Resources for Educators who are recruiting and enrolling students from China in the USA.
Published On: Wed, Feb 24th, 2016

For Religious-based Private Schools Chinese Students are a Blessing!

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I attended a recruiting conference last December and noticed the increasing numbers of private religious-based schools participating and meeting agents. After reading an article from Foreign Policy, my observations were validated.

Chinese view high school abroad as a desirable alternative to secondary schools at home, which focus largely on test preparation for their extremely competitive gaokao, the Chinese college entrance examination. These families also place a high value on a U.S. education and credentials or college degree (although that is now in question as more Chinese graduates are going home without fulfilling OPT). They feel that if their child attends a secondary school in the U.S., the chances to get admitted to a top U.S> university will increase.

But U.S. public schools impose tight restrictions on foreign student enrollment, limiting it in most cases to a one-year exchange (however, that varies by district); that means most Chinese parents looking to enroll their children in a U.S. high school must look to private institutions. Most of these private institutions are faith-based high schools, who after 2008 recession. have seen a drastic decline in domestic student enrollment and have started recruiting worldwide.

The irony is that religion is not widely promoted or practiced in China which means that most of the Chinese students will come with no knowledge of Christianity or Catholicism. The parents do not seem to mind that their child has to learn theology (most schools will explain that their religious studies class is just another history class). The competition amongst private schools to market to this audience is growing as well. I noticed that most of the private schools will have a separate page for international students which have photos of other international students (mostly Chinese), college prep focused and no mention of faith.

What will be interesting is to see if the enrollment will change now that China’s economy is slowing down. How will our private schools convey the message of value and college preparation differently to distinguish themselves from each other to maintain their enrollment marketshare? Will more schools like the ones I work with in the Bay Area offer their students more intercultural competency classes and support to keep them happy and stay ahead of competition? The schools who really do help students with college applications and integration will stay ahead and keep their students coming!

Irene Tieh
USA College Connection
Find out more about my work with Bay Area high schools and my Catholic schoolintercultural communication classes by emailing

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