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Some Asians' college strategy: Don't check 'Asian' (yahoo.com)
150 points by thomasgerbe on Dec 3, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 194 comments

I would advise an asian college applicant to an elite school to strongly consider not checking the "asian" box. It is absolutely true that they're in competition against the other asian applicants. It's also absolutely true that the asian applicants have extremely common profiles in terms of activities, test scores, grades, and points of view.

When I was an admissions office for a short time, my advice to asian applicants looking to be noticed was to go to clown school, perform as a semi-professional magician, or even excel at sports.

Violin, cello, piano, essays about translating for your immigrant parents, computers, math, science...all that stuff blends together after awhile and makes it hard for an admissions office to remember you when sitting around the table voting on applicants.

I'm curious. In your experience, was it just those activities (Violin, cello, piano, etc) that were beaten to death and no longer desirable, or was more about the uniformity of Asian applicants?

For example, if a white kid had the same piano + math achievements as an Asian one did in the same year, would he stand out more?

The white kid might stand out a bit more, but he'd probably get lost in the crush, too. There's got to be a twist, there's got to be an angle.

So a kid with incredible credentials who plays the violin and is awesome at math....who grew up in an igloo is going to get extra attention.

That same kid who went to a math/science academy in NYC has a tough path in front of him.

I was 13, I think, when I went to compete in the all-Ukrainian math olympiad, back a bunch of years ago when it was called a "republican" olympiad because Ukraine was a republic in the USSR and not a separate country. It was a long event: delegations from all the regions came and were housed in a sort of summer camp for two weeks. As we were getting registered, one of the organizers who was getting everyone's details for the official forms told me she needed to know my ethnicity.

I was pretty naive, and after thinking it over for a few minutes I decided to ask her for advice. I said to her: "Well, I'm really not sure what to tell you, see, my mother's Jewish, and my father's Ukrainian. Can you write them both? Or am I supposed to choose somehow? What do you think?" I'd actually thought it through a bit more and was ready to continue telling her how my parents were divorced and I was living with my mother so I should probably choose that side... but I decided to wait for her response first.

She looked at me a bit funny (I think now that she was trying to see if I was being ironic. I wasn't). She held a pause. And then she said firmly: "Let's just write you up as a Ukrainian, shall we?"

It reminds me: I believe in Feyman's day, Jews were fighting a similar problem to Asians now.

I'm pretty sure that SAM (a Jewish frat?) was gone by the 80s at MIT, as a calibration point.

Edit: I was a little confused, he was turned away from Columbia for being Jewish. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_quota

I remember reading an article in ... I believe it was the New Republic ... that said that the "holistic admissions process" of today, with the essays, activities, etc. supplanted the earlier more test-scores / grades-centric approach at the Ivy League precisely in an attempt to admit fewer Jews.

I remember reading an article . . . that said that the "holistic admissions process" of today, with the essays, activities, etc. supplanted the earlier . . . approach at the Ivy League precisely in an attempt to admit fewer Jews.

The much-cited article on the subject is by Malcolm Gladwell, and was first published in the New Yorker.


The article is a review of a book by Jerome Karable, which gives many details of the history of admission policies at selective United States universities.

SAM disappeared at MIT due to reasons specific to the chapter; it got overrun with non-frat members living there, and various other weirdness in the 1970s, and the house voted to leave the fraternity, then become an MIT co-ed independent living group, Fenway House. It sort of became the GLBT place at some point too, and was generally both small (15-30 students) and weird.

I lived there as an undergrad in the 1990s. The most famous alum is probably Lori Berenson, who was held by the Peruvian government for years for (maybe inadvertently) supporting a terrorist organization.

Thanks for the history of Fenway house, I didn't know it. (I was EC, of 80s vintage. Ashdown in the 90s.)

> it got overrun with non-frat members living there

Presumably because they couldn't fill the beds and needed the money?

Isaac Asimov also ran into Columbia's Jewish quota.

She gave you very valuable advise.


