What Students in China Have Taught Me About U.S. College Admissions

Terry Crawford:

I talk to more Chinese high school students than anyone else in the world.

At least I think I do: I operate — along with my wife — a company in China that interviews students on behalf of selective U.S. colleges and boarding schools. Instead of taking a standardized language test, a prospective student can participate in an unscripted conversation with one of our interviewers. We videotape the interview and then provide it “as-is” to admission officers. Admission officers like our interviews because they provide a trustworthy and unfiltered look at an applicant’s communication skills.

A fascinating aspect of this job is that we have a front-row seat to one of the greatest migrations of talent in history. Our thousands of conversations with students often include some variation of the question, “Why do you want to go to the U.S. for school?” Almost every interviewee responds with a version of the following: They don’t like the gaokao (the national college entrance exam), and even more they dislike the prospect of their major being determined by their gaokao score.