• Books, ball and a belle: Chinese students studying abroad impressed the school of their choice either by their grades or background in sports--sometimes even by both.

Books, ball and a belle: Chinese students studying abroad impressed the school of their choice either by their grades or background in sports--sometimes even by both. (Photo : Getty Images)

Attention zhuangyuan or top scorers: not all Chinese students studying abroad presented an impressive academic record when they initially applied in schools overseas. Those who fared well in sports made it as their ticket to a successful application.

Academic performance matters vastly but universities abroad also consider Chinese students with a remarkable athletic competence.

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Chinese students who excelled in sports found American schools welcoming them, reported the Global Times.

For 19-year-old Zhang Yu, his “passion and experience in sports” stirred the interest of his dream school.

For three years in his local school, Zhang served as the captain of the football team. He likewise held a record in short distance running.

His “potential to be a leader” paved way for his acceptance at North Carolina State University.

Zhang said that the admission officer mentioned that to him during the interview. The officer pointed out that Zhang’s athletic abilities could be a “contribution” to NCSU.

Founded in 1887, NCSU supports 23 varsity programs and “makes scholarship and educational opportunities available to more than 550 student-athletes,” according to its website.

As Chinese students yearning to study abroad work on improving their academic credentials, they may also take time to assess their athletic capabilities.

Sixty-six percent of all students enrolled in Harvard University in 2015, according to educational news site cunet.com.cn, possessed certain degree of talent in sports, reported the Global Times.

Another news site, Jiemian, reported in October that, according to the vice president of the China alumni association of Ohio State University, sports gets strong priority among numerous Western schools. These learning institutions acknowledge how sports significantly contribute to character formation.

Some Western sports that have gained popularity over the years among Chinese students include basketball, football and ice hockey.

Peter Mu, founder of a Beijing-based educational consulting firm, desires that his 7-year-old son Ted would study abroad.

He encouraged Ted to play ice hockey at an earlier age, expressing awareness that hockey teams in America and Canada look for students highly skilled in the said sports.

The senior Mu said that other parents also influence their child to play mainstream Western sports for better chances of getting accepted in schools abroad.

Mao Zhibo, head of an educational consulting company in Chengdu, advises Chinese students skilled in athletics who want to study abroad to train in other countries for international exposure.

Exchange students from China may also test the waters--in the literal sense of the word.

As swimming is popular in Australia, schools definitely want student-applicants with good swimming records, according to Sandy Li, manager of a Shanghai-based travel agency.

A swimming program by Li’s company debuted this year. The six-week intensive training in Australia renders aspiring Chinese students the chance not only to hone their swimming skills but also to gain actual experience in living Down Under and exposing themselves to its culture and traditions.

The number of Chinese students studying abroad reached 4 million by the end of 2015, according to the Ministry of Education’s report published on its website in March.

Chinese students in the U.S. numbered 304,040 in 2015, reported The Wall Street Journal.

According to a Business Insider article published in September, Knight Frank, a London-based estate agent, released a new report that identified the top ten countries receiving Chinese foreign students:

1. America (260,914 students)
2. Australia (90,245)
3. Japan (89,788)
4. United Kingdom (86,204)
5. Canada (42,011)
6. South Korea (38,109)
7. Hong Kong (25,801)
8. France (25,388)
9. Germany (19,441)
10. New Zealand (13,952)

As several Chinese students concentrate on their readings inside the library of their local schools, others sweat off profusely in the field training under the sun.