— Strategic Marketing —


China Test Optional Initiative

Empower Students Left Behind by the Gaokao and SAT/ACT

The China Test Optional Initiative (CTOI)’s goal is to bridge the gap between the growing test-optional policy movement in international higher education with the extraordinary number of Chinese students seeking international education opportunities after taking the Gaokao or other standardized exams each year. Each year, 9 million Chinese students take the Gaokao, and tens of thousands more sit for international exams such as the SAT. Particularly for the Gaokao, students stake their futures on one single test score, and they only find out their score in mid June. Many students disenfranchised by the Gaokao must quickly make a tremendous decision: attend a second-rate institution at home, wait a year, or apply for a test-optional university abroad. If your institution is test-optional and welcome applications in the summer, please consider joining the Best Fit university group to make these students aware of all their options.


How does the China Test Optional Initiative work?

The CTOI is a web index accessible inside Mainland China without VPN. Students browse a list of test-optional universities organized by geography and indicate their interest in learning more about that school’s application process. Once they express interest in applying to a particular university, we relay that student’s inquiry and the contact information that they choose to provide to the university that they inquire about.

Who should join?

Universities or English Language Institutes affiliated to universities need to satisfy these conditions:

  1. Does not require submission of SAT or ACT scores.

  2. For English language assessments, is willing to accept any of the following: Duolingo, PTE, university-administered English assessments, English class grades from a student’s sending institution, or Gaokao English scores.

What services does the China Test Optional Initiative offer to member universities?

  1. The translation of your university’s profile into simplified Chinese.

  2. Listing your university as a member institution, which will appear on our web index of test-optional universities for one year.

  3. Receive an inquiry list that populates with student inquiries about your university. Students report as much information as they are comfortable sharing and are invited to provide phone, email, WeChat, grade, school, location, as well as their parent’s information

  4. A comprehensive research report released each year in March about assessing Gaokao scores across different subjects and provinces.

The average institution can expect 600-700 inquires, which generally spike in late June-July, and again late October-November.

 Consulting and Research

Each college, university, and organization is different. To succeed in an education market as large and complicated as China’s, it is vital to develop a strategy that fits your institution’s identity and goals but is also attuned to China’s local conditions. Crafting a framework and a multi-year plan for engaging China can be intimidating. After all, most of these students are from a rapidly growing middle class scattered across 120 different cities, each with more than 1 million residents. Good information about Chinese schools and agencies is limited and inconsistent. As more institutions come to China to recruit, the landscape is more competitive than ever. Here's a small snapshot of some of our key insights from 2018:


When we assist our partners in developing a strategic plan for China, we begin by learning more about the institution’s objectives in China and how these connect to the institution’s community and mission statement. We work to research how our partners can cultivate a comparative advantage in China, based on our research team’s personal expertise and unique data sets about international education China. We then work with our partners to identify a strategy for creating and exploiting this comparative advantage in the Chinese market, mapping this strategy out over a timeline with digestible and actionable steps to take.

Our partners range from large American public research institutions, to European arts schools, to small private liberal arts colleges. Some work with us after deciding to engage the Chinese market for the first time, while we work with others after they decide to re-calibrate a long-standing presence in China. We look forward to sharing our perspectives on the world’s largest international education market with you and to help bring your institution’s unique offerings to a broader audience in China.

Curious what our work looks like? Twice each year, Sunrise releases free White Papers outlining some major changes in the landscape, such as changes in international schools and trends in Chinese social media. If you think that your institution needs a fresh China perspective, please feel free to get in touch.



The Sunrise China Roadshow resolves the difficulties of organizing physical introductions, crucial to forming partnerships in China, when language and time differences stand in the way.

It not just about meetings, it’s the right meeting with right people

We can secure up to 10 meetings scheduled with pre-screened agencies, university partners, companies, and high schools, guaranteeing great meetings with interested parties. We take care of everything; all you have to do is confirm, attend, and enjoy.


Understanding the Concept of “Guanxi”

This tradition of “Guanxi” dates back thousands of years and is deeply rooted in daily life of every Chinese citizen. At its roots, “Guanxi” is a mutually beneficial relationship that can affect one’s ability to secure a seat at a popular restaurant or getting an interview for a dream job. Built upon interpersonal relationships, most Chinese people persistently work to build guanxi at their workplace, with their friends, and among family.

For foreign institutions, “Guanxi” developed among recruiters, university partners, and high school counselors, can be a secret weapon shield you from a rival with a higher ranking or deeper pockets. On the other hand, expansion without sufficient focus on “Guanxi”, such as impersonal “info@...” and unsolicited calls, will merely end in an inbox full of ignored emails and answering machine of unreturned calls.

For foreigners or foreign institutions, “warm” introductions and mutual connections mean the difference between a successful or unproductive trip to China. So let Sunrise be the medium and ensure a productive and smooth trip for you.