“Vietnamese students aim for top US schools”


Well, yes and no.  This is the title of a 15 November article about centers in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi that prepare young people for admission to some of America’s best colleges and universities.  So how many Vietnamese students actually attend Ivy League and other highly selective institutions?  Among the nearly 15,000 enrolled in US institutions of higher education last year, the answer is relatively few.  It is the prospect and the lure of studying at these schools that has created this niche market for the prep centers that are the focus of this article. 

In reality, the majority of Vietnamese students (6 in 10 last year) began their US higher education experience at community colleges, which have an open admission policy.  Many others attended state universities. 

The fact that so many who attend these prep centers are successful – success defined in this case as  gaining admission to an elite school and, ideally, being awarded some type of merit-based scholarship – is in part a result of self-selection.  First, they tend to be highly motivated individuals from families of means who have been afforded other enrichment opportunities.  This means that their success in gaining admission to highly selective schools is, to some extent, a self-fulfilling prophesy.  (Vietnam’s 2010 per capita income was $1,168.  Ergo, those who can afford to ” pay up to $900 to be coached by alumni from top-ranked US universities” are members of a select group in terms of income and wealth.

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