No official data exists to compare application numbers across nationalities of international students, however, the College Board advises students that “five to eight applications are usually enough to ensure that a student is accepted into a suitable institution”.
Based on 424 responses to questions posed over the social network WeChat, 80% of surveyed high school students in China said they will apply to over 10 institutions.
A further 34% of respondents said they are applying to between 11-15 different colleges and 29% intend to apply to 16-20.
“Agents are usually paid on a success fee basis, so they want to make sure that their students get in somewhere”
Terry Crawford, CEO of InitialView, said that the high number of applications sent by one student is mostly likely encouraged by education agents.
“The relatively high number is the likely result of agents slinging applications at a large number of schools,” he told The PIE News.
“Agents are usually paid on a success fee basis, so they want to make sure that their students get in somewhere.”
The number of applications sent by one student also creates challenges for admissions offices to shortlist students who have an actual intent to enrol, Crawford said.
Eddie West, director of international initiatives at NACAC, agreed but added that “sophisticated enrolment managers factor this kind of data into their forecasting and modelling.”
West estimated Chinese students send a high volume of applications because they apply to top-tier institutions. It’s a common tactic used by all students applying to these highly competitive schools, he said.
“It’s not really due to national or ethnic culture, it’s a product of the culture of intense competition for a very limited number of places at highly regarded schools,” he said. “I would bet that your average Chinese student who’s applying to community colleges in the US is not applying to 11 to 15 colleges.”
West noted that educational consultants in China ask for additional payments based on the ranking of the institutions, with higher fees charged for successful admission to highly ranked schools.
“This means there’s an economic incentive for those consultants to facilitate students’ applications to many schools, to maximise their chances of success and higher compensation,” he said.
Other results from the survey underline the role agents play in the college application process.
“I would bet that your average Chinese student who’s applying to community colleges is not applying to 11 to 15 colleges”
While 40% of 305 respondents said that official college websites were the main source of study abroad information, 29% said agents were.
Furthermore, almost half (48%) said that their local agent was their single and primary source of assistance for their college application.
Further showing the dependence on on local agents, 64% of respondents said they have restricted or no access to the internet at home.
Andrew Hang Chen, chief development officer at the US-based agency WholeRen Education, said that in China, both parents and agencies, will do everything to enhance the prospect of the students.
“To apply for more schools is only one of the many means,” he said, adding “at least it is not unethical compared to other obviously wrong doings in the making of American college application.”
Chen said that on the agency side, WholeRen don’t encourage students to apply for more institutions than necessary, but added that “if you talk to one international high school counsellor in Beijing, he/she will tell you most of their students would apply for more than 10 schools”.