Monday, July 19, 2010

Top Beijing student fails to get place in U.S.

BEIJING, July 13 (Xinhaunet) -- But says setback has only make him more determined to succeed, Wang Gege reports
Li Taibo will always remember last December in Beijing - and not just because it was one of the coldest winters the city had experienced. It was the winter when Li would sit on the balcony of his school's dorm with his laptop, pounding away on essays and feeling his fingers grow numb from the cold. The 18-year-old high school student was applying to 11 universities in the United States at the time and wanted to ensure the essays - he was working on two - would be completed on time.
Li had been living with his parents in the Fengtai district of South Beijing, a one-hour bus ride from his school in the northern part of the city. With the deadlines for the applications nearing, Li decided to stay in the school's dorm, which had a midnight lights-out regulation.
"I didn't want to disturb my room mates so I took my laptop to the balcony to complete the application essays," Li said. "It was so cold that my fingers almost froze."
But all of Li's applications to 11 US universities - including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford and MIT - ended up being rejected, despite the fact that Li topped the national college entrance examination for science in Beijing this summer and would easily gain admission to any university in China.
His failure to gain admission to study in the US has triggered a debate about China's education system among students, parents and educators.
Educators are questioning whether the ability to gain admission to a top US university should be the sole standard to evaluate the quality of a student. Some Chinese students who studied overseas, meanwhile, are talking about the disadvantages of China's education system.
Shen Xianzhang, vice-principal of Li's high school, said: "The standard used by the US is very different from that in China and we respect that. However, it does not mean the US standard is the world standard. Being rejected by universities in the US does not mean Li is not an accomplished student."
Zhang Xueke, a high school teacher in Beijing, said Chinese students have been so obsessed with US universities that their efforts in student activities and volunteer work seem to be resume-driven.
"As a result, Li's resume may seem too perfect to be true," Zhang said.
A Beijing student, who studied at a US university last year, criticized China's education system for stifling creativity and innovation and said that was why she and her parents found the US education system favorable.
As far as the selection process is concerned, the student, who did not want to be named, said: "We cannot really blame US universities for having a higher standard for international students because they have to ensure their students have the opportunity to receive education."
Li, the child of a military researcher and a statistician, said the reasons for his rejection may include his inability to project the best image of himself, a too-well-rounded presentation of his personality without focus and a request for full financial aid.
But he has no regrets.
"It's better to be rejected by Princeton than by yourself," Li wrote on his blog. "I think the greatest success I have had is that I have the courage to apply for full financial aid, to resist asking for help from consulting agencies and I can confront setbacks."
Li, who studied at the High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China in Beijing, one of the top schools in the country, said he has learned much from the lengthy and time-consuming process of application.
"It provoked me to reflect upon my 18 years of life and made me realize what I have achieved. As a result, I am more clear about what I need, who I am and my future. If I did not try applying, I would never have thought about such things," he said.
Although Li was aware that asking for 100 percent financial aid would lower his chance of being offered a place, he still chose to do so.
"I cannot let my parents work too hard and give up everything they have earned in exchange for my education in the US," Li said.
His mother said the behavior was typical of her son.
"The last thing he wants to do is to add more financial burden on us," said Zhang Jiahong. "He would rather give up the opportunity to go to the US than let us sell everything to support him."
It was also the reason why he did not ask for help from educational consulting firms when he applied, which may have contributed to his rejections.
"Taibo showed his potential when he was really young," said Zhang, while standing in her son's room surrounded by outdated furniture and austere decoration. The most visible thing in the room was a book shelf filled with best-selling novels in English, philosophy texts, science magazines and exam prep books.
"Throughout all the exams in school, he has been very consistent. His father and I did not spend much time on his education because he takes the initiative," Zhang said.
Li also left a good impression among the school faculty.
Tang Bubin, the teacher in charge of his class, said: "He is very meticulous in academic studies and has been very frank and easy going. What is most impressive is his integrity, which has earned the respect from all his classmates, also his strong management and organizational skills."
Li, who has now accepted an offer from Hong Kong University, still has "unwavering confidence" in the quality of China's educational system, though he believes studying abroad does have advantages.
"It is possible that I will seek higher education in the US in the future," he said. "To have an international outlook and diverse experience is very important."
(Source: China Daily)

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