Universities must revise application process

International students from across the world are flocking to America’s higher education institutions in greater numbers than ever, particularly students coming from China.

Rita Yeung | Daily Trojan

The benefits of Chinese students’ presence are obvious: increased diversity, numerous economic benefits and increased competitiveness for U.S. universities on a global scale .

American universities are focused on heavy recruiting, however, in those areas without considering the effect on the application process for Chinese students.

As a result of increased pressure to attend a top-notch American university, some Chinese students are turning to college placement agencies to put them on a guaranteed track to American schools.

According to Bloomberg, the number of Chinese agencies has risen four times since 2006, with 400 agencies in China.

How could a foreign agency ever promise enrollment in American colleges, especially for students who might have less-than-stellar grades? It’s simple — by writing students’ application essays, providing fake transcripts and fake recommendation letters, and receiving a hefty sum in return.

It’s a lucrative business in China. Schmidt interviewed two employees who work for a placement agency, Shanghai Shenyuan, who said they wrote application essays for three out of every four students.

It might seem like a distant problem, but Shanghai Shenyuan has had partnerships with more than a dozen American universities. And that’s just one placement company.

The popularity of such companies sheds light on a pandemic of pressure and cheating that has infiltrated America’s higher education institutions.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Nov. 14 that USC is the U.S. university with highest foreign enrollment with more than 8,600 international students enrolled for the 2010-2011 academic year. The foreign country from which the most students hailed: China.

It’s time for universities to rethink their application processes in order to lessen the need for services such as these agencies.

For Chinese students who have a completely different college admissions system — high school students just take one test that determines where they will attend college — the overload of SAT, ACT, recommendations and essays necessary to present yourself as a qualified student in the United States can be understandably overwhelming and stressful.

This is where the college placement agencies come in.

Rob Schmitz, China correspondent for the American Public Radio’s program Marketplace, recently reported on these controversial agencies.

“If you walk down the street in Shanghai, it’s hard to miss the advertisements for college placement agencies. In big bold letters, they promise — some even guarantee — your child’s admission to an American university. The price: $5,000, $6,000, sometimes $7,000,” Schmitz said in a Marketplace broadcast.

One way to prevent falsified applications and the overwhelming pressure of the application process is for universities to place a heavier emphasis on interviews.

Interviews cannot be faked and they give most students a much better chance at presenting themselves to schools than they could on paper.

It’s easy to get caught up in the economic and academic appeal of foreign students, but universities need to look beyond this and fix the process that brings them here.


Elena Kadvany is a senior majoring in Spanish. Her column “Beyond the Classroom ran Mondays. 

8 replies
  1. George
    George says:

    This is correct. I’m not sure an interview should be such a sweeping solution. Granted, the admissions process is broken, but there should be other solutions as well such as in-person testing.

  2. Joe Schmoe
    Joe Schmoe says:

    The Ivies once boasted about the number of international students. The Ivies no longer need to sell themselves; actually, they never had to. The UCs rely on their copious Nobel laureates. USC takes pride in its stellar football program (the quacks got whacked!), but they need something else to boost its academic image.

  3. Kelley
    Kelley says:

    I don’t think writer can make an conclusion that international students have fake transcripts, fake recommendation letters and application esays based on the phenomenon that China has more agencies.
    More agencies directly mean they help international student to write fake things. This is a logical fallacies because these are not cause and effect. As advisors in high school, agencies provide suggestions on how to choose among top universities. Because China now lack advisors in high school and the need for professional advising grows rapidly, more agencies grow quickly.
    I agree that universities provide more opportunities for interviewing to choose qualified students because it is also a good opportunity for international students to show their talent and true work.

  4. John
    John says:

    Why are we worried about getting more Chinese students into our University? Shouldnt we be focusing on American students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds? International students come here, learn from the best professors in the world and take back that knowledge to their countries to compete directly with our economy. I am not advocating keeping these students out, but at some point we need to look at the long term gain from investing in homegrown students as opposed to soliciting international students who can pay full tuition.

    • Joe Schmoe
      Joe Schmoe says:

      Not really. I don’t follow the “affirmative action sentiment” like you. I agree with some of its points, but not all. Some arguments of affirmative action are that it “stops the vicious cycle of self-doubt; creates role models; makes universities’ demographics more diverse,” etc. There are so many 1/2 truths and fallacious arguments to these assertions. I’ve taken “diversity classes” such as identity-politics and what not, but the sentiment is almost always ultra-left while vilifying whites and East Asians. East Asians succeed academically because they have self-drive and discipline; we aren’t inherently smarter than any other race. We don’t always dwell on math neither.

      As one RACIST instructor of a “racial tolerance” class I once took, but never again, scoffed, “why do Asian girls always date white guys?” was the question she asked while snickering and gloating. I could’ve sunk to her level by asking her the rhetorical question of “which race has the worst stereotypes in this country?”…But I didn’t. By the way, this scum isn’t an instructor at classy USC, thank god.

      • John
        John says:

        Im not sure where you pulled the affirmative action from, or why you even used the quotation marks. I never said anything about affirmative action and I am not advocating it. What I am saying is that there are a lot of kids here in the United States that would benefit from Universities like USC changing their applications to help them instead of foreign students who, for the most part, are not even going to stay and contribute to the United States’ economy or workforce. When I say disadvantaged I mean disadvantaged. I am not talking about skin color or affirmative action, I am talking about those students who may not be able to either afford college or who have come from difficult socioeconomic backgrounds. You dont have to be a minority to have grown up poor, with a bad public education and a rough family life. Thats why I dont support questions about race/ethnicity. If a school wants to be diverse, ask about socioeconomic backgrounds and bring in kids from all walks of life. The fact that a lot of kids who come from these backgrounds are minority doesnt take away from the argument that more needs to be done to help these types of students gain a college education.

  5. Tommy Trojan
    Tommy Trojan says:

    International students might be able to gain admission to US universities using fake academic credentials, but they still have to be able to earn a degree. Interviewing these cheaters is not the answer, I’m afraid, since they are probably good at lying to someone’s face.

    • Ashit Vora
      Ashit Vora says:


      But if they are not granted admission at the first place, other students who really deserve the admission will get chance.

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