For Mao Jinwen, a freshman at Peking University's school of government, his first day on campus was full of surprises.
"I never imagined I would get 1,500 yuan ($230) every year," he told China Daily on Sunday.
The 20-year-old, who comes from a rural family in Gansu province, is among more than 600 freshmen from poor families who will get financial support from Peking University this year.
"The money is so helpful," said Mao's mother.
"It is hard for me to support Mao and his little sister, who is a senior middle school student and will take the national college entrance examination next year," she said.
Mao's tuition fee is 5,000 yuan a year and his dormitory fee is 750 yuan a year.
Mao also received a bag of gifts, such as bedding, clothes, books, a cell phone, gym card, movie coupons and moon cakes, from the university.
The gift bags for the 600 students from poor families are worth around 2.6 million yuan, said Yang Aimin, the director of the financial aid center of Peking University.
The students from very poor families will get a maximum of 15,000 yuan every year, which will cover nearly all of their tuition fees and living expenses, she added.
Not all the students receiving aid are from rural families. Around 30 percent of poor students in Peking University this year are from urban families.
"I temporarily don't worry about money too much, as my middle school awarded me 10,000 yuan and the local government awarded me 5,000 yuan for being enrolled by Peking University," said 18-year-old Tang Han from Chongqing, who is majoring in dentistry.
Her mother is a housewife and her father is a part-time porter at construction sites in Chongqing.
The campus enrolled a total of 7,682 freshmen this year, including 674 overseas students and 184 students from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao. It also enrolled a larger percentage of students from rural regions this year, Wang En'ge, the vice-president of Peking University, told the Beijing News on Saturday.
He declined to reveal the number of rural students enrolled this year.
Between 1978 and 1998, about 30 percent of students came from rural families in Peking University. The number is about 10 to 11 percent in 2005, Liu Yunshan, an associate professor at the graduate school of education of the Peking University, told China Daily her research results.
Wang Yabing, a staff member at the student's restaurant in Peking University, said on Sunday that he has not noticed a huge change in the number of rural students in the past ten years.
"It is easy to tell rural students from urban students, though there is hardly any difference in their appearance," he told China Daily.
"The rural students usually buy a meal for around 6 yuan, while urban students are happy to pay between 10-20 yuan for a meal," he said.
However, one positive trend in recent years has been the increasing number of female students from poor families attending the university as more girls in rural families now finish their middle school.