12/18/2012 01:54 pm ET

Smaller U.S. Colleges Try To Crack Chinese Market -

Flickr: l2x

BEIJING — One factor that made it easier for Samford University to catch the attention of some of the thousands of Chinese students at a recent education expo was that many mistook it for a university with a similar name: Stanford.

“It’s a good conversation starter,” said Hunter Denson, an international admissions counselor for Samford, a Baptist college near Birmingham, Alabama. “They mix up the name all of the time. When we first got here, that was all they cared about. ‘Are you an Ivy League? Are you in the top 10? Why is your mascot not the Stanford tree?”’