Undergraduate applications from China up dramatically

For the past few years, USC has earned the honor of being the university with the largest international student population, but competition — even for this large number of spots — may be getting tougher.

The undergraduate applicant pool for the graduating class of 2014 has seen a steep increase this application season in the number of international applications and an even more dramatic increase in the number of applications from China.

According to the USC Office of Admission, the number of international applicants has risen by 22 percent this year. The number of Chinese international applicants, however, is up by three times that, rising 66 percent.

“That’s not an uncommon occurrence,” said Tim Brunold, associate dean and director of undergraduate admission. “The applications have been increasing from international students at a very steady pace for several years now.”

Brunold noted that this increase is not specific to USC.

“I believe that it is consistent with other universities. I do think that there is a general sense among many American colleges and universities that China is a good place to go recruit students,” Brunold said. “I think that this growing trend of China is going to be something that will be with us for a while.”

Still, Brunold attributed the steep rise to applications to USC from Chinese applications to an increased outreach effort by USC Admissions.

“There’s always been a lot of interest from Chinese students at our graduate level,” he said. “But more recently, China has really taken over the top spot in our freshman recruiting.”

While the number of applications might be higher, Brunold said the percentage of Chinese applicants admitted to USC has remained similar to the overall average of acceptances over the past two years. For the 2012 graduating class, 14.5 percent of Chinese applicants were admitted, and 29 percent of Chinese applicants were admitted into the 2013 graduating class, compared to an overall admissions rate of 24 percent for the class of 2013.

Though Brunold expects the number of applicants from China to continue to rise, he said the university does not necessarily plan on increasing enrollment.

“Every indication we have is that it will continue to rise. That also means though, just like with any other group of students, it is going to get more competitive. Whenever you have more applicants, there’s more competition,” Brunold said.

He added that the university is “very pleased” with having a freshmen international population around 10 to 12 percent, but that this is simply a “natural balance” and by no means a goal for the admission office.

According to Brunold, China tops the list of the five countries outside of the United States that send the most undergraduate applications to USC. The other four countries, in order, are South Korea, India, Canada and Taiwan.

Students from China who come to USC said the hands-on learning experience offered by American universities is a draw. Some also noted that USC is well-known in China, which helps it draw applicants.

Yingying Zhang, a graduate student studying computer science, completed her undergraduate degree in China before coming to the United States for graduate school. She said she believes the university system in the United States is very different from that of China, and she wanted to gain hands-on experience in her field of study.

“In my undergraduate university, our courses focus on theories, not implementation or practice. Some students just care about their grades, not real skills,” Zhang said, adding that she hopes to gain “skills and experience” at USC.

Ruoqi Zhou, a freshman majoring in international relations (global business), applied to many colleges, all in the United States, and believed that she would learn more at USC than back home in China.

“The United States’ environment and education is better for me to accomplish my dream,” said Zhou, who said she hopes to become a journalist.