Earlier this month the Council of Graduate Schools reported that 2012 is seeing a continued torrent of Chinese applicants to US graduate programs: up 18% for fall 2012, following increases of 21% in 2011 and 20% in 2010. The most popular recipients of the applications are engineering, business, and earth sciences programs. This significant news was featured widely, including in the Wall Street Journal, which concisely discusses some of the drivers of this trend.
What does this trend mean to you, in practical terms?
Chinese applicants tend to have strong academic track records and high standardized test scores. Moreover, as they learn from the experience of their seniors who are now students in the US, and as they have more access to consultants, they are increasingly sophisticated about the application process. In short, they’re often formidable candidates.
If you are Chinese and applying to programs favored by your countrymen, you will face the challenge of being in an over-represented group. Your academic record and test scores will be compared to others of your nationality, so (a) high scores are all the more important, but alone will not win you acceptance, and therefore, (b) your essays, resume, and interviews should distinguish you within this group.
If you are a non-Chinese applicant to programs that receive many Chinese applicants, realize that these applicants likely raise the bar in terms of test scores and undergrad records. While adcoms will still evaluate applicants in comparison to their own demographic groups, if one major group’s scores are high, it still raises the bar overall.
If you are a foreign, non-Chinese applicant to programs that receive many Chinese applicants, your nationality potentially represents a point of diversity as programs seek a range of geographic perspectives. Try to get some mileage out of this distinctiveness in your application.
Chinese applicants and students are known for their focus and their drive to excel. I speculate that this drive makes them less likely to drop out of grad programs and more likely to finish on time. If you’re applying to programs that attract many Chinese applicants, it can only help to convey serious determination while portraying your motivations and passions.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last thirteen years with Accepted. She can help you assess your strengths and weaknesses and develop a winning graduate admissions strategy.