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 comprehensive, distance-learning coursework on contemporary China to high-achieving high school students across the United States, 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 a variety of 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? What makes a successful applicant?

A: Rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the United States are 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 enthusiastic about interacting with other high school students across the United States and beyond.

Admission is competitive, based on consideration of academic record (including success in advanced coursework), writing and analytical ability, a successful track record in balancing competing priorities, a collaborative orientation towards learning, and demonstrated interest in China.

Applicants might 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, and are well prepared in other ways. Many of the participants are seeking a more challenging intellectual environment 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 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
  • Jennifer L. Turner, Director, China Environment Forum, Wilson Center 

Throughout the program, students are challenged to hone higher-order critical thinking and to engage with multiple perspectives. 

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


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: Students will earn Stanford Continuing Studies credit 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: 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: Do students need to know the Chinese language to participate in the CSP?

A: No, the language of instruction is English.


Q: What are the differences between “Introduction to Contemporary China” and “U.S.–China Co-Lab on Climate Solutions”?

A: The China Scholars Program now offers two different courses: “Introduction to Contemporary China” in the fall and “U.S.–China Co-Lab on Climate Solutions” (or “CoLab”) in the spring. They are distinct in content, structure, and emphasis. 

“Introduction to Contemporary China” is a college-level, academic course, with a heavy emphasis on reading, writing, research, and class discussion. It is intended for U.S. students, with an American-style, inquiry-based approach that emphasizes critical thinking, engaging with a range of perspectives on any given topic. The content focus is on China, with a secondary focus on U.S.–China relations. The final project is a formal, academic paper, researched and written independently. 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. Enrollment is typically limited to students in the United States. The course will include at least one meeting and assignment done jointly with Chinese students in the Stanford e-China Program.

“U.S.–China Co-Lab on Climate Solutions” is a joint project of the China Scholars Program and Stanford e-China and brings together students from both the United States and China (50% enrollment from each country) who are concerned about our global climate crisis. These two cohorts work together throughout the entire course, studying existing and potential solutions to environmental problems and learning principles and practices for cross-cultural collaboration. This course is more activity-oriented, with a focus on connecting with other students, learning from each other’s experiences and perspectives, culminating in a group project. The content focuses on climate issues, with a focus on U.S.–China comparisons, competition, collaboration, and cooperation. The weekly workload also includes reading and writing assignments. Climate issues beyond the United States and China are explored; U.S.–China relations beyond climate issues are not. 

Both courses feature guest speakers from Stanford or other world-class institutions as specialists for each topical module. Both are multidisciplinary. Both are taught in English. 


The following questions refer only to “Introduction to Contemporary China”:

Q: How much time should students expect to dedicate to the CSP's "Introduction to Contemporary China"?

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 "Introduction to Contemporary China" 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 “ethnic and religious diversity.” For each module, students will typically:

  • 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 also share their work in their home communities.