I recently went through the b-school admissions process (admitted to several 'elite' schools but, ultimately, decided not to enroll). It was a remarkable experience. Remarkable in that it made me feel completely inadequate and commoditized...and I was a successful applicant! There's an entire industry built upon the panic and stress of young over-achievers who believe their life will be defined by the rank of their school. It's called admissions consulting...and the rates they charge. oh, brother.

I feel supremely sorry for any 16-year-old trying to get into a top ranked school right now. As a fairly stable 26-year-old it made me depressed like nothing before. It's a broken process that's been spoiled rotten by the bottom feeders who will tell a kid "you won't get in unless you pay me five grand to help you." (i couldn't afford it...)

If you want to see some people really freak out over race and admissions, talk to some Indian B-school hopefuls (note: I am not Indian). They are absolutely bucketed and compete against one another.

As a 16-year-old who will be applying to these elite schools next year, I can vouch for the things you're saying. The competition is insane, and it puts the prospective applicants through a lot.

On the topic of race - It's no unusual occurrence to hear some HYPSM reject at my school (pretty average/ordinary California high school) say "I was rejected because I was Asian/White/Indian/whatever." It really bothers me because these kids never had a shot at those top schools anyway. They were above-average at an ordinary high school. They really had nothing to differentiate them from any other applicant. It was the same "Smart kid with good grades and an SAT score above 2000 who was loosely involved in a club or two."

The mentality is, if you get a 2000+ SAT score, then certainly you are some sort of genius who belongs at Harvard. You participated in two clubs?! Wow! You got A's in a few of your AP classes?! Look out Stanford!

They think there is some formula to admission, where it's just a stats competition. If you have the right stats, then you're in. But their goal numbers are weak, and they detract from what really matters, and that is being amazing and following your passion (see here - http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/esse-quam-videri).

And when they get rejected, their first reaction is to blame the black kid. It bothers me because there were other people of their race accepted, and they were accepted because they proved their worth to that college, just like the black kid did. The sore losers complaining don't see that they offered nothing unique or notable to the college that any one of the other thousands of Regular Genius Kids(TM) didn't. All things considered, and race not considered, it's the amazing and truly notable kids who get accepted. Whether white, black, Asian, or whatever, those amazing individuals proved that they themselves could offer something truly valuable to the college, and they were accepted as a result. There are no average Asians at MIT. There are no average black people at MIT. There are no average anyone at MIT, they're all amazing in some way.

EDIT: Disclaimer, I'm white.

I don't understand why they require ethnic proportions to stay close to population averages.

They don't reject high-performance black athletes for lower performing, asian athletes. I've never once heard anyone complain that their university's football team had a disproportionate number of non-asian people.

Serious double standard there.

That is simply wrong.

US Population: White - 72.4 % Black or African American - 12.6 Asian - 4.8 Some other race - 6.2

Source: http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf

Princeton class profile: African America - 7.4 Asian - 18.6 Hispanic - 7.1 etc.

Source: http://www.princeton.edu/admission/applyingforadmission/admi...

Asians are "overrepresented minorities", or ORM's, by admission standards because, in Princeton anyways, the ratios are nearly 4x the population average.

I understand they're overrepresented.

What I meant was why is that a problem? According to the article, that degree of over-representation (relative to population) is below what it would be, given a completely blind admissions process.

So why not have 25% asian population? What's the problem?

On the other hand, why isn't anyone saying there is a problem with ORM in football?

Basically social power and wealth is distributed in a top-down way based on which school you went to. "grades" don't actually mean anything they're just a social fiction created to justify why some people have greater shares of power/wealth/freedom than others.

Asian families, the pragmatic authoritarians they are, are very good at hacking this system of social sorting. The elite colleges know this. Elite colleges are n the business of creating and maintaining high status in the eyes of society. The highest status people are often not the best education-hackers. Therefore, the elite colleges don't sort solely or even primarily on the basis of grades. They want people who are going to rise to powerful, prominent, high status positions and they accurately recognize that hordes of Asian authoritarian parents are just hacking the system for their family's wealth.

