In downtown Berkeley I met a group of Chinese students from Beijing. They were entering freshmen at UC Berkeley.
They said there were 40 students like them — from Beijing, entering UC Berkeley. (At Tsinghua, there will be 400 entering freshmen from Beijing.) In all of China, 13 students were admitted to Harvard, about the same number to Yale and Princeton. One of them said she’d wanted to go to Northwestern but hadn’t gotten in. Had she gone to college in China, she might have gone to Renmin University, perhaps the #3 university in China.
Surely their parents were wealthy, yes. But they preferred an American college to a Chinese one for two main reasons: 1. They can choose whatever major they want. At Chinese universities students are often forced into a major they don’t want if their scores are high enough to get into a prestigious university but not high enough to get into the major they want at that university. 2. They believe that if they graduate from an American university they will have more opportunities. Where did they get the idea of coming to Berkeley? I asked. Online, they said. Their English was really good.
The “more opportunities” may not be as simple as they think. In Beijing I know a Chinese businesswoman who hired a recent college graduate. She’d gone to college in England, indicating that her parents were wealthy. The new worker turned out to be irresponsible and had to be fired. Perhaps her parents had spoiled her. In this businesswoman’s eyes, an overseas education may now be a negative.