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  • Alicia Sigmon

Diversifying Academic Pathways for Chinese Students


Chinese students tend to enroll in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs. You know that your school’s programs extend far beyond those subjects, but how can you show Chinese students the benefits of branching out?

 

Architects consulting a building design. Three out of the four people are wearing yellow safety helmets.
Promoting STEM-adjacent majors or programs is a great way to encourage Chinese students to branch out with other programs at your school. | Photo from Sogou




















Highlighting the following skills, success stories, and specialized programs or opportunities at your school can ignite Chinese students’ curiosity for more diverse academic paths.



Transferable Skills


Each major, program, and work-study opportunity can teach students transferrable skills that are relevant across multiple industries and roles. Skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and leadership can be applied to any role or industry. These skills not only enhance students' academic experience but also prepare them for success in their future careers, regardless of their chosen field. By emphasizing the development of transferable skills, you can reassure prospective Chinese students that pursuing non-STEM or STEM-adjacent majors can still provide them with valuable and versatile abilities that will benefit them in the professional world.



STEM-Adjacent Programs


Students who are committed to studying civil engineering aren’t likely to change course to journalism, but Chinese students (and their parents!) might not be aware of the multitude of majors offered. To diversify Chinese students' academic pathways, highlight specialized programs related to well-known STEM majors. Programs like technical design, architecture, environmental engineering, and agriculture are likely less known than programs like civil engineering but offer just as much value and opportunity as typical STEM majors.



International Student and Alumni Success Stories


What are your international alumni from lesser-known majors doing after graduation? How did attending your school shape their career? Sharing your international students’ successes before and after graduation will show prospective students understand what opportunities different majors can provide. 

 

For example, the University of Pennsylvania highlights its architecture program’s 100-year connection with China. The first Chinese student, Zhu Bin, joined Penn’s architecture program in 1918, and Penn’s students went on to shape China’s modern architecture. Penn uses their history to promote their STEM-adjacent program, maintain a connection with China, and celebrate their international students’ achievements.


 

Work Opportunities, Before and After Graduation


Many students choose STEM-focused programs because of potential career prospects. Because STEM programs like engineering tend to be universal, an engineering degree from the United States is sure to be accepted back home, but subjects with more subjectivity are seen as coming with less secure job opportunities. Whether this is true or not, admissions staff must address this concern.

 

To reassure prospective Chinese students about their career prospects, it’s important to demonstrate that there are opportunities for hands-on experience while attending your school. From co-operative education programs (co-ops) and internships to research and teaching assistant roles, ensure students are aware of everything your campus is doing to set them up for professional success. Work-study programs in China tend to be in roles that are major-adjacent at best, and work-study programs have a reputation for relegating international students to the cafeteria and campus operations. Admissions will need to demonstrate that students’ ability to apply their studies to the “real world” is as important to your school as it is to them and that you’re prepared to help them achieve their goals - no matter their major.

 


Advantages of Paid Internships:

  

Co-ops and paid internships in particular have tangible career benefits for students’ long-term careers. According to an annual survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), students with paid internships receive more job offers and higher starting salaries than students with unpaid internships. Additionally, 50-60% of eligible interns become full-time employees and are retained longer than other employees. Emphasizing your co-op and paid internship opportunities along with their benefits will alleviate prospective students’ concerns.

 

Teammates collaborating at their desks during an internship
Internships and co-ops give students the opportunity to work with a company before graduation, where they can develop transferrable skills, gain real-life experience, and build professional connections for after graduation. | Photo by Mimi Thain on Unsplash



















 


Industry Connections and Mentorship Opportunities


What companies and organizations hire your students, and what kind of connections do you have as resources for students? Highlighting industry connections demonstrates your commitment to supporting students’ success after graduation. Industry connections can help students get a foot in the door of their dream company or industry and provide them with the opportunity to connect with people in roles or companies of interest. 

 

Students seeking programs beyond classic STEM subjects may be looking for specialized programming led by industry leaders with connections to their fields. Promoting research opportunities, teaching assistantships, and the chance to learn from professors who can take their learning from laboratory to life will inspire students to diversify their academic paths. These opportunities demonstrate your campus’ commitment to focused, interdisciplinary academic programming and strong mentor-style relationships with experts in specialized fields.

 


Conclusion


Chinese students often favor STEM programs because of their career prospects, but there are many majors related to these fields that offer promising careers. Promoting overlooked STEM-adjacent programs can encourage Chinese students to explore more options at your school, and highlighting industry connections, work-study opportunities, and international students’ success stories at your school will address their career concerns. Additionally, showcasing industry-leading professors who can prepare students for the real world attracts students seeking specialized programs. By actively promoting diverse academic pathways, your school can empower Chinese students to make well-informed decisions about their academic and career paths.



 


ABOUT EDUFAIR CHINA 


eduFair China is a free website and app connecting Chinese students with international institutions and first-hand resources about studying abroad. We aim to give students a more empowered approach to international education so that they can succeed during their journey abroad.


Our platform features more than 1,200 organizations and reaches millions of students across China.


Click here to learn more about getting your institution online and how eduFair can help you reach students in China.

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