A study dilemma
When he received his A-level results last year, John Fan Long-fai was devastated. He fell short of the minimum university requirement by failing one of his A-level subjects.
This year he had much better prospects after getting a C in Chinese, an E in English and a C and a D in two A-levels. But now he is facing another problem: where should he continue his studies?
'Last year, I had no options. This year I had two to choose from,' he says. 'Now with the A-level results, things will be even more complicated.'
One of those options is to study business administration at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou.
Fan, 21, is one of some 1,000 Hong Kong students who have applied to universities on the mainland this year. 'My friends suggested that I give it a try on the mainland and I took their advice,' he says.
To prepare for the mainland's entrance exam, John enrolled in a one-year course at the Heung To College of Professional Studies.
'The system and subjects required on the mainland are quite different from Hong Kong,' Fan says.
'Candidates are required to take five subjects, with Chinese, English and mathematics being compulsory. They can choose an art or science stream as in Hong Kong but the choices are more limited: history and geography in arts and chemistry and physics in science. Mathematics is not easy for arts student like me.'
Unlike A-levels, mainland entrance exams grade students according to points in various subjects - 750 points in all. Every subject is worth a total of 150 points.
The minimum requirement for university is around 300. Top schools such as Peking University and Tsinghua University require more than 700 points. The great thing about being a student from Hong Kong is that mainland schools give you more freedom, Fan says.
'Hong Kong students can score around 670 and still get into Peking and Tsinghua,' he notes. 'In my case, the general requirement for Sun Yat-sen University is 600, but I can get in if I score 500 to 530.'
There are other advantages to studying on the mainland.
'The mainland is gaining importance in the business world, and having mainland connections and local knowledge will be a plus on my resume,' Fan says.
It's cheaper, too. School fees on the mainland are around 6,000 yuan per year. 'It is much more affordable for less well-off families,' he adds. 'Hong Kong universities charge more than HK$40,000 a year.'
Earlier this year, Fan travelled to Sun Yat-sen University to check it out. 'My first impression of the place was positive,' he says. 'Sun Yat-sen University has one of the country's best business schools.'
All Fan has to do now is make a tough decision. Should he go to study on the mainland or weigh his possible offers here?
But at least he has that choice.