UNC sees record applications from international students


Sophie Niu, a junior international student from Shenzhen, China, is the president of Chinese Students and Scholars.

In 2017, UNC received a record high of 4,345 applications from international students and admitted 695 of these. In 2016, UNC received 3,799 applications, admitting around 500.

Qian Meng, an incoming first-year from China, said he chose to study in the U.S. because he did not need to declare a major immediately — which is required at Chinese colleges — and wanted to have time to experience different subjects. He said President Donald Trump’s election made him a bit afraid.

“(I was) afraid because racists may be encouraged by Trump,” Meng said. “But I think we shouldn’t judge before (we) fully, personally, experience it. That’s what racists do, right, making judgments based on colors before really understanding that person.”

Rupali Saini, an incoming first-year from India, said she chose to look outside India for college because of the difficulty of admission into top schools due to India’s large population and the fact that admissions depend solely on exam scores.

After considering other countries, Saini said she settled on the U.S. before Trump took office, but chose to stick with her choice once he was elected. She said racism will exist wherever she goes, and things happening in the U.S. also happen in India.

“We’re definitely not a perfect country,” she said. “There’s racism, sexism, homophobia, and at a very high scale, too. So, even though conditions in the USA may be bad, they are still a bit better than India.”

Patty Baum, senior assistant director of admissions at UNC, said the numbers represent a national trend.

“International applications have been on the rise for many universities across the U.S.,” Baum said. “It’s not necessarily specific to UNC.”

Baum said she thinks international student applications are increasing because families abroad are recognizing the value of a U.S. degree and the cost of tuition is becoming more affordable to families overseas.

“I think, frankly, a number of international students are attracted to the freedom and flexibility of a liberal arts education,” Baum said.

When applying to UNC, international students fill out the same Common Application that domestic students use.

International students coming from non-English speaking countries also submit their Test of English as a Foreign Language exam score because UNC does not offer English language support.

Their applications are then reviewed by a specific international review committee, a smaller team on the admissions committee.

If a student is accepted, UNC International Student and Scholar Services issues a certificate of eligibility, which the student must take to the U.S. consulate in their country in order to apply for an F1 Visa to study in the U.S. From there, International Student and Scholar Services helps students along in their transition from their home countries to UNC.

With the current administration, this process may take longer for international students trying to study in the U.S. The executive orders by Trump could lead to additional vetting in the visa process, delays in getting an appointment for a visa interview and receiving security clearance before the visa is actually issued, said Elizabeth Barnum, director of International Student and Scholar Services.

Barnum said there have been a number of articles by immigration attorneys expecting these extensive delays in the visa process.

“We’re watching very closely to see what is coming out of Washington and working hard to provide the best advice to new, incoming international students,” she said.

Rishi Oza, an immigration lawyer from the firm Robert Brown, said there isn’t much to worry about now.

“I know there’s been a lot of hoopla and fanfare, but as a practical matter, the process is the same as it was under President (Barack) Obama,” Oza said.

Junior international student from China Sophie Niu is the president of the Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, an international student organization that helps Chinese international students once they arrive on campus. She said she valued the freedom of UNC’s liberal arts curriculum gave her.

“I think college is the time to explore what I’m really interested in and explore around the world,” Niu said. “In China, it’s really hard to change majors once you get admitted into the school, but sometimes the major you selected, you don’t really know if that’s going to be the real thing you want to learn.”

Despite enjoying UNC’s liberal arts curriculum, Niu said the University does not give a lot of support to international students. She said incoming Chinese students mainly go to the Friendship Association for help in their transition, and the group also provides support through informational brochures and explanations of the school’s website — which Niu said is not very helpful.

The Friendship Association also hosts receptions with over 200 people in Beijing and Shanghai, and Niu said it took the whole school year to get funds for the event.

“We are not considered an important part of, I don’t know, UNC diversity,” Niu said. “I think it’s like they wanted us, but they also don’t have enough resources for us.”


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