In the news: Chinese students looking for the elite American boarding school experience, Marvelwood School, a U.S. boarding school, said to be disillusioned

Agent Spin

Marvelwood prefers to recruit through consultants or alumni rather than agents, Goodearl said in an interview in his office, with his diplomas from Harvard College and Wesleyan University on the wall behind him. Chinese applicants don’t need to know that the school specializes in helping students with learning differences, he said.

“Going to school with ADHD students is quite good,” he said. “We’re proud of all our students.”

Wisdom Services in Dalian, China, which Wang said referred her to Marvelwood, didn’t respond to e-mailed questions about her recruitment. One of China’s 402 registered agents, Wisdom places Chinese students in 26 countries and “has successfully made the dreams of studying and living abroad come true for tens of thousands of clients,” according to its website.

Unlike sought-after boarding schools with hefty endowments, which only admit a handful of Chinese students who speak fluent English, lesser-known schools recruit the Chinese by offering English-language instruction — and by using agents who put a flattering spin on their reputations, according to Chinese students and graduates.

Bucolic Locations

Paid by the U.S. boarding schools, Chinese families, or both for each student enrolled, the agents promote schools’ Advanced Placement courses, bucolic campuses and proximity to major cities, said Mark Sklarow, executive director of the Independent Educational Consultants Association in Fairfax, Virginia. IECA[6] members don’t accept compensation from schools for placing a child. Once students are enrolled, some agents continue to collect fees from schools to pass along progress reports to parents.

Agents avoid the topic of learning differences, which China lags behind the U.S. in diagnosing and treating. “Chinese parents don’t want their children in schools for students with learning issues,” said Lee Reagan, North America manager for A&A International Education & Multi-Culture Centre, a Shanghai-based agency that represents 28 U.S. boarding schools.

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