There are more than a million international students in the United States and Chinese students make up about a third of them. Now, one American university is making the enrollment process a bit easier. And it is the first of its kind in the country to do so.
The University of New Hampshire (UNH) casts itself as the “Just Right” school – it is not too big and not too small – but one thing the university is still striving for is a more multicultural campus.
“We wanted to find a way that would give us a unique pipeline to students that not every other American and international university was utilizing,” said Victoria Dutcher, the VP for enrollment management.
And for the first time, UNH will accept scores from the Gaokao, China’s notoriously difficult university entrance exam, and UNH is the first flagship state school in the United States to make that move.
“China is a dominating force in the global economy,” Dutcher said. “It’s important for American students and other international students to get to know students from China.”
Competition is high for limited spaces at top universities in China, but UNH’s new policy could help expand opportunities for Chinese students.
This new policy means that Chinese students do not have to spend additional time preparing for the typical standardized tests required for studying abroad and it also means that Chinese students can enroll as early as the upcoming Fall term, which begins in late August at UNH.
Critics have also said the Gaokao is not a fair assessment of a student’s academic credentials and point to the exam’s focus on rote learning rather than creativity, which is favored in higher education in the United States.
“There is no one perfect predictor of academic performance,” Dutcher said. “The Gaokao is an important component of the application process for these students, it’s not the only thing we consider.”
Globally, a handful of universities have also adopted a similar Gaokao policy. The University of San Francisco, which is private, was the first in the US to do so. It said the policy is a success as it attracts top students from China, who, according to the school, perform well academically.
UNH hopes that its new Gaokao policy will not only benefit students from China but the rest of the student body by bringing new perspectives into the classroom.
Fangzhou Xu, a junior at UNH from Hong Kong, said he has helped expose his American classmates to Chinese culture.
“They care about my cultures, my habits,” Xu said. “Sometimes we have differences and that is interesting.”
It’s too early to tell how many more Chinese students will make the move, but the hope is that the “Just Right” school will be just the right “fit” for a more diverse student body.