• Aeriel Benjamin-Kent and Janine Mhlongo

Why Do Chinese Students Choose Community Colleges and How Can Yours be One of Them?

Community colleges are as American as apple pie. What do they offer Chinese students?

Community colleges may feel overlooked in international recruitment, especially in China, which has a reputation for being rankings-driven. In recent years, community colleges have grown in popularity - why are Chinese families choosing two-year colleges, and how can schools connect with them?

Facts and Figures: International Students at American Community Colleges

Just under 80,000 international students in America study at a community college.

18.6% of international students at community colleges are from China, making it the lead source.

Community Colleges: Countries of International Student Origin:

Source

Community Colleges: International Student Enrollments:

Source

Why Do Chinese Students Choose Community College?


A Flexible Pathway to a Bachelors Degree

Chinese applicants choose community colleges for the same reason American students do – a supportive environment where they can demonstrate success and then transfer to a four-year university.

Transfer agreements can make transfer admissions less competitive and more predictable than freshman. For example, freshman admissions to the prestigious University of California (UC) institutions are notoriously competitive, but six UC campuses offer guaranteed admission to transfer applicants from a California community college with a 3.5 GPA.

Chinese families may not realize that transfers vary between institutions and states, as similar systems don’t exist in China. Recruiters should highlight transfer routes and graduates that have gone on to study at key institutions.


Cost

A less expensive pathway towards a 4-year degree is perhaps the biggest draw of community colleges to international students.

Chinese families may equate low cost with low quality. Reassure applicants by explaining how community colleges are funded and how accreditation systems ensure colleges and universities meet the same standards.


Flexible Admissions

Spending two years at a community college allows students to build key skills to gain admission to their target university. Community colleges generally have flexible admissions requirements, lower score cutoffs, test-optional policies, and offer ESL support, encouraging students lacking academic or language scores to start their journeys at a US institution.


Academics and Class Sizes

International students may worry colleges don’t offer programs in their area of interest. While this may be unfamiliar to Chinese families, most university students in the US complete two years of general education requirements before moving on to more specialized coursework. International students can easily complete these general years at a community college.


Ensure students understand that their major at a community college doesn’t necessarily need to match their major at university, allowing them to explore different fields without impacting their final graduation date.


Smaller campuses mean smaller class sizes and a more bespoke classroom experience (with the added benefit of easing safety concerns during COVID). Many Chinese secondary schools host classes of 60+, making personalized attention from instructors especially appealing. Smaller classes are also ideal for practicing English, building confidence, or pursuing a practical or technical qualification.


Technical and Job-Ready Skills

Programs in in-demand fields (business, IT, computer programming), combined with hands-on education appeal to Chinese learners as Chinese education tends to be heavily theoretical, often relying on rote memorization. A focus on practical skill development and real-world applications helps students develop job-ready skills and, in some cases, earn industry-recognized certifications.


Additional Optional Practical Training (OPT)

International students in the US can participate in OPT (post-graduation employment directly related to their field of study), a critical opportunity for students to gain experience at foreign companies, seen as an enormous advantage in China’s competitive job market.


Graduates are eligible for up to 12 months of OPT employment after each educational level; after completing an associates degree at a community college, students can claim 12 months of OPT and an additional 12 months after completing their bachelors degree at a university.

How Can Community Colleges Successfully Recruit Chinese Students?

A focused message and digital presence are essential. eduFair gives community colleges a free and direct opportunity to target messaging and virtually connect with millions of students across China. Dedicated features for community colleges allow you to highlight transfer agreements, ESL programs, and help Chinese families understand the (many!) benefits of community colleges,


Foothill+De Anza Colleges eBooth on eduFair


How To Stand Out From The Crowd:

• Understand the Chinese Market: Our guide to understanding the needs of students in China’s Tier II and III cities can help you recruit students with realistic goals and expectations who understand the value of a “stepping stone”. A relatively untapped source of qualified candidates, students in these cities are particularly responsive to personalized recruitment efforts.

• Armchair Recruitment: Recruiting abroad from home is more viable than ever. eduFair's dedicated school search means your institution can be found by Chinese families based on program offerings and student’s preferences.

• Grow Your Agent Network: You may not have a lot of time to devote to international recruitment. Agents can be a steady, low-maintenance source of international applicants. eduFair lets you find and manage your partnership network, monitor progress, push updates, and develop closer relationships.

• DIY: With commission based on tuition, agents may turn away from 2-year institutions. Read our guide to building digital connections using Chinese social media platforms to optimize and customize your virtual recruitment.

• Build a China-Friendly Website: Your website should have an international admissions page and international student services page. While prospective students speak English, their parents may not. eduFair bridges this gap with a student interface in Chinese and schools managing their information entirely in English.

• Focus on Long-Term Recognition: Recruiting results (especially in China) take time. Chinese students often rely on advice from family and friends. Build your reputation by engaging Chinese alumni and sharing Chinese student success stories with prospects. Use eduFair to create groups, have discussions in forums and share information directly with key decision makers.

• Include Current International Students: 57% of Asian students said virtual conversations with current students were the most important factor in their application decisions. Forums and Alumni features on eduFair let you save time enable your strongest resources by answering group questions in and connecting applicants to alumni.

• Feature Transfer Agreements: Be found by Chinese students whose aim is to complete a bachelors at a university: crosslink your eduFair eBooth with the eBooths of partner universities, helping students understand 2+2 agreements and plan towards their ultimate goal.

• Highlight ESL: Don’t let prospective students disqualify themselves because of language scores. Help students know what’s possible and how your ESL programs can help them achieve it. eduFair’s college profiles have a dedicated section for these routes to help you get students where they want to go.

eduFair's ESL Program Page


Recruitment in China can be hard. It doesn't have to be. Join 1000+ institutions virtually connecting with 1.5 million+ Chinese students here today.

ABOUT EDUFAIR CHINA​​

eduFair China is a free online platform dedicated to international education and recruitment. Its' platform connects millions of Chinese students with first-hand information while helping institutions recruit qualified students digitally. eduFair aims to give students a more empowered, holistic approach to international education so that they can succeed during their journey abroad.



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