Students all over the world frequently take GMAT prep courses to get an edge in business school admissions decisions. For those who need better English, TOEFL preparation and English tutoring are also standard. While these tests may not adequately prepare students for classes abroad, Chinese applicants are notoriously good at cramming.
"These kids are professional test takers," said Andrew Hupert, an adjunct professor at New York University’s Shanghai campus. "They will figure out what the admissions people want to see and they will move heaven and earth to do it."
Other students go further than just test prep in their search of success. More and more students hire the services of companies like Golden Arrow education consulting group. These agencies guide Chinese college and graduate school study-abroad hopefuls through an otherwise confusing world of forms, applications and rankings.
Jerry, a Chinese student who prefers to remain anonymous, is applying for graduate study in the UK. He has already paid Golden Arrow over US$1,700 for advice on his career, extra-curricular activities, essays, resume, speaking skills and "personality."
In addition to getting help from Golden Arrow, which guided him through required tests like the IELTS (the UK language test) and the GMAT, Jerry also decided to take the TOEFL (for fun) and the Financial Risk Management global exam (which he passed). In his short-lived career, Jerry has completed four internships with financial institutions, worked two jobs as an interpreter and volunteered with a microloan organization in Bangladesh.
"Schools are looking for well-rounded students with experience," he said. "So I have to keep motivated."
Is it ever too early to start down this road of academic and career development?
"The youngest student we’ve had in for career consulting was attending elementary school," says Kong Daoning, manager of Golden Arrow’s Shanghai office. "Getting into schools is very competitive and parents want to get started earlier and earlier."
Thousands of families across China can’t wait until elementary school to start their kids down the MBA path. FasTracKids, a private education group with franchises worldwide, offers an "early MBA program" for pre-school children, ages three to six. In 22 centers across 13 Chinese cities, the new, young elite learn business skills and problem solving for an annual fee of just under US$1,180.