high school years and it's easier. However, if you apply for early acceptance at the school of your choice, you can only do so with 'one' school and you must attend 'that' school.

6. In the US, you don't have to decide and declare your major until perhaps your second or even third year. You can finish your 'core courses' (required courses) first before deciding your major. I know that at least in China, you can't change your major after you enter college (unless of course you transfer to a school in the USA). So int he USA, there's no pressure to decide for at least 2 years.

7. You can always attend a college/university in China for 2 and sometimes 3 years before you transfer to a Western school. I like this option because it allows those who don't have so much money to study abroad, a better chance of doing so. It is cheaper and easier on the student. It also reduces the time that you have to spend away from your family. These programs are called 2+2 or 3+1 programs. I worked with a just such a program here in Zhengzhou. They are a great and viable option to get a degree from a Western school without having to pay for 4 years at that school. However, you must exercise this option by finding a school in China (or wherever you are) who cooperates with a school in the West. You want to make sure that the Western school will accept your transfer credits.

8. If you can't get accepted into the school of your dreams, you can always attend a community college in the U.S. your first year or two. Some people believe that attending a community college will hurt their chances of getting accepted to a more prestigious school later. I personally know students who have done this and gotten accepted at top rated schools later. Also, I might add, it will save you a lot of money. Community colleges almost always have a much lower tuition for students (out of district students and international students will pay a higher rate than in district students but it will still be lower than top rated schools).

9. Don't ever attempt to bribe anyone in a U.S. school (or anywhere else in the West). Don't try it during the application process nor after you are accepted. Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, can't get his kids into a school that they don't qualify for regardless of how much money he offers the school. This is why U.S. schools enjoy the good reputation that they do. Also, one foreign government official's son was attending school in the U.S. When he got a low score in some classes, he returned to the professors' offices with a bag of money. He was attempting to 'buy' some grades and scores. He is now in prison in the U.K. Western nations won't tolerate bribery no matter how common it is in your country. It isn't just dishonest. It is illegal and you can easily end up in prison for even trying to do it.

10. Most international students are told that if you start asking about financial aid, that the school will make it much harder for you and likely not accept you.  This isn't completely true. If you are smart enough and meet the other requirements, U.S. schools are very likely to consider you regardless of your financial ability. They don't want you coming to the U.S. ill-prepared for paying for your education. However, don't be afraid to check into all of their financial aid information. You can often do this from their website. U.S. schools are not totally motivated by how much money you can pay. Their costs are the same for everyone regardless of ability to pay. There is financial aid for international students though.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Reply Report voice_cd 2014-4-30 09:43
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted your blog.
Reply Report erpcsu02 2014-4-30 11:22
Thanks for sharing your story
Reply Report erpcsu02 2014-4-30 11:23
Thanks for sharing your story
Reply Report laoren1234 2014-4-30 11:51
Students could get on-campus employment while attending U.S. colleges, with approval, of course. I worked every semester in college working a variety of jobs, such as washing dishes and serving food in student cafeterias, library jobs, and grading underclass student papers for professors, etc.
Reply Report juliuy 2014-4-30 11:55
Very useful information.
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-4-30 12:08
juliuy: Very useful information.
Great. Thanks for letting me know. I appreciate you.
Reply Report ColinSpeakman 2014-4-30 12:19
Very good advice, Michael. The affordable route into a good 4 year school via a two year community college is much overlooked by Chinese parents. I had an article on this in China Daily USA print some while back and in the California Colleges for International  Education Newsletter. I'll see if I can share it. An important point is that some Community Colleges have close links with particular 4 year schools and excellent transfer records - so work backwards from the university you want to get into. The famous Stamford University, try to get into Foothill College, the famous UC Berkley, try to get into Diablo College - I have worked with them so this is direct advice!  Best of luck!
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-4-30 12:58
ColinSpeakman: Very good advice, Michael. The affordable route into a good 4 year school via a two year community college is much overlooked by Chinese parents. I ha ...
Wow Colin! Great insight! Thanks for sharing. I didn't know there were such relationships. Very good information. Thank you.
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-4-30 13:08
voice_cd: Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted your blog.
Thanks Victor
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-4-30 13:09
erpcsu02: Thanks for sharing your story
You're welcome
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-4-30 13:09
laoren1234: Students could get on-campus employment while attending U.S. colleges, with approval, of course. I worked every semester in college working a variety  ...
Yes. Very good point. Thank you
Reply Report thomas.wood 2014-4-30 14:55
An important thing to remember is that if you get to the university of your dreams then make sure you get all the benefits of living in a foreign country: travel, speak the local language, meet local friends.  My old university Sheffield has the largest number of Chinese students in the UK and thus they tend to stick together.  You could have a whole year of almost only speaking Chinese outside of your classes, actually you could probably just speak your local dialect as all provinces of China are represented!  A few people, such as my Chinese friends, made the effort to come to a Chinese-English corner and consequently their English improved greatly, so did my Chinese, I got to show them places in England and they returned the favour when I came to China.  A win-win situation all round!
Reply Report jiewei798 2014-4-30 15:03
Haha, I find #8 very funny. I have never been bribed, but my coworkers once felt bribed when a student took her to a fancy dinner to talk about his low grades. Not sure its the same thing though.
Reply Report J.E.Overington 2014-4-30 18:04
Thanks, Michael, for this excellent article.

