A long while back I went on a bit of a rant over the China University and College Admission System (CUCAS), as I felt that I had been mislead by their representation of the service that they offered. I have since moved on from those feelings, and will now acknowledge that if you are in the market to apply at a Chinese university, the online application provided by CUCAS is probably your best bet.
The alternative to applying through this system is to apply directly to the university. Although this is typically a cheaper method (CUCAS requires that you pay a service fee of their own in addition to the school application fee), it is significantly more work, and in some cases it can be difficult to determine whether you are sending your money and paperwork to the proper office, or in some cases, just a random address. Should you send it to the wrong place, chances are slim to none that you will receive any answer.
Paying the CUCAS fee provides processing for six applications of your choice, greatly reducing the odds that your money will be directed to the wrong or even fraudulent location. In addition, they can greatly expedite the process of communication between the applicant and the university. I have also heard that they can provide assistance once you are within the country, though I have yet to test this out. I have applied several different universities through them, and have received my acceptance paperwork much faster and with significantly less hassle than on the occasions when I tried to do so on my own. I also slept a little better not having to worry that I might be mailing a stack of Benjamins to a crafty individual somewhere in Beijing.
I have sent out a request for application once more, this time to Beihang university, and will hopefully hear back from them in the next month or so. The program is a summer language course, which would be great as my contract ends here in mid June. Here’s to hoping for the best.