Introducing Wake Forest Advantage

The following is a message from Provost Rogan Kersh: 

We are pleased to continue a Wake Forest tradition of deliberate innovation by introducing a new program, organized on Wake’s behalf by our colleagues Kline Harrison and Ann Cunningham, to prepare international high school students for success at U.S. colleges and universities. We are calling the program “Wake Forest Advantage” as it is designed to provide benefits both to the students who complete the program and the institutions (including ours) that enroll them.

The issue: In an increasingly global society, a growing challenge for American colleges and universities like WFU is evaluating the qualifications of international applicants. Cultural, academic, and language barriers make admissions decisions difficult in many cases; recent continuing increases in international applications, from China in particular, have exacerbated this complexity. More than 194,000 Chinese students currently make up 25% of all international students studying in the U.S. – a figure that has more than doubled in the last decade.

Higher-education reality: A 2011 joint article by The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education (“The China Conundrum”) characterized the trend of Chinese enrollment in U.S. colleges and universities bluntly:

“The students are mostly from China’s rapidly expanding middle class and can afford to pay full tuition, a godsend for universities that have faced sharp budget cuts in recent years. But what seems at first glance a boon for colleges and students alike is, on closer inspection, a tricky fit for both.”

Our charge: How can U.S. higher education, including institutions like ours, most effectively determine which Chinese students are best prepared for study in the U.S.?

WFU’s proposed approach: The Wake Forest Advantage program is specifically designed to illuminate these questions surrounding international student admissions by preparing Chinese high school students academically and culturally for study in U.S. colleges and universities.

Wake Forest Advantage will help international students prepare for American higher education by bridging the academic and cultural differences between their home country and U.S. campuses.  The program, piloted and soon to be fully introduced in Jiangsu Province, is a partnership between Wake Forest and EdisonLearning, an international educational organization focused on improving student achievement.

Program highlights include:

  • The Wake Forest Advantage program will provide Chinese students with 90 hours of education and cultural training for study in the U.S., using curriculum developed under the guidance of a seasoned WFU education professor.
  • It also provides admissions officers with a “Digital Portfolio” of certified, supplemental application materials, including a video of an applicant’s classroom performance applying critical thinking skills, collaborating with their peers, and articulating their thoughts about their learning experience on camera in American-style English. This video product created by the student will help identify those applicants who are better prepared for the campus and classrooms of a U.S. college or university.

Why this matters: Admitting qualified international students is an important part of preparing both those students and their American student counterparts for life in a global economy. The more effectively that our own international students can become acclimated to Wake Forest and engaged in their education, the more fully our campus community will benefit from the experience of richer engagement with their international colleagues.

I invite you to learn more about Wake Forest Advantage by visiting our website at or contacting Wake Forest Advantage Chief Academic Officer and Associate Professor of Education Ann Cunningham at or x4969.