A student bursts into tears upon knowing that she might not pass the admission score at a Ho Chi Minh City university. Photo: Ha Anh
When early this year the education ministry announced changes in how universities and colleges would take in students, it promised that the new rules would give students a better chance at getting into a good school.
It said students applying to schools after getting their exam results would get 20 days to change their choice if their scores are below a school's threshold score for admission.
As a result, students could figure out which schools they had better chances to be accepted in, instead of just relying on luck. In previous years, the procedure was the opposite: students had to name their preferences first before even sitting the national exam.
However, as admissions wrapped up Thursday, the ministry's optimism seemed a little premature.
At least, that was the opinion of many parents who found the whole process "messy," "tense," and "cruel," after spending weeks tracking marks, running from one school to another with their children's applications but still being unsure about their fate.
Tran Huu Dang of the southern province of Dong Nai said tearfully that he took his child to Ho Chi Minh City very early on Thursday morning to check the admission status at the HCMC University of Technology.
By noon they had to rush to another technology school since the child's position at the former was tenuous due to an increase in the number of applicants, which took the admission score up, he said.
The man has since been waiting at the latter school for updates along with many other parents, who too were close to tears when speaking about their exhaustion and fear.
Thai Van Thanh, another parent from Dong Nai, said he and his son immediately withdrew the application from the first-choice school when he dropped out of admission range, and rushed to another school in the rain.
"I have never seen such a messy and complicated university recruitment process; so tiring and costly."
Although schools are required to update the number of applicants and their admission scores every day on the Internet, many parents like Dang and Thanh chose to get updates on site so they can either withdraw or submit their children's applications quickly.
While students can submit their applications by post, they have to take back the applications in person.
Like stock market
Hopeful students at the HCMC University of Economics
At the HCMC University of Economics, a parent who invests in shares compared the recruitment process to the stock market.
His description evoked eerie images of a stock brokerage as hundreds of students and parents sat in the school hall, waiting for hourly updates on threshold scores and checking the situation at other schools on their laptops.
The hall turned silent when the announcement time approached. People clapped their hands when the threshold score remained unchanged, but immediately returned to their laptops when there was any change, calculating and discussing animatedly.
Nguyen Van Son from the central province of Phu Yen said he had camped at the university from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day for three days. He said he was too worried to stay at home and check online, adding he had "mastered" computer skills thanks to the new recruitment rules this year.
Elsewhere, it was not unusual to see dozens of parents and students camping in front of schools with pens and notebook, tallying every person who came to submit or withdraw their application.
Nguyen Thi Hong from the northern city of Hai Phong said during an interview with a news website that she and her husband could not do anything else for the past weeks except help their daughter "calculate admission scores".
She said the scramble by students to submit or withdraw their applications reminded her of crowded flower markets on Lunar New Year's Eve.
"But at flower markets, everyone looks happy; here, there are only faces with worries and tears."