It no longer comes as a surprise to US admissions officers when they receive hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese applications in a given year. These applications are littered with glowing teacher recommendations and personal statements—most seeming almost too good to be true.
And that’s because it often is. Cheating on university applications is considered a common practice for high achieving Chinese students, and university officials are increasingly saavying up to the phenomenon.
A recent Times Higher Education piece, “Fraud Fears Rocket As Chinese Seek A Place At Any Price,” points out that much of the cheating is driven by hyper-competitive parents and aggressive agents.
“The cultural norm in China is to consider a 17-year-old not yet capable of managing a decision as important as his or her college education,” says the Zinch and NAFSA report, Fraudulent Chinese Undergraduate Student Applications. The result? Do anything you can for your one child to get ahead.
Part of the problem also lies in the application process. A written application from a second-language applicant, regardless of from where on the planet, is fraught with opportunity for the unethically-minded. In the words of Rob Cochrane, an international programs manager at the Jiangsu Department of Education, “The issue is about the process rather than the people who are applying.”
Most people, whether they are school administrators or Chinese students themselves, would agree that not every Chinese student cheats, but that many Chinese students have good reason to resort to cheating. A hyper competitive education culture driven by a weak educational infrastructure, slowing job market, and characterized by the widespread use of profit-conscious consultants, is a recipe for application fraud. As suspicion of cheating spikes, however, the taint of cheating shadows every honest Chinese application and complicates the work of admissions officials.