China admissions trips are often planned down to the last detail, as they should be. “Where to go?” is one of the first questions you’ll have to answer when you plan your next China trip. But, you should know about China’s “tiered cities” before you answer this
As epicenters of government and business, Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou are China’s 1st-tier cities. However, entertainment companies, investment banks, sports teams, household appliance manufacturers, HR headhunters, and every other conceivable industry, all salivate over the market potential of China’s current 2nd, 3rd, and 4th-tier cities. These cities’ populations are gaining wealth and haven’t established strong brand preferences. China’s cities are part of one nation, yet separated by differences in government, communication challenges, regional rivalries, infrastructure, and more.
If you’re involved in China admissions, you must take this tiered city system into account.
Here are the 4 reasons why you shouldn’t recruit Chinese applicants from Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou.
1. Competition: Everyone comes to these cities
Let’s say you’ve never been to China before and don’t know anything about it. If I were to ask you to name Chinese cities, you’d likely say:
“Ok, I got this! 1st is Beijing. That Olympic opening ceremony was amazing. Shanghai is definitely one. Hong Kong is part of China right?”
You might have a hard time coming up with other cities. Fame and high-quality schools make tier 1 cities attractive destinations for admissions trips. Resist the temptation to go the behemoths. Branch out to other cities to avoid the heavy competition. Chinese applicants who can afford to study abroad, are part of a special subset in Chinese society and they now hail from a wider range of Chinese locations than ever before.
2. It’s easier to position your institution’s brand in lower tier cities
Believe it or not, but folks in 2nd and 3rd-tier Chinese cities have never heard of the US News & World Report! Ok, maybe they’ve heard of Harvard. But besides Harvard, they’re open to hearing about any and all academic institutions. Folks in lower tier cities have no preconceived notions about your institution and are open to hearing about what your institution has to offer.
3. Relationships and connections can have more influence in lower tier cities.
Many Western academic institutions have alumni circles and associations in tier 1 cities. Power, connections, and relationships can lead to a messy recruitment strategy in tier 1 towns.
Instead, find one or several successful alumni of your institution to speak to other parents/students in lower tier cities. A dinner and/or Q&A session will have a meaningful and long-lasting impact for your institution at a quarter of the price/headache of a formal alumni association.
4. People in lower tier cities will treat you better
If you’ve spent any time in China, and especially if you’ve traveled elsewhere in Asia, you know that Chinese folks have a unique warmth towards foreigners. This warmth shines through in lower tier cities where locals are less likely to interact with foreigners or at least visiting foreign admissions officers.
Your decision to visit lower tier cities results in increased hospitality and a overall smoother admissions trip. Hard as that might be to believe…
Have you been to any of China’s lower tier cities for admissions trips? Have any admissions strategies that’ve worked well in lesser-known areas of China? Am I wrong about lower tier cities having qualified applicants? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments section below!