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'Students need to broaden their search beyond the top 100 and start applying to other countries'

Regional coordinator for university and career guidance in China and Hong Kong, John Yi Liu talks about how the U.S.- China trade war has impacted Chinese high school students drawn to the American dream.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   21-08-2019

John Yi Liu
John Yi Liu, Regional Coordinator for University and
Career Guidance in China and Hong Kong

After a relatively uneventful two months, tensions between China and the U.S. have flared up again with characteristic threats of tit-for-tat measures. Hostilities between the two countries-- particularly  with tightening visa restrictions-- has impacted Chinese students wishing to study in the U.S. Many Chinese students who returned home have been unable to go back to the U.S. for over a year and those who are applying to university are increasingly opting for the U.K. and Europe instead.

Amidst the uncertainty, it falls to guidance counselors like John Yi Liu to pacify and support Chinese students looking to study abroad. Mr. Liu is the regional coordinator for university and career guidance in 13 international schools in China and Hong Kong. He has been working as a guidance counsellor for eight years, supporting students through the strenuous, often bizarre process of college applications. With a Masters in Education from Columbia, and six years experience as a teacher and Dean of students at the Bronx High School of Science in New York, Mr. Liu intimately understands the intricacies of the American education system. BrainGain Magazine had the opportunity to speak to him, and ask how Chinese students are coping with greater scrutiny in applications and visa processing.

  1. With America increasing scrutiny of visa applications from China, and rejecting more visas, what is your sense of the atmosphere in China?

    I think  China will still be issuing visas for its students to apply to universities in the US in the long-term. There seems to be a trend that the number of applicants for Chinese students applying to graduate schools in the US is starting to decrease. I don’t necessarily think that has to do with the visa applications for China, but [with the]  increase of quality universities around the world.

  2. Do you think there will be long-term consequences to this hostility towards Chinese students?

    I think there will be long-term consequences, especially for US schools that aren’t in the top 100. I sent a survey to a number of our colleges within the US and many of them said that their applications from China have plateaued or decreased this year. One reason for this is because of the political climate in the US, which has turned some Chinese students away to other places. There’s also the rising cost of universities. Canada and Australia are becoming more popular choices as well as other places within Europe. And these countries are coming to China to recruit heavily.

  3. How are you, as a guidance counsellor, navigating the challenges now associated with the U.S. student visas? How are you reassuring your students?

    We have always helped our students through the visa process. So we’re just guiding them on the various requests from institutions that we’re able to communicate with during the summer. We are reassuring our students by making sure that this year they have a secondary choice of a university that is not in the US in case things don’t work out with their visas.

  4. Have you and the students received any reassurance from American institutions? If so, has it made a difference?

    Yes. All of the institutions emailed the students and us about how they’re continuing to welcome international students. This included a range of schools, from the Ivy Leagues all the way down to your local state schools and community colleges. At this point, you can’t really tell if it made that much of a difference because our students already made their choices. I’ll be better able to answer that question next year with a new group of applicants.

  5. Do you have any solutions in mind for the students who are stranded and/or want to apply to the U.S.? What can they do in the short-term, and what can they do in the long-term?

    I think for students who are applying to the US in the short term, they should continue applying and looking for schools, perhaps not in the top 100. They need to really broaden their search because there are a lot of quality institutions out there. We also advise students to start looking and applying to other countries, as they are very welcoming to Chinese students, especially coming from international schools. It’s really hard to predict for the long term because of the political climate in the US. Generally, we say to the students that long term wise the US will be viable and stable as a country.

  6. Are there any other comments you would like to make on the situation?

    I think currently, it’s important for counsellors to stay updated on the quick changes that are happening in bilateral relationships between the U.S. and China, as well as China and the U.K. Our industry is one in which you need to be abreast of all the news. It’s also important to be closely tied and able to network with the universities.
If you liked this, check out:
What the China-U.S. trade war has meant for international students
Trump Effect: College applications from foreign students down


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