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Friday, February 3, 2012

Does The College Admissions Process Discriminate Against Asian-Americans?

(Flickr/Marcio Cabral de Moura)

The U.S. Department of Education is investigating charges that Harvard and Princeton discriminate against Asian-Americans, by holding them to a higher standard than other groups when it comes to college admissions, according to a Bloomberg News report.

Both Harvard and Princeton say they do not discriminate on the basis of race.


  • Daniel Golden, Bloomberg education reporter and author of Price of Admission

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  • Katherine

    Being from Seattle in Washington State, I benefited from “geographic distribution” in the early 1960s.  I was very much aware of that fact and also of the probability that Vassar could have filled the entire class with qualified girls (we didn’t yet call ourselves women then) from New York City alone.  But there seemed to be a definite positive effect from having students from all over the country.  I remember sitting in the parlor after dinner drinking demitasse coffee (I know that confirms all the stereotypes) and hearing accents from all over the United States.  Vassar was also trying to diversify in terms of class and my class was one of the first to have half of the students from public schools.  (And we made cruel fun of the rich girls who had never ironed anything!)  I’m saddened if it is true, as Daniel Golden said, that geographic distribution was merely a way to limit Jews.  

  • guest

    Young adults fill-out many surveys on the Internet; many of these surveys ask demographic questions (race, age, income, etc.). It is well-known that some Internet users do not complete these surveys; others complete the surveys with inaccurate information.

    The SATs contain demographic questions. The SATs are different from Internet surveys. The legal implications of SAT answers is
    not always apparent to young adults.

    During the process of ushering 2 young
    adults through the process of college application/admission, I became
    familiar with some dilemmas faced by high school students.

    EXAMPLE:One person checked the SAT box indicating that the applicant had Native-American background.That person was accepted to every and all colleges to which he/she had applied.When
    it was discovered by guidance counselors/student’s parents/college admissions
    officers that the applicant had checked the box inaccurately representing himself/herself as having Native-American background,
    severe repercussions resulted: shame, withdrawl of all acceptances, of
    all scholarship funds and grants. A criminal complaint against the young
    person for misrepresentation may have resulted.
    The young adult had answered the SAT demographic questions as if they were any other Internet survey, rather than a legally-binding description that could have been left blank.

  • Oneorbis

    The results of a (very) informal survey–taken by chance–yesterday evening: I was waiting for a bus outside one of the Harvard gates and realized that every student leaving the Yard for 5 minutes was Asian.  It was striking. All male, by the way. (Possible basis for a gender suit?)
    The sense of entitlement is quite stunning. Every clever student does not, cannot, gain admission to Harvard, Princeton et al. I understand that when you’ve been “groomed” to attend an Ivy or Ivy equivalent college (Does Stanford have this problem?), it can be a bitter disappointment to be “rejected.”  I expect I would have been pretty distraught if I hadn’t been admitted. And I’m no legacy. 
    Believe it or don’t (and those who aren’t admitted don’t), Harvard is interested in more than grades. It seeks to create a distinct and varied community with each class it admits. (And, happily, the sense of wh0 can be included in that community has expanded over the decades.)
    Workable communities, successful communities need and value a range of skills and gifts in its members. When people talk about the “undergraduate experience” at Harvard, this, more than or at least as much as the education, is what they mean. If one pays attention, one leaves Harvard with a greater appreciation of the variety of humankind and also with some humility about the magnitude of one’s own talents
    My advice to all applicants to Harvard: Do your homework…yes, but take your nose out of the books long enough to develop as a person who has something to say and something to contribute.

    • Dave

      So you are saying asian students spend all their time studying and not doing extra curricular activities?

      If it turned out that Asian applicants were as varied as other students except for their ethnicity, would you then be okay with more being admitted?

    • Plat

      So,  Harvard is trying to increase diversity by making it harder for a minority group to enter?  Well,  that makes sense.

      I suspect that if every student you saw coming through that gate were
      white that you would not have given it a second thought.  I guess it’s
      harder to notice what you aren’t seeing.

      And,  of course the Ivy league is concerned with more than grades.  Take for example George W. Bush. Obviously,  intelligence,  thoughtfulness,  knowledge,  eloquence and academic accomplishment were not the important considerations in his case.

  • The Buddha

    I just heard the host (forget her name) refer to Asian Americans as Asians at least about 4 times. Please be careful. Do not be such a racist. NPR should consider action against her. She should at least apologize on air. We are not Asians. How about calling other types of Americans as Europeans or Africans or South Americans? Would that be tolerated? Asians are different people who live in Asia. They do not live in the US. Asian Americans are US citizens. Please refer to them as such.

