How Liheng Bai is Reshaping the College Counseling Industry in China
Right now in China, many high school students applying for college tend to focus on the prestige of the school instead of a good fit. But Liheng Bai is changing this trend and instead, matching students’ personalities with the right university culture.
Liheng gets it. She spent several years trying to figure out the best fit for her own career. After university at Columbia in New York and spending time on Wall Street with an agriculture investment fund, she quickly learned it wasn’t for her. After that she worked at a couple of global education companies where she did everything from business development, to recruiting, to hiring, to marketing, to college admissions, to designing college admissions criteria and curriculum.
In December 2013, she decided to start her own business, and is now sought after by schools and students as a college counselor consultant based in Shanghai.
“When I left [my job in December], I didn’t have a solid plan. I just didn’t want to repeat what I did in the past two years,” Liheng said. “One of the schools I helped three years ago found out I left my job and wanted me to do the consulting work for them. One thing lead to another. I started writing about this industry. It is very unregulated! Some companies are charging up to US$50,000 for college counseling. Families pay the fees because they don’t know that the college you go has nothing to do with the fees you pay – it is all about your profile!”
To educate parents and students, Liheng started writing about college admissions on her own blog and publishing her posts on WeChat, a popular text, messaging, photo, video, and social media exchange platform. She even published an exposé on the bad practices and sky-high prices in the industry that were taking advantage of parents and students. Sure enough, parents read it, shared it upwards of 60,000 times, and wanted to talk to Liheng. “I am building my business all by word of mouth and I don’t need to go out to sell myself.”
Liheng mainly helps Chinese students in China or in boarding schools in the U.S. She also works individually with parents and families. Since many Chinese public schools don’t have a counseling class, she helps the schools put a curriculum together to help students select colleges and brainstorm essay topics.
She shared that after her first year with her business, focus is her desire. “I want to be one of the best at what I do,” Liheng said. “Once you have that authority, people will come to you for advice, clients will come to you! You don’t need to worry about getting paid. Once you are the expert in one field, the law of attraction comes into play – people will be drawn to you. Find your niche and become the expert!” Since becoming an entrepreneur, Liheng has been able to increase her income significantly.
“I made many mistakes in my career,” Liheng shared. “I think deep down we know what we are good at and what our heart is calling us to do; I think I wasted my time, going into finance – it wasn’t worth my time; I always knew I was passionate about education. I should have been involved in that a long time ago, so I encourage students to follow their heart. I did, and came back to education and there are so many different jobs in one industry! Once you figure out what you’re passionate about in one area – advertising, finance, etc – take time to see what you want to focus on.”
LIHENG’S REFLECTIONS ON WORKING WOMEN IN CHINA
“Women around my age are struggling between family and career – the “leftover women” syndrome or phenomenon in China. It is ridiculous. People describe women who are above twenty-eight and still not married as “Leftover Women”. There are two extremes. Some women are desperate to settle down and have a family. Others who are not married, older and single are very successful. They work in finance, business, or are entrepreneurs, and are doing well for themselves. Others want to get married but feel but no big rush. It depends on the mentality of each woman. The big picture in China is more conservative or traditional, still judging women who are successful, independent, and who don’t have family or kids yet.”
Follow Liheng Bai on her WeChat official platform: 升学顾问Ms.Bai