It is like the national entrance exam all over again. Last week on the Tsinghua University campus, parents anxiously watched their children head off into a taped area to register as freshmen.
"Don't worry mum, I can manage," said Xia Yanxu, 18, a freshman from Hebei province, reassuring his mother that he would be alright handling the photoshoot for his student ID and the Hukou registration.
In order to teach incoming freshmen their first lesson in independence, Tsinghua University set up a "parents-restricted" area this year where students have to go through the enrollment procedure all by themselves.
On the verge of the new semester, both universities and incoming freshmen are trying to make independence the priority.
Xia's mother did not come alone, but with grandparents and other family members. Other than proudly witnessing her son stepping into one of the country's most prestigious institutions, Li Xiaoping came to Beijing to assist with any unforeseeable problems that her son might face.
"From his childhood through to high school, Xia was told only to worry about study, and that we [parents] would take care of everything else," said Li. "If anything happens I fear he might be overwhelmed and make the wrong decision."
Xia's parents are in good company. On the first enrollment day the number of parents exceeded that of enrolling students, according to a school official.
"Over the years the number of parents has increased," said the official, who asked to remain anonymous. "That's one reason why the school set up the student-only area – to prevent chaos."
In fact, Tsinghua is not the only university in trying to teach freshmen independence. This year, Shanghai University cancelled the tradition of upper-classmen picking up freshmen from the train station. Instead, the school attached with its offer letters a transportation map of the city on which the 5,963 freshmen could find the campus by public transport. The change has been well received.
"It was like an adventure on the first day of enrolment," said Zhang Yiting, 18, a freshmen from Chongqing.
With parents swarming into the campus, there is also another trend gaining momentum among freshmen. On social networking sites, such as Renren.com, students are inviting their peers to board the train together, not only for safety, but also to "get rid of nagging parents."
"It would be fun to meet some future alumni and enroll together," said Hu Liwen, 19, a freshmen at Beihang University from Liaoning province. "It would also save parents money and energy."
Xia now wants his mother and family to go home. "Yesterday I had a group of relatives following me wherever I went. It doesn't feel like I'm on campus at all," said Xia. "I think I will be alright with my roommates."