    I expect an apology from the host on this site as well as on air.

    • Robin

      whoops ..my apology is below.. scroll down! 

    • dsc

      KMA. My wife of 25 years is a rice-burner, and all of our six kids were born in Japan. I am sick and tired of whiny little bitches like you making a big deal out of the difference between Asian and Asian American, and getting your pretty pink panties all in a knot if anyone failes to cater to your infantile whims to your complete satisfaction. So shut the hell up about it, now and forever.

  • Em

    Admissions will need to adjust their concept of race to reflect realities – that the neat little box has less and less meaning. Switching to a concept of heritage would make more sense – and reflect reality a bit better. My own children will never fit into any one box – My heritage is Eastern European (my grandfather immigrated) and Mexican (my father immigrated), and my husband immigrated from South East Asia. Hence, my children, according to the race boxes, are Caucasian/Hispanic/Asian. Ugh. Just refer to them as what they really are – American, with a rich and varied heritage.

  • Robin

    To the Buddha.. and everyone!

    I have no problem apologizing! Today I also said “african american” instead of asian american, and Susan “B” Komen instead of G..(at least I stopped short of Susan B Anthony!!), among other slips.  

    I think it’s time to retreat and admit defeat in the face of a new cold.

    But meanwhile, sorry!  And I’d be curious, your thoughts on the issues in the story!


    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_DPKS3HUGQBPILPIU7IVZSHGXLI Robert_N

      I forgive you, Robin. :-) Hope you can get some rest and nurse that bug.

  • SeanWR

    Why don’t schools set some quantitative thresholds like GPA, SAT/ACT scores, and an essay score,  put the names of all applicants who reach that threshold in a pool, then pick by lottery?

    • Questioner

       Why?  Because they know that nothing in this world is equal/equitable and if they want to life in an equal opportunity society they have to engineer it.  If they did what you suggested, 99% of their students would be the super wealthy (who went to good schools and were able to afford extra classes).  College is almost the only way for one not born with a gold spoon in their mouth to advance up the socio-economic ladder.

      By the way, how do you know that they don’t already have a threshold?  Each college has it’s own way of admitting students.

  • Doublestop

    The college admission process is a mystery that allows schools to do whatever they want.  In the name of being holistic, the concept of objective meritocracy is perverted.  There is more going on than just at the Ivys.  My son is a half white/half asian American.  He graduated summa cum laude from a top 20 school, inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, scored 41 on his MCAT (99.8 to 99.9 percentile), studied abroad, have volunteered in hospitals and clinics since high school, did undergrad research work, plays drum (not violin) with a jazz band and a rock band.  He applied to 10 med schools (none of which was in the Ivy League) and was rejected by 4, wait-listed by 3 and was accepted by one.
    Well, go figure!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/YI7JPHPR4F6T2PALUHX4CXUHWQ It

    It is socially acceptable to discriminate against Asian, White and Middle Eastern Americans.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/YI7JPHPR4F6T2PALUHX4CXUHWQ It

      All for different reasons of course.

  • pigsinheaven

    Ivy league school education is no better than any State University education. I have seen some of the best students coming out of the State schools, and some of the worst from the Ivys. Save $, go to a good State University, work hard and you will get a decent education. The admission process at many top ranked schools is difficult to understand, and certainly not worth the effort, money and time. 

  • DV2000

    If a school uses non-academic criteria (race, extracurricular activities, legacy, athletic achievements, etc) for admission, it is possible that they also award diplomas based on the same non-academic standards. Why would I pay two hundred thousand dollars for an undergraduate degree from such a school? State schools look like much better deal to me in particular in many practical areas such as engineering or natural sciences.

  • Drmitchdavis

    Just as Jews were discriminated against in the 1920s, Asians are now being discriminated against. In the 1920s the Ivy leagues felt there were too many Jews attending and put a cap on the number of Jews who could attend. Getting into college should be based solely on merit. People shouldn’t be discriminated against based upon their race. If Harvard becomes 40% Asian because they are smarter and work harder so be it-bow down to our overlords of Asian descent. The whole idea of having a “diverse” campus is disgusting-it is discrimination and should be outlawed. If Harvard ends up with almost no black students, so be it. At least we will know that the few who do gain attmitance are truly deserving. Diversity can not be obtained by discrimating. It assumes that just because two students are Asian or black that they have similar opinions. This line of thinking is demeaning and hopefully will some day be laughed at.

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