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 current high school sophomore, junior, or senior in the United States is eligible to apply. 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, and demonstrated interest in China.


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 “China’s environmental issues.” 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 project on a topic of their choice, later printed in journal format and distributed to all students. Students are also required to lead a presentation on China at their home schools or in their local communities.


Q: What makes the CSP unique?

A: The college-level instruction provided by scholars from Stanford University and other top-tier colleges and universities is unparalleled in other distance-learning courses for high school students. During the VC sessions, students engage in live discourse with Stanford professors, leading scholars from other universities and organizations, and former diplomats. This unique opportunity to learn directly from noted scholars at the cutting edge of their fields is a distinctive element of the CSP.

Guests vary each term, according to availability; past CSP guests have included:

  • Nicholas Hope, Senior Scholar, Stanford Center for International Development (SCID), and former Country Director for China and Mongolia at the World Bank;
  • Thomas Fingar, Senior Researcher, Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, Stanford University, and former U.S. diplomat in China;
  • Gordon H. Chang, Professor of History, Olive H. Palmer Professor in Humanities, and Director of the Center for East Asian Studies, Stanford University
  • Frank Hawke, Director of the Beijing Program, Graduate School of Business
  • Andrew Walder, Professor of Sociology and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

Reading assignments are advanced 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: 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. The VC sessions take place on 12 evenings throughout the course (Thursdays, schedule to be determined) at 6:00pm Pacific Time. This hour best accommodates all students across the United States, from Hawaii to the East Coast.


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

A: No, the language of instruction is English.


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