Further advice for students --

When reading about the financial aid available, look into the scholarships and awards. Read the personality characteristics associated with the awards which a candidate must have in addition to a good GPA. I recommend doing this early in life so as to be informed what behaviour is promoted and appreciated by the funding leaders in society, and then, deliberately practice developing the fundable personality characteristics closest to the readers' real, formed personality, the characteristics which are the most interesting to the reader, and which are funded by societies leaders. I had to put myself through university and so, this is how I did this. In my teen years I read university awards criteria and thus understood what community leadership characteristics are appreciated, promoted and paid, and in this way, I got an achievement scholarship, a nomination for the Governor General's Award of Canada, and Special Graduate Entrance Scholarship to Simon Fraser University where I was elected to the paid positions of the [campus-wide] Student Society Executive and the Academic Senate. This method works without making the young person be fake. Instead, this method informs a young person which already-enjoyable habits to practice to coincide with society's leadership funding.

I also want to advise students logic is embedded in standardized tests. We Americans are holding logic in the unstated, untaught part of what we say and do since we recognize we cannot explain the difference between savings and debt to the ones who say they do not understand, so we are handling that in logical ways. To succeed in our environment, you need to know the unsaid part. Standardized examinations are good practice. Many countries' standardized examination formats have a spoken and written response component, a reading comprehension component and a high school algebra and geometry component. Logic happens inside English before words go into sentences. I teach my students fallacy recognition, how to politely reject fallacies, argument formation [whether agreeing, disagreeing or doing something else], and my observation is many Chinese communication habits are missing our simple level response patterns, which are tested for in standardized tests.
Reply Report Maierwei 2014-4-30 20:17
The advice about not bribing is very useful!
When I told people my father is a police officer back home, many nodded saying "That's how you got into a prestigious school in China", and I totally couldn't understand what they mean that time! It's funny that they assumed policemen would enjoy high social status anywhere in the world like they do in China, and also that the school would be prestigious overseas just because it is so in China...
Reply Report Sarahhhhhh 2014-4-30 21:35
wonderful infermation !!! One of my classmates has joined a "2+2" project and gone to American . I think it's an excellent project providing those who want to go abroad for further education a perfect opportunity to fulfill their dreams ...  one day , I'd like to go abroad too!!!
Reply Report Cindychenyh 2014-4-30 22:09
It is useful for me.Thank you.
Reply Report Cindychenyh 2014-4-30 22:10
Useful for those ready to study abroad.
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-5-1 04:16
J.E.Overington: Thanks, Michael, for this excellent article.

Further advice for students --

When reading about the financial aid available, look into the scholars ...
Wow! Very valuable information. Thanks so much.
Reply Report MichaelM 2014-5-1 04:18
Sarahhhhhh: wonderful infermation !!! One of my classmates has joined a "2+2" project and gone to American . I think it's an excellent project providing ...
Sarah, yes. The 2+2 programs save Chinese families and students a lot of money and also allows them not to be away from their family so long. Thank you for your comments. Very helpful.

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Michael is the author of the transformational book, Powerful Attitudes. He is a professional educator, an educational consultant, an author. He lives in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. He enjoys playing guitar and writing poetry. He loves China.


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