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Ways to apply to study in China
Firstly, students can apply for a university in China under the bilateral exchanges agreements between the respective governments. Applying through the inter-college exchanges is also a useful way.

Another way is via individual applications. In other words, individual students may apply through China's relevant agencies or directly to the relevant universities or colleges in China.
Preparation of Application Materials
First, the applicants will need to submit appropriate application forms for studying in China. Second, applicants will be asked to submit a Physical Examination Record for Foreigners form. Third, applicants will need to offer copies of the most recent diploma, courses learned, and transcripts. For those applying for a Master's degree or doctoral degree studies in China, applicants will need to submit recommendation letters by two teachers with titles of or above associate professor.

What's more, the above materials must be in Chinese or English, or with translation in any of these two languages. Relevant forms may be available from Chinese embassies (consulates) or concerned universities in China.
When to Apply
Foreign students of bilateral exchanges projects between governments should apply through relevant departments of their own countries, which are in charge of choosing and sending students to China, from February 1 to April 30.

For foreign students of inter-college exchange projects and those self-supported students, the time for application is usually from September l5 to December l5 of the previous year for the spring term, and from February 15 to June 15 for the autumn term.
Entrance Examinations and Tests
For those to be undergraduates of arts, enrollment will be on the basis of competitive selection in light of degree certificates, medium stage C level certificates of HSK, and the examinations and tests held by the universities.

For those to be scientific, medical, agricultural, or technological undergraduates, enrollment will be on the basis of competitive selection in light of degree certificates, primary stage C level of HSK result, and the Admission examinations. Those who are postgraduate applicants should have bachelor's degrees certificates, certificates for courses already attended, transcripts, and recommendations of two associate professors; applicants will also have to pass the entrance examinations arranged by relevant universities. Only by attending courses arranged by the universities and passing courses examinations after they arrive in China can these students gain their qualifications to prepare theses; otherwise they will have to graduate as trainees.

Applicants for doctoral studies must have a Master's degree, with certificates, list of courses accomplished, and two recommendation letters by teachers with titles of associate professor or above; applicants must pass the examinations or tests held by the universities and colleges.
Foreign students who have graduated in China will be granted priority to return for further education.

Visa Application

How to apply
1. You shall come to the visa office of the Embassy or Consulate -General in the consular jurisdiction where you reside to submit the application; or
2. If you cannot come personally, you may send someone else or a travel/visa agent to come to the visa office of the Embassy or Consulate -General in the consular jurisdiction where you reside for application process.
3. Mail applications are not acceptable and will be returned.
4. No appointment is required.
List of Chinese Embassies, please visit Chinese Embassies
Processing Time
1. The regular processing time is 4 working days.
2. Express service: 2-3 working days processing.
3. Same day rush service.
Documents to be included with application
1. Your valid & actual passport. The passport must have at least six (6) months validity left before expiration and at least one blank page left in it.
2. One completed Visa Application Form (Q1) with one additional passport photo (black & white or color is acceptable).
3. An approved Foreign Student Visa Application Form (JW201 or JW202) issued by the authorized Chinese unit, and an enrollment letter from the Chinese school.
4. For the applicant who will study in China for more than one year shall also provide a Physical Examination Certificate for Foreign Citizen.
5. An applicant born in China who applies for a Chinese visa with a new foreign passport is required to submit his/her Chinese passport or last foreign passport with a Chinese visa.

If the visa application form is not filled out completely, correctly and legibly, this can cause a delay in processing or the refusal of the requested visa.
Additional information
(X) visa is valid for one entry, three months. The holder of a (X) visa shall go through residential formalities in the local public security department within thirty days of entry into China.
Any person suffering from mental disorder, leprosy, AIDS, venereal diseases, contagious tuberculosis or other such infectious diseases shall not be permitted to enter China.
The Consular Officers have the authority to refuse any visa applications inconsistent with Chinese laws and regulations, or revoke issued visas.

Source: http://www.chinaeducenter.com/en/visa.php