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  • Alicia Sigmon

What Chinese Students Need to Know About Transferring

In Western countries, transferring between institutions is much more common than in China. Transfers are not often discussed in China, so transfer rates within China are low. With China’s international outlook, however, Chinese students are encouraged to travel and study abroad, so students will be interested in learning more about the international transfer process.


Reasons Chinese Students Might Transfer to an International Institution

Chinese students value an international mindset and know the value of an international education. Test scores, majors, and the pandemic may all play a role in students’ decision to transfer.

  1. Test Scores – In China, students must take the gaokao (高考 | gāokǎo | 'Higher Education Exam') to attend university, and their test scores directly affect what schools they can go to. Test scores can greatly limit some students within China for their education and career. If students did not get the scores they wanted, they would not be able to transfer internally to a better school. Chinese students care a lot about school rankings, so if they are not happy with their school’s rank, they might transfer to an institution abroad, where they could get into a higher ranked school.

  2. Majors – After beginning their studies, some students decide to transfer when they discover that their chosen major is not what they’d expected or that their interests or career goals have changed. These students can transfer to a school that has their newly selected major, or to a school with the same major but different teachers, curricula, resources, etc.

  3. Study Abroad Goals During a Pandemic – In China, having an international mindset is very important. With international travel beginning to become more accessible, Chinese students that had delayed studying abroad or returned to China at the beginning of the pandemic because of concerns about quickly changing Covid policies now have the opportunity to transfer abroad. Additionally, after nationwide protests in early December, China has begun to relax their zero-tolerance Covid policy. As policies change and travel home and abroad becomes easier, students may decide now is the time to study abroad.

Waiting at the airport | Photo by yousef alfuhigi on Unsplash
Person waiting at the airport with luggage and watching a plane take off. | Photo by Yousef Alfuhigi on Unsplash

What Chinese Students Want to Know When Preparing to Transfer

Since the beginning of Covid, even transferring within the US has become more difficult. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s Update on Transfer Students published in September 2022, there was a 13.5% total drop in the number of student transfers between higher education institutions since the beginning of the pandemic. To help Chinese students navigate this new and difficult process during an already challenging time for transfer students in general, Chinese students will want to know about the credit transfer process and why they should transfer to your institution.

How to Transfer Credits:

To help Chinese students efficiently and knowledgeably prepare to transfer abroad, here are five key questions to answer:

1. Does the institution accept credits from China? For transfer students, this is a crucial first question. A lot of time, money, and energy is spent on preparing to apply for a transfer, so letting students know if your institution accepts credits from China is important to help students make an informed decision about their transfer.

2. Do students need an agent to translate or certify their coursework? Coming from China, students’ courses, syllabi, grades, etc. will all be in Chinese. If your institution requires translated documents, advertising that early will help Chinese students feel confident that they have prepared all of the correct documents ahead of time and avoid frustration or confusion.

3. What tests and GPA are required? Clearly listing required tests, like the SAT or TOEFL, will help students ensure that they take all tests by the deadlines to apply. Chinese students know that high test scores can offer more enrollment opportunities, so they will want to adequately prepare for any tests with plenty of notice.

A purple background with a finger pointing to a search bar of the question, "What documents do I need to transfer from China to the US?"

4. What documents are required? Required documents for transfer differ by institution. Clearly listing all documents for transfers is essential for a smooth transfer process. Examples of typically required documentation include official high school transcripts and a high school diploma, language and standardized test scores, a personal statement, university transcripts, etc.

5. What years in students’ education are best to transfer? Students should apply to transfer in their first two years of school to avoid delaying graduation. If students are in their third or fourth years, you could direct students to your graduate programs instead to avoid delaying graduation. This honesty and alternative solution would appeal to Chinese students looking to maximize their education abroad.

The Benefits of Transferring Your Specific Institution

What makes your institution stand out? Is it the professors, the student atmosphere, or specific programs or clubs? Below we have shared some recommendations about what Chinese students are looking for when deciding where to continue their education.

  1. Campus Resources: All universities and colleges have student clubs, a beautiful campus, etc. To stand out, let Chinese students know about resources they might not know about, like tutoring services, mental health services, resident assistants, the social and educational atmosphere, and nearby international and Chinese communities. Letting your current students share their own experiences will especially attract Chinese students, who greatly value true student experience and connections. For more details or recommendations on resources to share with Chinese students, see our article 5 Ways to Demonstrate True Student Experience Pre-Enrollment.

  2. Majors: While many people think of engineering and science when thinking of degrees in China, there are also many art programs. Unlike in the US education system, Chinese education focuses more on accumulating knowledge than developing creativity. So what does this mean for art degrees in China? Anita He looks for answers in her article for The World of Chinese, titled Can Art Degree Programs Churn Out Real Artists? She interviewed Lu Xiaoyang, an art student in Shenyang who made an exhibit about marginalized youth but was hindered by his university. To freely explore their creativity and social justice goals, many Chinese students looking to pursue art will look to international institutions. Sharing more information about a wide range of majors, including STEM and art degrees, can attract Chinese students with varying interests.

  3. Rankings: Rankings matter to Chinese students because attending higher ranked schools in China leads to higher paying jobs. Chinese students who are transferring internationally because they are not satisfied with their test scores and their Chinese school will have access to more resources abroad than if they remained in China for their education. If your school has a prestigious award or high ranking, advertising this to Chinese students will also add to your institution’s appeal.

Old boxes stacked outside in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China | Photo by Katie Chen on Unsplash


The transfer process can take a long time, and students need to be prepared to make their transfer as smooth as possible. Understanding Chinese students’ reasons for transferring abroad and providing answers to common questions will make you stand out as a supportive and inviting institution. By answering students’ top transfer questions and sharing benefits of your institution, like campus resources, student experiences, rankings, or details about unique majors, you can help Chinese students realize that their best-fit choice is your institution.


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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