Chinese StudentChina is the ultimate prize in the international student recruiting realm. That is true for several reasons. China’s lure is beyond the obvious construct of sheer numbers.

It is numbers, true—but numbers in conjunction with highly qualified, highly motivated and typically well financed prospective students. It is an international recruiter’s dream. But for many, that dream can be elusive.

Recruiting in just one city in China can often yield more prospective students than entire countries. Chinese students endure and thrive in a rigorous and highly competitive academic environment from their youth.

Their place in an elite Chinese university is never certain, but their aspiration to achieve such is often undaunted.

Parents invest tremendous resources into insuring just such an outcome. For many, it ends in disappointment due to demand and supply factors.

For a few, that disappointment is so profound that it leads to despair and even suicide.

Almost all college bound Chinese students are the product of the one-child policy. Universally, it is taken as a given that solo children are typically pampered and spoiled.

In China, that is a double edge sword. Coupled with the pampering is the pressure of being the sole bearer of the family legacy.

Chinese parents can be obsessive about education. Many concede that the best prospect for their child is overseas. The United States is a preferred destination.

But that obsession, demonstrated by carrying the US News and World Report rankings in their purses, carries a particular challenge for most US universities.

The obsession comes with a misconstruction—typically incorrect definition of what is an “Ivy League” school—-coupled with a sheer determination to get their only child into one of these institutions.

Chinese college girl carrying a book The first challenge is to tactfully inform the Chinese parent and student that there are 3500 mostly good options in the United States.

To try to get it into their consciousness that most Americans do not go to or even apply to the “elite” institutions, misconstrued as “Ivy League” schools.

The reality check of the sheer daunting probabilities and the likely ill-fated uphill climb that will accompany their aspirations usually falls on deaf ears.

I have learned that over 80,000 Chinese students in a particular year applied to one elite US University were less than one half of one percent will be successful.

Another institution received over 40,000 and selected about 1%.

Meanwhile, several hundred very good institutions are willing to receive and cherish many of these students, would provide them with a great education and a great future, but cannot get consideration.

The latter personifies my frustration.

While I agree that everyone needs to seek the best or perceived best for his child, I do believe that with better information from agents, EDUSA, consortia and other stakeholders, parents can be sensitized to the options and the qualities of the varied and vast higher education infrastructure in the USA.

This overview of this highly significant and most valuable market is my personal outreach and appeal to China and Chinese students on behalf of the other 3400 or so very good US institutions who would love to welcome you.


This week’s Question of the Week comes from Richard of Ghana an aspiring Electrical Engineering major.


Richard wants to know how he should answer if he is asked about the university he chose. He also wants to know how he should reply if asked about his decision to do Bachelors instead of Masters. You can see Richard’s very detailed comment here.

Professor_B’s Answer:


Thanks for your patience and for the well laid out question complete with all the information that allows me to answer you intelligently.

Although this answer will serve the greater community as a feature, it is fine if it resonates a bit more in West Africa, and even more specifically in Ghana.

I am totally familiar with the education system in Ghana and have actually consulted on a system conversion there. The HND is actually a slightly enhanced Associate’s degree in american terms. It is better than the ND but you are correct. Although some European schools, including some in the UK, will allow you to do master’s degrees from that level, American universitites of any repute will not allow it. It is an undergraduate designation not equivalent to a bachelor’s degree. In fact, even with the HND, and even if you stay in the same field, you may still require two calendar years to complete your degree.

While your path has not been direct, you are not too old, and you were doing something academic, productive, and consistent with your goals. Your course of study is the natural next step from where you currently sit, and it is highly technical. That means that there is a clear benefit to studying it in the USA where the quality and state of the art would be factors. So all good on the choice of study, the circumstances, and the explanation.

I have actually visited Sunyani Polytech (back in 2004–stayed at the hotel right across the street) and met and subsequently enrolled one student from there into my institution. What I do know is that fees were miniscule by US standards. The next path for many of them was Kwame Nkrumah in Kumasi or Cape Coast U, or if possible Legon. So be prepared to explain why not one of these at a fraction of the cost.

Why is that explanation necessary? Well you indicated a third party, non relative sponsor. Like most Ghanaians (and I have experienced that sad reality so often) you have more determination, ability, and drive than you have the means to bring to fruition. However, that third party sponsor will be looked upon with extreme skepticism. The embassy is aware that it is highly unlikely for that person to actually be paying your fees. I suspect you are also aware that the the “sponsor” is more a facilitator than a benefactor. So the question of where the fees will actually come from will sit over that interview like a dark cloud.

Many students, particularly in West Africa, believe that they just need to get to the USA and they can work their way through. I preach repeatedly that this is a foolhardy approach. It is a wrong approach. It is an unworkable approach. Yes thousands prove me wrong. It is very much like taking a chance on a canoe to cross the Atlantic. If you are willing to risk drowning in the ocean, then it is worth it. Most of the student who get here on that pretense may not actually get a degree directly, but somehow, by all the illegal and innovative means necessary, they get a better life. Ultimately, that seems to justify the means. So I am speaking with the authority of statistics, not the absoluteness of certainty. If your sponsor is that rare bird who will actually be paying your tuition, then you are blessed. But you will have a difficult if not impossible task of getting that past a VO. It just will not fly. He will rely on what he knows of your culture, his world, and the reality of the human condition and dismiss it.

