Story by Myungzhu
Google only takes 5 seconds to find thousands of articles on how to get a scholarship to Chinese universities, but every personal experience is unique. Last year, I got admitted to the Global Business Journalism Master Program at Tsinghua University with a Chinese Government Scholarship (CGS). If studying in China is your dream, this article might not a complete guide that walks you through every single step of the application process, but I hope my experience could help and inspire you to take a step further to your dream.
First of all, here is my story in a nutshell:
- May 2019 – Jun 2019: School research.
- Nov 2019 – Dec 2019: Standardized tests. Essay writing.
- Feb 27, 2020: Online interview.
- Mar 03, 2020: Pre-Admitted by the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication. This is not final admission. Many got admitted by this round but rejected by the school’s general admission later. Ouch!
Starting from this point, I got added by the Admission Office of the department on WeChat. And all communication related to my admission was conducted kind of informally there. Tsinghua Global Business Journalism’s Admission Office was extremely friendly and helpful in all regards.
- Apr 16-18, 2020: Application for Chinese Government Scholarship (CGS) open to pre-admitted students (yes, 2 days).
- Jul 14, 2020: Official Admission Decision from Tsinghua.
- Aug 05, 2020: Official CGS Results + Tsinghua Scholarship Announcement.
Don’t trust the Application Deadlines on the School Homepage
The first step is to gauge how early you should start and how many programs you can apply to. The final school/program selection can be made later. Most higher education programs in China only accept applications for Fall enrollment. It’s recommended to look up information and decide where to apply at least 1 year in advance, as the admission schedules in each school can be vastly different.
The application deadline written on the school or department homepage might be incorrect or outdated. The same thing goes for almost everything written on the Chinese Government Scholarship’s homepage.
Don’t trust what you see 🙂
For example, in order to enroll at Tsinghua‘s Global Business Journalism program by Sep 2020 and to be nominated for the CGS, I had to send in my application before Dec 31, 2019. Yes, 10 months in advance.
So, what should you do?
Instead, make sure that you write an email to the Admission Office of each program/department (not the school) to confirm the deadlines for:
- General application
- Scholarship application
Make a personal timeline/checklist for all the programs to make sure everything is in check. A sloppy example here: LINK.
Do your School and Program research thoroughly
The national ranking of the school is important if you plan to work in China after graduation. School prestige > Major ranking. Personal opinion of course.
This is the China University Subject Rankings (CUSR) which evaluates and ranks universities and colleges in Mainland China by subjects.
Most programs/departments will have their own homepage on which they post a handful of information about their programs. Try to look for the basics like syllabus, faculty, affiliated institutions, exchange, and career opportunity, etc. And if there’s something you couldn’t find, don’t hesitate to write them an email.
Here are some examples of useful pages. Your schools should have similar pages that you want to look at.
- Tsinghua’s Graduate Program master page
- Tsinghua’s Program Catalogue
- Global Business Journalism Program homepage
In my personal opinion, Tsinghua has one of the most reader-friendly websites with helpful information, even if not all the admission requirements listed there are up-to-date. Most Chinese school websites are hard to navigate through, and information can be very unclear in regard to whether a program is offered in English or Chinese (ahem, Peking University).
Again, instead of guessing, gather all your questions into a detailed email so that you can have them answered at once.
Know your Scholarships
There are multiple scholarships for international students, but each school and program may offer different types of scholarships. The 3 basic ones are:
1. Chinese Government Scholarship (CGS)
Admission for the CGS closes by Dec 31st of the year preceding the enrollment year. You don’t have to apply for the CGS separately. In other words, just make sure you apply before Dec 31st, and don’t worry about other procedural stuffs. The scholarship application materials include:
1. A scholarship application essay
2. Your undergraduate transcript
If you are admitted by the school, they will nominate you to the scholarship council and let you know the next steps. After being nominated, you will have to create an account on the CGS homepage and upload the required documents there. Other than basic documents, you will have to submit an essay declaring your financial needs, or why you should be selected for the CGS.
2. Provincial/Municipal Scholarship
You might see stuffs like Beijing/Shanghai Municipal Scholarships somewhere, but in general, such grants are not offered prior to admissions and not covering the entire program so don’t count on them too much.
3. School Scholarship
Typically there’s no need for a separate application for this. Just mark on your application form that you want to apply for school scholarships.
Take your time on the Personal Statement
The personal statement is inarguably the most important piece in the application. Make sure that you double-check with the Admission Office about:
- Word limit
- Language (Chinese or English)
- What is the Admission Office looking for in a personal statement? Some will say a general essay about your motivation to enroll, your educational background, etc and some will be more structurist – as in requiring a specific study plan.
Prepare the Standardized tests
Most Chinese universities don’t require a GMAT or GRE unless you are applying to a prestigious MBA program.
TOEFL or IELTS should suffice, although it won’t be required by some schools if you submit a certificate of completion issued by the university to prove that your last degree program was fully taught in English.
English programs typically don’t require HSK either, but having it will be a strong plus.
Don’t forget Recommendation Letters
If you are an undergraduate student, it’s recommended to have 2 reference letters from 2 Professors having taught you at school. It’s best to ask from prominent Professors in your own major/department, but make sure you and the referrer know each other well enough so that you can get a substantial recommendation from them.
If it’s been a few years since you attended college, it’s possible to ask your Supervisor(s) at work or at your research center for their reference as well. Make sure you check with the school admissions beforehand if this is the case.
Personally, I submitted 1 reference letter from my Professor and 1 from my Internship supervisor. The same letters were used twice – for a school application and a CGS application.