Summer schools in vogue

Updated: 2015-04-03 11:31

By Li Xueqing in Shanghai(China Daily USA)

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More Chinese students are attending the summer school programs of their dream universities in the United States as competition heats up.

In the 2013 academic year, 274,439 Chinese students went to the US to study, up 16.5 percent from the previous year, according to a report released by the Institute of International Education in November.

Now more are turning to summer schools to gain a leg up and find out if the university is a good fit while improving their English along the way, said Ding Jie, a senior consultant at Vision Overseas, an overseas education agency.

It sends about 100 students a year from Shanghai to summer schools in the US. Expenses range from 20,000 yuan ($3,200) to 100,000 yuan.

To put this into perspective, the average disposable income per capita in Shanghai was 47,710 yuan last year.

"It's quite a large sum for ordinary families. But a two-week experience can be a game-changer so parents think it's worthwhile," said Lu Jie at EIC Education.

EIC Education has over 20 years' experience in overseas education. Its department that deals with summer schools and other study tour programs is growing at a rate of 25 to 35 percent a year.

One high school senior from Shanghai with the surname Zhang has already received two offers from US universities. She attended a brief course at UC Berkeley last summer and said she benefited from its English writing and psychology courses.

One professor wrote her a glowing recommendation that helped with her applications.

Lu Chen has just been admitted to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Lu, a senior at Shanghai Yucai high school, wanted to follow in the footsteps of Life of Pi director Ang Lee, who also studied there.

Lu attended New York University's summer school and got three recommendation letters out of it.

He scored just 2,000 points in his SAT test, a middle result, but benefited from creating a good impression in person at NYU.

Chinese students mostly apply for summer schools at the top 20 US universities but not everyone benefits from the experience.

According to Ding, students in the 70th percentile have the most to gain.

"Top students can usually get into the university anyway while those who aren't qualified probably won't get admitted to the summer program," she said.

Others find it too stressful or challenging to compete with American students while studying in a foreign language.

She gave the example of one male student who bit off more than he could chew and fell out of love with the university before finishing the summer program.

"He chose too many courses and had to withdraw from two," she said.