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Qin Chunhua: What are Beida's admission requirements?

Peking University, June 9, 2013: Qin Chunhua, undergraduate admissions chief at Peking University (PKU/Beida), published an article on Beida’s admissions work on China Youth Daily earlier this year. Full text:


Qin Chunhua, director of the PKU Office for Undergraduate Admissions (File photo)


What kind of students suits the Beida education? Or in other words, what are the admission requirements of Beida?


I consider that apart from the grades of the College Entrance Exam as the intellectual requirement, another four non-intellectual factors should be counted as Beida admission requirements.


First, good basic education. This can be the stepping-stone for your further development. Education is a continuous and lifetime job in which knowledge is accumulated step by step. Although a minority of genius can access higher education without being nurtured by basic education, for the majority, a complete, systematic national education is necessary. It’s obvious that “good education” here does not only include the high academic scores achieved by students, but also requires that students hold generally received values, the ability to judge right from wrong and also a healthy body.


We used to apply the term “excellent overall quality” which corresponds with “good education.” But now, we use it not as often as before, because people always misunderstand “overall quality” as the abilities to sing, dance and play the piano. And this misunderstanding has put Beida under criticism for prejudice against students from rural areas - say, few rural students can play the piano. Actually this is a typical emotional judgment. We never say at any time anywhere that “overall quality’’ equals singing, dancing or playing the piano. Now we use the term “good education” which applies to students in both urban and rural areas.


Second, a strong sense of curiosity, rich imagination and ardent desire for innovation. As a comprehensive university prestigious for humanity, science medicine and engineering, Beida aims to cultivate leading figures that can influence and even change the world. Albert Einstein once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”


We believe that only with curiosity, frenzy and reckless passion can students go all out for their cause and achieve remarkable achievements. All the great achievements in human history are derived from imagination and innovation which is the fundamental driver for a country and nation to progress.


Third, great ambition and a strong sense of social responsibility. We hope all students are ambitious the minute they steps into the gate of Beida, and everyone has the confidence and enthusiasm to change the world. Each of our students from the very first day that becomes Beida people should be determined to make contribution to our country, nation and even human development, though the contribution might be micro. This is the historical tradition and spiritual essence of Beida.


Beida people seem to have an inherent idealistic temperament. Once wearing the school badge, they have the solemn and divine belief that they are the ones to be chosen to strive for the ideal no matter how hard they have to try, no matter how much price they have to pay just like Don Quixote. It’s hard to say where this temperament comes from, probably from the endowment of the history, for almost every historic moment in modern China was related to the university.


Last, potential for further development. Today is a fast-changing globalized era. With the development of technology, the future of the world is getting more and more uncertain. All the knowledge students get from school today can be worthless stuff in the near future and not enough for the complicated uncertain world. The only solution for this is to equip oneself with the ability of lifelong learning, change according to the present situation and enrich the problem-solving ability. These abilities surely need to be trained through learning at college, but more importantly, you should have the potential for further development, good studying habits, right thought pattern and insatiable thirst for knowledge.


I have seen many students with high College Entrance Exam grades in recent years. They are smart and diligent, but their passions had been killed by daily mechanical exercises in high school. Some of them lost their motivation and interest in study and some even dropped out. That’s a pity. Those students, no matter how high they scored in College Entrance Exam, are not qualified for Beida. They are not likely to gain accomplishments even if they enrolled at Beida.


Compared with world first-class universities, we lack basic experiences in finding and selecting the talents for we have different admission systems. We select students only through grades, but universities like Harvard and Yale have accumulated experiences on how to select talents for over 100 years.


A Yale admissions officer once told me a real story. There was once a Chinese student who was very interested in history and had read The Cambridge History of China (an ongoing series of books published by Cambridge University Press covering the early and modern history of China) and Zizhi Tongjian (a pioneering reference work in Chinese historiography). He was fairly familiar with all the historical works by Yale historian Jonathan Spence, in both Chinese and English. He even published some articles about history. This kind of student is supposed to be welcomed by every university. Yet Yale rejected him at last.


The reason is simple: When the interviewer asked him, “What do you talk to your dorm mates before going to bed?” The candidate, who was a boarder, responded: “I talk to them various historical stories.” The interviewer thought that what an adolescent boy might talk about in dormitory is either girlfriends or football. Who is interested in your historical stories? So he is either lying or cannot get along with his classmates. The Yale education aims to train future leaders for public service. How can a person without good communication skills lead other people to make great contributions? So he can probably make great historian, but is not qualified for Yale.


This story influenced me much. It reveals the mystery in the selection of potential excellent students at some world-class universities. These secrets are not to be mastered by outsiders. We must figure out a selection system with Beida characteristics according to the end and requirements of Beida training program. This task is laborious and painstaking. But time waits for no man. We need to catch up fast.



Extended Reading:

Admissions officer details Beida enrollment, training policy


Written by: Chen Runxi
Edited by: Zhu Wenjia
China Youth Daily