top of page

Why Admissions Officers Don't Trust Chinese Applications

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

American admissions officers are under significant pressure to cut down on rampant cheating amongst applicants, especially after several high-profile scandals. When I visited China, I saw this cheating first-hand. And what shocked me was how commonplace it had become for companies to write essays for students or embellish their resumes. Unfortunately for those companies, their time is now over. And getting caught can mean serious trouble for their reputations and their students' futures.

"How much will it cost to have the essay written... if the student is too busy to write all of it?"

... I couldn't understand what the college counselors meant by their question. This was a well-known and reputable university admissions consulting company in China that approached me about helping their student apply to top-tier American schools. I thought there must be a misunderstanding. Something lost in translation. But after asking again and again for clarification, what they were implying because clear... They wanted me to write the essay for the student. They explained that it was not uncommon in China and that the student was too busy studying to finish her essay.

I had to explain that universities are starting to verify the facts presented in Chinese students' essays by interviewing the student to ensure they use the same vocabulary, make the same references, and think in the same way expressed in their essays. A good essay is a window into a student's personality, which means a good essay must be written by the student. Otherwise, not only will the essay feel inauthentic and bland, but the student will get caught for cheating, which has much more drastic consequences.

I had to explain that it was morally wrong and fraudulent to write a student's essay for them. It would land the student -- and any student ever associated with their company -- in serious trouble. Being labeled a "cheater" in American academic circles can mean the end of one's academic career. And no student would want their dream of studying in America to be over before it could even begin.

However, this company did not take my advice. They went with a Chinese counselor who has a pile of essays ready to be adjusted to a student's specific resume and personality. It's like a formula or paint-by-numbers painting. My contacts in the admissions industry know about these essays and watch out for them. They're easy to spot. After an admissions officer reads thousands of essays, they become an expert at finding inauthenticity. They also have tools such as databases of essays, plagiarism detection software, and strategies to verify the contents of the essay using social media.

The most heartbreaking thing about this interaction with this tutoring company was the fact that their student was a great kid. She had no idea her parents and counselors were ruining her chances of acceptance and ruining her good reputation. After all, they told her this was a common practice in China and would give her more time to study!

My company is founded on the pillars of integrity, authenticity, and excellence. Cheating goes against everything we stand for. In fact, what brings me the most joy in my work is seeing a student's hard work paying off. Watching them come to a deeper understanding of who they are and what matters to them... Hearing them express that they have learned more about English and writing in the last two weeks with me than in their last 4 years of high school. These are skills and qualities they will have for the rest of their life. An authentic, high-quality, and successful university application and essay is merely the cherry on top!

For more information about how I work with clients, don't hesitate to reach out with a question!

American students:

Chinese students:


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page