Guo Yupei does not fit the mould of the traditional Ivy League student from China: Her journalist parents are neither rich nor members of the governing elite. Growing up, she thought the cost would make it impossible for her to attend one of the famed universities in the United States. But by the time she applied to Yale, it was among the US schools investing in more economic diversity among their growing ranks of international students.
Guo, 19, is now a second-year student at Yale, happily settled among the school's gothic buildings. Most would never guess university grants cover much of the Beijing native's tuition, at least not judging by the questions she gets around New Haven.
I did get asked if I were some sort of distant royal family member, which I'm not," she said.
Top US universities that worked to overcome reputations for serving only children of the US elite are now pushing to do the same with their international students. With more undergraduates coming from overseas than ever, Yale, Harvard and other schools－with help from the US State Department－are trying to attract students of more varied financial backgrounds.
No country is receiving more attention than China, which sends far more students to the US than any other country. Nearly 275,000 students came from China last year, 31 per cent of all international students, according to the Institute of International Education.
As China has grown more prosperous, many US colleges have stepped up recruiting, seeking revenue-generating students who can pay their full way. A small number of schools pledge, like Yale, to meet the full financial need of admitted international students, and for them it is a matter of making that known around China.
A student-run organisation at Harvard holds college-style seminars annually for dozens of Chinese high school students, offering financial aid to help draw from all the country's provinces. At Yale, which in 1854 graduated the first Chinese person to earn a degree from a US college, international students are deputized as "ambassadors" to talk with students while home on break. Admissions officers from both schools regularly travel to China.
Yale extended its need-blind admissions policy to international students in 2001, and Dean of Admissions Jeremiah Quinlan said the makeup of students from China and other countries has since changed dramatically. International students have gone from representing 3 per cent of the student body, mostly from high-income families, to 11 per cent, with greater diversity.
"The diversity of our international student body has really exploded, frankly to a greater extent than our US socio-economic diversity has over time," Quinlan said. He said most of the dozens of Chinese undergrads receive financial aid at Yale, where tuition, room and board costs nearly $60,000 a year.
Guo attended a selective public high school in Beijing and learned from upperclassmen the names of US schools with need-blind admissions－Yale, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Dartmouth and Amherst. She visited Yale during high school－on a US visit for model United Nations－and felt energized by the posters advertising campus activities.