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Friday, February 3, 2012

On College Applications, Some Asian-Americans Avoid The ‘Race’ Box

Jasmine Zhuang, a Yale junior who says she avoided checking the "Asian" box on her college application. (Courtesy Jasmine Zhuang)

When it comes to college applications, some Asian-Americans are purposely not checking the race box. For many, it has nothing to do with their heritage, and everything to do with the high expectations that come with it– for higher test scores, perfect grade point averages and a long list of extracurricular activities.

Yale University junior Jasmine Zhuang did not check the race box back when she was applying to college.

She said she knew she wasn’t fooling anyone, because her name is Asian and she wrote her application essay about being Asian. Zhuang said she was just rebelling against the admissions process.

“I think I was definitely angry to some extent,”” Zhuang told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “I don’t think college admissions should be based on race at all. And I felt they were projecting stereotypes on me just because I was part of a group, instead of considering me as an individual.”

Some say these stereotypes have led to higher expectations for Asian-Americans in the college admissions process than their white, Hispanic and African American peers.

The U.S. Education Department is now investigating claims of discrimination in the undergraduate admissions process at Harvard and Princeton University. The department’s Office for Civil Rights is looking into a complaint filed in August that an Asian American candidate was rejected from Harvard’s freshman class due to the student’s race or national origin. The office is looking into a similar complaint at Princeton.


  • Jasmine Zhuang, Yale University junior and daughter of Taiwanese immigrants. She did not check the race box.
  • Oi-Yan Poon, UCLA post-doctoral researcher on racial inequalities in education

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