How Shady Agents Get Chinese into US Colleges

While many U.S. colleges see a boom in applications from China, many applicants rely heavily on education agents who are sometimes not above using shady tactics to help their clients through the unfamiliar admission process. From Justin Bergman at TIME:

This fall, David Zhu will join an exodus of Chinese students boarding planes for the leafy, beer-soaked campuses of American colleges and universities. Zhu, currently a student at Shanghai’s prestigious Fudan University, will be enrolling at Oregon State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business — a dream his parents have had since they started saving a $157,000 nest egg for his education. But like many Chinese students who don’t speak English fluently, Zhu might not have been accepted without a little help. The 21-year-old hired an education agent in China to clean up and “elaborate” on the essay he submitted as part of his application. “Actually, the agency helped my application to some extent,” he says.

[…] But many of these students would probably never make it to America without a middleman to pave the way. According to a 2010 report by Zinch China, a consultancy that advises U.S. colleges and universities on China, 8 out of every 10 Chinese undergraduate students use an agent to file their applications. And with such intense competition among agents — not to mention ambitious students and their overzealous parents — cheating is rampant, the group says. It estimates that 90% of recommendation letters from Chinese students are fake, 70% of college application essays are not written by the students, and half of all high school transcripts are falsified. “The world of higher education is becoming extremely competitive, much more so than it was even 10 years ago, and I think the kids are looking for an edge,” says Tom Melcher, chairman of Zinch China. “Everyone is looking around and saying, ‘Well, everyone else is cheating, why shouldn’t I?’”

For more on Chinese students struggling into US colleges, see Two-Way Street: Breaking Bad College Recruiting Habits in China, via CDT

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