The aim of this paper is to explore the image and main changes in Chinese independent colleges based on the student survey data collected in 2018, in the Southeast coastal area. To achieve this, I focus on students’ characteristics from the viewpoints of household backgrounds, academic ability and their motivations for higher education by type of colleges. The findings of this paper can be summarized as follows. Firstly, it was clarified that independent colleges are positioned as middle class in terms of academic ability and household backgrounds. Secondly, through one-way ANOVA analyses of student’s motivations for higher education in other four types of colleges, it was revealed that there is a significant difference by type of colleges, but it is difficult to judge whether there is a substantial difference. Therefore, it is still impossible to deny that motivation for admission is not influenced by the factor that can share the resources of the parent university. In short, we have evidence that independent college is not a type of college for low-academic ability, and high-income students can easily advance. This may be one of the manifestations of changes in the social image in independent colleges. However, we still can’t see the unique role of independent colleges from the motivation of admission. And whether the changes occurred in the social image is related to the quality assurance of independent colleges, that needs to be taken into further consideration.