CSP Frequently Asked Questions


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Q: What is the purpose of the China Scholars Program (CSP)?

A: The CSP’s goal is to offer high-achieving high school students across the United States a comprehensive, distance-learning course on contemporary China, with an emphasis on how the United States and China have influenced and understood each other in recent history. Current issues are placed in broader historical and cultural contexts, and both American and Chinese viewpoints are represented.

CSP students explore China from different disciplinary perspectives, with guest lecturers providing a depth of expertise not usually accessible to high school students.


Q: Who is eligible to apply to the CSP?

A: Any rising high school sophomore, junior, or senior in the United States is eligible to apply. Applications from gap-year students may be considered. Students who apply to the CSP should be self-motivated, genuinely interested in learning about China, and excited about interacting with other high school students across the United States.

Applicants may include those who have exhausted every possible opportunity to learn about China and want more, as well as those who have never had the opportunity to take a course on China but are intellectually curious about it. Many of the participants want to be challenged to a far greater extent than their high schools can provide. Students from diverse backgrounds are encouraged to apply. Students based outside of the U.S. engaged in a U.S.-style education may be eligible to apply, considered on a case-by-case basis.


Q: What are the selection criteria?

A: Admission is competitive, based on consideration of academic record, writing and analytical ability, success in managing competing priorities, and demonstrated interest in China.


Q: How much time should students expect to dedicate to the CSP?

A: Students typically spend about 6 hours per week on the CSP, though this varies according to student background and circumstances. See above for coursework requirements. Participation in the VC sessions on Zoom is required; these typically take place on Thursday evenings 6:00–7:30pm Pacific Time, but at least one Friday evening may be required. This time best accommodates all students across the United States, from Hawaii to the East Coast.


Q: How is the CSP coursework structured?

A: The course is organized in a series of modules, each lasting 1 to 2 weeks, and each addressing a specific theme, such as “U.S.–China political relations,” “the Chinese-American experience,” or “fighting climate change.” For each module, students will:

  • listen to one or more pre-recorded lecture(s) by a leading scholar or expert on the featured topic;
  • complete a series of readings (including some that students may choose from a weekly list, according to their interests);
  • participate in online written discussion with classmates;
  • complete a short writing assignment or quiz; and
  • participate in real-time discussion during a weekly or bi-weekly “virtual classroom” (VC) session with the instructor and a guest discussant (often the scholar who recorded the lecture).

In addition, students spend several weeks working on an independent research paper on a topic of their choice. Students will also share their work in their home communities.


Q: What makes the CSP unique?

A: Scholars from Stanford University and other top-tier institutions provide direct access to cutting-edge research in their fields. Students participate in real-time discussions with these specialists, who serve as guest speakers for most of our VC sessions. This unique opportunity to learn directly from high-profile scholars is a distinctive element of CSP and other SPICE programs, unparalleled in other distance-learning courses for high school students. 

Guests vary each term, according to availability. Past CSP guests have included:

  • Thomas Fingar, Senior Researcher, Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, and former U.S. diplomat in China
  • Nicholas Hope, Senior Scholar, Stanford Center for International Development (SCID), and former Country Director for China and Mongolia at the World Bank
  • Jennifer Pan, Associate Professor of Communication, Political Science, and Sociology, Stanford University
  • Scott Rozelle, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Co-director of the Rural Education Action Program, Stanford University
  • David Y. Yang, Professor of Economics, Harvard University

Reading assignments are at an advanced level and often drawn from recent scholarship. Throughout the course, students are challenged to hone higher-order critical thinking and to engage with multiple perspectives.

The course instructor provides personal feedback throughout the program, coaching students through the process of formulating a research project, conducting academic research, and meeting a high standard of academic writing.

The CSP also provides students with a chance to meet like-minded peers with an interest in China, U.S.–China relations, and/or global perspectives. As a student-centered course, a strong emphasis is placed on encouraging students to share and appreciate the diverse perspectives that each student brings to the CSP learning community. We hope to facilitate an ongoing CSP alumni network, which could be valuable throughout the college years and beyond.

In addition, there may be opportunities to engage online with high school peers in China interested in learning about and potentially studying in the United States.


Q: What are the technology requirements for participating in the CSP?

A: Reliable high-speed Internet access, a computer, a computer microphone, and webcam (headset with mic recommended).


Q: Is financial aid available?

A: Yes, a limited number of partial and full need-based tuition waivers will be offered. Applicants admitted to the program will have the opportunity to request aid before committing to enroll.  


Q: Will students earn credits for this course? How may those credits be applied?

A: Three Stanford Continuing Studies credits are awarded for successful completion of the course. These credits may be transferrable to the student’s high school or college/university, and/or the course may be recognized as a prerequisite for more advanced college coursework. Students are responsible for petitioning for transfer of credit themselves, as each institution has its own standards and procedures. Stanford Continuing Studies credits may not be applied to a Stanford University degree.

Whether or not the student applies these credits to a degree program, s/he will have an official transcript from Stanford Continuing Studies, which may enhance future applications.


Q: Do students need to know the Chinese language to participate in the CSP?

A: No, the language of instruction is English.