The second piece of information is actually a harbinger of the inate thought process. That you deem him necessary is a validation of the concern about the total sponsor. An invitation letter is not necessary from a relative when one seeks a student visa. The I-20 serves as the de facto invitation letter. Moreover, a relative, per se, is presumptively a liability because it only signals family ties to the USA.

So how do we take that package of lemons and make lemonade? How do we make it work in your favor? Here is a plausible scenario. What if the sponsor is just providing you with the tuition? Per your explanation, that is all that is needed since your relative is providing the accommodation. So why not asked the company to indicate that they are paying your tuition, and to clearly state why they are doing so? Companies are not necessary endowed with social consciences, so they typically have a quid pro quo motive for that sort of interaction. It would be helpful if they could spell it out.

Then, your relative should give you an equally clear letter. That letter should indicate that his residence in the area of the school is the reason why you selected that school. He should describe his dwelling place and indicate his intent to sponsor your room and board. But he should complete an 1-134, put his job letter and a bank statement with it, and show that there is real commitment.

I would strongly advise that you make sure of the distance from your relative’s place to your school. It may be in the same state but would require an airplane to get there. I once had a student take a flight and attempt to take a taxi from an airport eight hours away because that city was in the same state and he had no idea of the size and dimensions of the USA. Even in Dallas, the metro area is so vast that if he is not living close to UTD that room and board offer would be moot.

Texas is a great state for education. UTD is a great school choice. But you have some burdens. Largely, it is financial, and you look on paper like the textbook West African student trying to put something together to advance yourself. Admirable. But unfortunately it spells 214-B.

Work the two sponsor angle. Be prepared to lay out your plans. Highlight your famility in Ghana. Frankly, and generically, they must be aware that you have a 90% chance of not returning. But they continue to give visas. So that tells me that the system wants to keep a certain number of folks. So as an electrical engineer, you would certainly be a boon to the US economy. Let’s hope you sound intelligent; speak clearly; and fall into that category of those that they know will not return, but they decide to let in anyway.

I like your chances by the way you laid out your case, by the fact that you are a teacher, and by the fact that you have the drive and determination. And I had a great time in Sunyani. So I hope you make it in.


Question of the Week – Why Several Nursing Majors Get A 214(b) Visa Rejection?

July 4, 2012

This week’s Question of the Week comes from Emma, an aspiring Nursing student. Question: Emma is accepted to study Nursing at a US university, the school’s entry requirements appear to be very low, she has no ties to the US and intends to return home after study and she has a family member as her sponsor. […]

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Question of the Week – How Can I Improve the Visa Officer’s Impression Of My Application ?

June 28, 2012

This week’s Question of the Week comes from Loma Linda, an aspiring Doctoral Physical Therapy Student from India. Question Loma had several specific concerns but she essentially wanted to know what she can do to improve the visa officer’s impression of her application. Read her full comments first by clicking here, then return for the […]

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Recruiting in Zimbabwe – Winter 2012 Trip

June 26, 2012

Zimbabwe is often in the news for political events. Yet the country maintains a calmness that seems to defy and create a myth of its turbulent recent past and legacy of oppression and suppression of human rights in its former days as Rhodesia. Zimbabwe, like South Africa, is still a multi racial society with notably […]

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Recruiting In South Africa – Winter 2012 Trip

June 7, 2012

Recruiting in a country with a mature and well developed education infrastructure is quite a a challenge. It is even more or a challenge when the natives are largely satisfied with the options at home. Such is the case in South Africa. But even with these factors, it is clear that with better information about […]

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Question of the Week – What Are The Steps To Post Graduate or PhD. Studies in America?

June 5, 2012

This is the first of what will become a weekly item on this blog. Each week we will pull a question submitted via the comments section, our seminar attendees, or other avenue and answer it on the My American Degree blog  for everyonels benefit. Question: Our first question comes from Vino from Nigeria I got […]

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Gambia Recruiting Trip 2012 – Part 2

May 26, 2012

Had a wonderful session at the American Corner on Friday afternoon, May 25, in Banjul Gambia.  The Corner, associated with the EAC, is a standard offering from the US government.  It features internet access to look up various education sites, books, catalogs, and a library.  From all accounts, it is a much accessed place in the […]

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Gambia Recruiting Trip 2012 – Part 1

May 18, 2012

First visit to Gambia!  Recruiting is both professional and educational. One of my personal passions while recruiting is to sample a culture in terms of its cuisine, social customs, and to learn how the folks go about their daily lives. I strongly believe that having some knowledge of a culture, assimilating a bit, getting into […]

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Midwestern State University in Gambia 2012

May 16, 2012

Midwestern State University, Texas USA will be holding information seminars for those interested in attending university in the United States.  See below for schedule of events Seminars – Gambia Date Country City Location/Time May 17 Gambia Lighthous Conference Centre 9 – 11am May 18 Gambia Lighthouse Conference Centre 9 – noon May 18 Gambia American Corner […]

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