Three Unique Advantages of Being a Chinese Applicant

As a Chinese applicant to American universities, you’ve no doubt heard all about the many challenges you’ll face in the admissions process.

You are also probably all too familiar with the many pitfalls you need to avoid: cookie-cutter applications, perfect test scores with no outside accomplishments, a perceived “lack of personality” (whatever that means). Honestly, it can be disheartening.

But look, that’s not the whole story. Our fellow admissions consultants often spend so much time avoiding those common obstacles, that they miss the advantages of being a Chinese applicant. Admissionado’s ability to find those oft-overlooked advantages is fundamental to our outsized success in China. Uncovering buried treasure in all the right places is our specialty, and we’re happy to share the map.

1. Diverse Perspective & Experience

This one is so glaringly obvious, it hurts…and yet, it is still drastically overlooked and underutilized. Let’s zoom out for a second: As a Chinese applicant, you grew up in a country wildly different from the U.S., in a city wildly different from any U.S. city, and you speak at least two of the world’s most important languages. You grew up in a different culture, with different norms, different beliefs, different foods, different customs. Alright, alright, we know what you’re thinking, “Yes, duh. But who cares? And can’t thousands of my Chinese peers say the same thing?”


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To the first point: adcoms care! Those factors together mean that you already have a wealth of unique contributions to make to a university, just built in to your background. You bring a diverse perspective, language, culture, and network. That’s significant because it means you can add a valuable perspective to the classroom, to student groups, and to campus in general. And to the second point: Yes, thousands of your Chinese peers can say the same thing, but many of them won’t. Many of your peers won’t recognize how valuable this inherent diversity is, and so they will fail to take advantage of it, allowing you to swoop in and stand out.

You see, admissions committees need international students to create the diverse, enriching campus environment they’re after—but more than just having those students present, they need those students to actively contribute to campus life. This is the point that many of your peers will miss. So, once you identify both what makes you unique and how that translates to unique actions you can take on each campus, you’ve just struck gold.

2. Huge Potential for Stellar Stories

As a Chinese applicant, you have a slight edge over your American counterparts in the unique stories department, for two reasons: 1) Your international background gives you a bucket of material that the admissions committee will be less familiar with; and 2) Your path in choosing to leave your home country for college lends itself to introspection.

First, on material: Remember all those factors that added up to give you a diverse perspective? Well, those also give you a treasure trove of unique material—you have a lifetime of experiences that are less common in the broader applicant pool, so you have greater opportunities to craft totally original essays on original topics, purely by telling stories that might seem entirely unremarkable to you. Think about it this way: you’ve experienced a life that is mostly foreign to the admissions committee, so your average story about growing up in your hometown inevitably contains some material unique for your reader. Your average American counterpart’s equivalent story wouldn’t be as compellingly unique; they would have to dig deeper.

And second, on introspection: Your decision to leave your home country for college means you’ve (presumably) already given a lot of thought to your future, which means you’ve already done a lot of the introspection necessary for compelling essays and interviews, even for more specific questions like, “Why our school?” You’ve already made this huge decision to study outside your home country—dig into what you’ve learned about yourself, the kind of life you want, and your ideal college experience, and communicate it. That’s powerful stuff.

3. Understanding of Pitfalls

Remember those common pitfalls of Chinese applicants that we referred to at the beginning of this article, the ones we’re pretty sure you’ve heard about before? Well, recognizing those oft-discussed challenges just happens to be a huge opportunity: As soon as you understand the pitfalls that plague other Chinese applicants, you are well-positioned to both avoid them and, as a result, set yourself apart from many of the other Chinese applicants who are not as adept at avoiding them.

For example, if you’ve read much about the admissions process for Chinese students, you may have read that certain admissions committees have become wary that some Chinese applications appear forged in some way, with forged transcripts, recommendations, or essays. While it is frustrating and unfair that a few bad applicants have tainted admissions committees’ views, it also presents a unique opportunity for you, the conscientious and principled applicant. It means that if you can start by proving to be a sincere and authentic applicant, you’ve already set yourself apart from many of your competitors. Those other guys probably aren’t cheating either, but unless they know to make a conscientious effort to avoid the perception of cheating, they’re at a disadvantage compared to you.


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And that’s just one example. Generally, the better you understand the often-discussed mistakes other Chinese applicants make, the better you can avoid them and craft an exceptionally powerful application yourself. If you can pair this with the first two advantages, by showcasing your diverse perspective and how it will contribute to the school, all in brilliantly compelling essays—then you’re really onto something BIG.

Starting to discover some of this buried treasure, but still not sure what to do with it? Not to worry, in the second part of this series, we’ll go through exactly how to leverage these goldmines, so stay tuned.

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Columbia (CBS) Essay Analysis 2019-2020