Universities encourage new students to go it alone

Updated: 2013-08-22 01:23

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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With an eye to increasing college students' independence and improving their social skills, Chinese universities are encouraging freshmen to enroll by themselves without their parents' help.

It used to be quite a scene when families accompanied their children to college enrollment in China.

Vehicles packed with luggage usually filled campuses, while parents carrying bags would follow their children everywhere to help them handle procedures and get them settled in at dormitories.

However, it was a different scene at Tsinghua University on Wednesday, when more than 3,000 freshmen reported to school and finished all the procedures themselves.

A yellow line drawn across the entrance of the school arena separated parents from their children, who entered the gym alone with their documentation. The students would spend as much as three hours dealing with the enrollment procedures, including department registration, credential collection and room distribution.

Senior schoolmates helped new students transfer their baggage and explore the campus.

The move, launched by Tsinghua University last year, is expected to improve young Chinese people's self-reliance and independent spirit at a crucial stage of life, university President Chen Jining said.

"An important goal of higher education is cultivating students' independent personalities, which should be embodied in every process of campus life," said Chen, who wrote a brief message with the admission letter that encouraged students to leave their parents behind on enrollment day.

"How can youngsters grow up with their parents spoiling them and taking care of everything? We expect to make a difference from the beginning."

The call got a positive response from students.

Feng Lei, a student from Gansu province who will study hydraulic engineering, took a 25-hour train ride to Beijing with only one schoolmate.

"It's my first long trip without my parents, and I am actually quite excited about it," he said. "Coming to the university opens a new stage of my life, and I should learn to take care of myself from the start."

Feng said he has already made three new friends after enrollment and it really helps to get to know each other.

Fan Shukai, 13, the youngest freshman this year, who is majoring in mechanical engineering, echoed Feng's sentiments.

"People might think I am too young to settle down here by myself, but I proved I can make it," said Fan, who went directly to fourth grade when he was 5 years old.

"Doing this with the help of senior schoolmates helped me get familiar with everything here quickly."

While students are taking care of their own business, parents won't be waiting around, as more than 80 volunteers will take turns giving parents campus tours on three routes and visiting the school history exhibition.

Parents can also take a nap at lounges set up in the building nearest the enrollment area.

It's been a sharp contrast since Beijing Times reported in 2006 that more than 8,000 parents crowded into the campus, and some of them slept on the outdoor sports field.

Zhang Chao, deputy secretary of Tsinghua University's youth league committee, expects that the campaign will help reduce the number of accompanying parents, who used to place a huge burden on nearby accommodations and traffic during school opening days.

Zhu Baikang, father of a student with lower-limb disability due to polio, supported the call without worrying about his son, Zhu Junchao, who uses crutches.

"He has overcome a lot of difficulties in the past. Though he may encounter some inconvenience, I believe he is independent enough," Zhu Baikang said.

Inspired by Tsinghua, other universities have also launched their own campaigns to encourage students to enroll alone.

Oujiang College, at Wenzhou University in Zhejiang province, opened an online platform for freshmen to get in touch with senior schoolmates from their hometowns.

Students could post their names, high schools and hometowns on the school BBS, and fellow students from the same place could contact them and guide them at school without parents on enrollment day.

The University of Science and Technology Beijing introduced an online registration system in which students could finish most of the enrollment procedures at home.

Experts said these independence-improving initiatives should be promoted.

"The lack of independence has been a major concern for kids born in the 1990s as parents arranged everything, which instead hampered their all-around development," said Xiong Bingqi, vice-president of the 21th Century Education Research Institute.

"Such campaigns will help them realize that they have to live their lives on their own, and schools should provide more independence-developing programs to go with academic education."

Liu Yiran contributed to this story.