So what’s an international admission officer to do? These individuals admittedly have their work cut out for them in a way that domestic admission officers do not. Domestic admission officers have mounds of historical data upon which they can project matriculation percentages, future GPA, and graduation rates. International admission officers—in order to do things the right way—must get comfortable making decisions with incomplete information and exercising their discretion. They have to look past documents, which can be easily falsified. They have to look past standardized test scores because the emphasis on these numbers distorts the entire high school experience. They have to spend time in China and other foreign countries, and employ all means of modern communication technology to try to get a sense of each student. In short, they have to practice true holistic admissions. (my bold)
“What Students in China Have Taught Me About U.S. College Admissions” by Terry Crawford, The Atlantic, 6.1.15
As this excellent article by Terry Crawford makes clear, an acceptable way to gain a competitive edge in the US higher education application process in China is to cheat. While you can rant and rave about the immorality of this state of affairs, this is the reality and Mr. Crawford’s company, InitialView, and others like it are meeting a real need in the marketplace by encouraging institutions recruiting in China to adopt true holistic approach to admissions through the use of technology.
If you will permit me to indulge in some “moralizing lite” for just a moment, involving young people as co-conspirators in their own admission process is a sad lesson to teach them about academic honesty and honesty in general, in my opinion. (As a counterpoint to excessive moralizing, however, it must be acknowledged that parents and students are forced to adapt to situations not envisioned by those who create admission policies in very different cultural contexts.) The silver lining is that students admitted to US and other foreign secondary and postsecondary institutions will quickly discover its importance, along with the risks of academic dishonesty. In the meantime, the more tools institutions have at their disposal that enable them to “look past documents” and make better informed admission decisions about their applicants, the better.