More and more Chinese students studying in U.S. high schools are realizing there are other things just as important as doing well on the SAT or AP exams when it comes to getting into elite colleges - community service is one.
Among both Chinese and Chinese-American students, helping poor children in rural Chinese villages is gaining in popularity.
Adele Chi, 17, a 12th grader at Harvard-Westlake School in Southern California, heard about a "flying box" project in a mountain village in Hunan province and visited the village last summer.
Flying boxes are container-adapted living quarters specially designed for children who have to hike several miles every day between their homes and school along mountain paths that are usually dangerous for small children.
Chi visited two elementary schools, where she was shocked by the poor living conditions.
But living in a flying box, the children have toilets and showers, and most importantly they don't have to waste five hours every day commuting to and from school, she said.
After getting back to the U.S., Chi said she and her friends started raising money at their school for the flying box project. After the fundraiser, she was able to wire ,357 to the Youth Development Foundation in China for flying boxes.
Chinese-American students in the Bay Area founded a non-profit called HEARTS (Help Everyone and Remember to Share), which is committed to providing Chinese students with volunteer opportunities to give back to the community.
The group has developed six local chapters in the area and recruited dozens of members. They have been helping with the education of poor children in Hebei and Shaanxi provinces.
"Many students are attracted to charity projects because the activities can add points to their college application," said Shin Wei, CEO and co-founder of IvyMax, a California-based college admission consulting firm. "It's a positive trend for society, as more and more students take on community service."
"It's important to help the youth nurture compassion for the underprivileged, so that they can influence their peers," he said.
Wei's company has been organizing summer and winter programs in recent years for students to visit orphanages and rural schools in Northwest China, where they learn about the locals' lifestyles, interview villagers and shadow village doctors on their daily rounds.
"I've seen quite a few of those students return to the villages even after they have graduated from high school," said Wei.
Though the students were mostly involved in volunteer projects, it's a positive sign for China's philanthropy, said Zhuang Zhi, founder and chairman of LoveZone Charity Foundation in Suzhou.
"The young generation's broadened horizon and innovative thinking will bring fresh air to China's charitable undertakings," he said.
According to the Global Chinese Philanthropy Initiative, among both Chinese and Chinese Americans, philanthropy is rising dramatically. The number of foundations in China grew 40 percent between 2006 and 2016, reaching 5,545 in 2016.
In the U.S., there were nearly 1,300 Chinese-American foundations in 2014, a figure that has grown 418 percent since 2000.
"By giving back to society, the students often find a new window opened for their career," said Zhuang.