Chinese international students applying to Yale this year will likely face greater competition than those who applied in past years.

The number of Chinese international students in past incoming classes has hovered between 11 to 15 each year, making them the largest contingent of international students from any individual country, Dean of Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said. Although the Office of Admissions does not release the totals of applicant subgroups, the number of Chinese applicants to American universities has risen quickly in recent years, but B

When evaluating Chinese international applicants, who come from “diverse backgrounds,” Brenzel said the Office of Admissions especially values “unusually high English language ability” as well as excellent grades within the Chinese school curriculum. This curriculum tends to emphasize academics over extracurricular activities, he said, adding that admission to the top universities in China is decided solely by the score a student receives on a national examination, the gaokao.

Each year the University sends a single admissions officer to China, who gives informational presentations conducted in English to convey the advantages of Yale and a liberal arts education, and has multiple alumni conduct admissions interviews in English, Brenzel said.

Three international Chinese students interviewed said the freedom to choose their field of study and the opportunity to work closely with professors on research topics attracted them to American universities. Kuang He ’14, who attended the High School Affiliated to Fudan University in Shanghai and participated in a one-year exchange program at the Loomis-Chaffee School in Windsor, Conn., said about 100 of the roughly 500 seniors from her high school apply to American universities each year. While He’s decision to matriculate at Yale instead of other Ivy League universities was based largely on the amount of financial aid she received, she said that most of her Chinese peers would prefer any “decent” American school to lower-tier universities in China.

“Most of the Chinese students who apply to American schools don’t really care where they’re going but just that they’re going to America,” he said. “Of the students in my class who applied to American schools and were accepted, almost all of them ended up coming here.”

The number of Chinese undergraduates in the United States has tripled in just three years to roughly 40,000 — the largest group of foreign students enrolled in colleges nationwide, according to the Institute of International Education, a private nonprofit organization that offers fellowships and issues data related to international education.

Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president of the Institute of International Education, said an increasing number of Chinese families have the financial means to send their children to schools across the United States — particularly to large, public institutions with special English-language programs. Since there are a limited number of highly competitive first-rate universities in China, Blumenthal said, many parents in China’s growing middle class are deciding to send their children abroad for higher education rather than to a lower-tier Chinese institution. Some attend American boarding schools or summer “pathway programs” before applying to increase their chances of getting into colleges like Yale. The ability to pick a major late in one’s undergraduate career in the United States as well as opportunities in fields such as business and STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — have attracted international students from around the world and Chinese students in particular, she said, since they are directed towards a major even before they complete high school.

“Many feel that the type of education provided to U.S. undergraduates, which is interdisciplinary and encourages critical thinking, will better prepare students for employment in 21st century companies, both at home and abroad,” Blumenthal said. “Students are also seeking a way to improve their English language skills, which is best done in an English speaking academic environment.”

According to the Institute of International Education, 127,822 undergraduate and graduate students from China were enrolled in American universities in the 2009-’10 academic year.