Your guide to improving the Chinese international student experience

From arrival to community integration, here’s how to improve Chinese international students’ experience at US institutions.

In 2019, the US had more than 152,000 enrolments of international students, with 38% being students from China. However, enrollment of international students from China at U.S. universities declined by more than 10% between the 2015-16 and 2018-2019 academic years, according to a new report.

US institutions are likely aware of the slowing trends of incoming students from around the world, notably from China which has had the largest population of international enrollees for the past 10 years.

This decrease is unique to the US, with both Canada and Australia experiencing double-digit surges during the same time.While many of the factors contributing to this drop are outside of a school’s control, such as changes related to visas, institutions can still make a positive impact by improving the experience for new students from China. A recent survey showed that many international students struggle with adapting to life in the US and finding support on campus. Another revealed that most overseas applicants consider whether a school is welcoming to international students before deciding where to apply.

Schools hoping to enhance the student experience for Chinese international students should keep these tips in mind:

1. Pre-arrival orientation: Events such as these are regularly held for domestic students, so why not international attendees? Aside from the usual freshman concerns, overseas students might be completely new to practices like buying meal plans, budgeting in US dollars and finding on-campus or nearby housing, which is listed as a top challenge for this group. Holding webinars, Q&As or providing checklists on these topics can be a big help to incoming students – and save your international student office time on managing these questions individually.

2. Language barrier: Although schools generally require English language proficiency, the difference between a passing score and in-person ability can greatly differ, a study found. Those with English as a second or third language can struggle with assignments and it does not necessarily become easier as the semester progresses. Setting up language classes or tutoring is an effective way to ensure the success of those new to the US.

3. Culture shock: Many international students beginning their academic careers are visiting the US for the first time and can experience difficulties adapting to American norms. Practices such as meals, greetings, clothing and more can differ from what they are used to in their home countries. Leveraging senior students as mentors or even producing a video are just some of the ways schools have helped international students adapt to their new home.

4. Community integration: The biggest challenge that international students experience might be the shift in their support system: many may go from having a strong network of friends and family in China to knowing few people in their new city. In fact, 60% of foreign enrollees are uninvolved in campus clubs and activities. Schools should promote Chinese student associations and other organizations early on to help foster connections.

5. Tuition payments: The ability to pay school fees swiftly and securely is vital for international students and their parents. Unfortunately, this group is a target for fraudsters and there have been numerous reports of students losing money to scammers. Providing preventative advice and clear direction on these scenarios is vital in helping payers avoid becoming a victim. Convera allows students to pay fees directly to their school through familiar payment methods and invests heavily in compliance and security to help reduce the risk of fraud.

International students are a critical part of any US college or university. Scholars from China make up the largest percentage of incoming students and while their numbers are dropping, schools need to make a concentrated effort to support this group.

As student numbers are falling from China, these enrollees have a unique set of challenges, institutions need to work harder to attract them and compete with other institutions in the US and other regions.

These measures will help US institutions build their reputation as a welcoming destination for students from China by offering a strong student experience. As international attendees continue to seek education outside of the US it is important for schools to take action as soon as possible.


Convera has based the opinions expressed in this webpage on information generally available to the public, and such information or opinions are strictly for illustrative purposes only. Business between you and Convera shall be governed by the applicable terms and conditions provided to you before you undertake any transaction or commercial relationship with Convera.