They use racial profiling because it makes sense given their goals. Anyone who tells you it isn't racism is suffering from some kind of American myth of a post racial world.

Caltech is color blind because their goals are different. Caltech is for scientists and so they don't care what race you are. Yale is for leaders and good leaders usually don't get that way by being obedient violinists.

>> Asian families, the pragmatic authoritarians they are, are very good at hacking this system of social sorting. >> Asian authoritarian parents are just hacking the system for their family's wealth.

Wow. I don't care what ethnicity your are, this is horribly offensive.

Most Asian cultures hold filial piety as one of their highest values. Parents wield tremendous power over their children and use well-established and ancient psychological ploys to control their kids and obtain obedience.

These are facts of Asian culture. The traditional Asian family is organized as a well-oiled, top-down controlled authoritarian hierarchy. Chinese and Japanese cultural norms today are patriarchal with men ruling over both their wives and children.

A huge portion of Asian immigrants have kept this authoritarian family structure. This is not controversial. The Tiger Mom is real.

Asians themselves who follow this strategy are not shy about its authoritarian nature. Their values hold that parents and elderly are wise and should be obeyed with little questioning. They believe children should have little self-direction for the benefit of the child.

In conclusion, you find it offensive because you're clueless. The Asian people I know who subscribe to this style of family structure are comfortable with it and aware that it is authoritarian. "Authoritarian" is only pejorative to those who find authoritarianism distasteful.

Read Tiger Mom - it's an accurate portrayal of cultural differences.

Do you mean that forensic is incorrect, or that you don't like to hear it?

Both. His response is a proof by example (not a proof) and sounded a lot like, "Oh my black friends don't mind when I use that word". Counterexample... I am asian, my "pragmatically authoritarian" father did not encourage me to play violin in order to win money for his bloodline. Thus forensik is wrong. QED.

Also, I DO mind. I found what he said to be VERY offensive. My family is not some conniving, money-grubbing machine that was carefully molding me from the start to take the helm of our empire when my father dies. My parents are supportive of whatever I want to do. Additionally, Asia is huge. Really ridiculously huge. I cannot fathom how anyone can feel justified in casting such a narrow stereotype upon everyone who arrives to the USA from the East. Maybe before conducting a racial ethnography you could read the American Anthropological Association's statement on "race". Basically, race and culture should not be conflated. http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/racepp.htm

I'm sure nobody is trying to be a bigot here but forensik is sure coming off that way.

> Counterexample... I am asian, my "pragmatically authoritarian" father did not encourage me to play violin in order to win money for his bloodline. Thus forensik is wrong. QED.

Oh please. Why even bother saying this? Apparently I claimed that all Asians are violinists! Wow!

You are trying to silence uncomfortable facts by appealing to simple populist thought-stopping cliches.

"Saying anything about race is racism!! Burn the witch!!"

Everyone on HN sees right through you. Culture is passed down generationally and culture is real. Culture is therefore linked to race. Cultural differences are real and anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists have all scientifically established that Asian-Americans are more collectivist than Euro-Americans. The collectivist values result in greater authoritarianism, less individuality, and more emphasis on conformity for the sake of maintaining group harmony. This is a rock solid scientific finding of the social sciences and you're in denial if you don't want to admit it.

>>> anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists have all scientifically established that Asian-Americans are more collectivist than Euro-Americans

Oh yeah, all the social scientists are in agreement about the problem with the Asians? Hm, I see that you are shifting away from the race to racial ethnicity in your terminology (Asian-American). Like, I know you read (at least a review of) Tiger Mom but do you have a real source for this stuff that isn't a single autobiographical account and your own experience? This really makes you sound like you're full of shit.

>>> You are trying to silence uncomfortable facts

I'm really not uncomfortable with the fact that some of the Chinese-American friends I have are pushed really hard to "excel". What I am offended by is that you extrapolate from a similar experience to talk about all Asian people in America, "Asian values", "Asian ethics", and the "Asian mindset".

>>>"Saying anything about race is racism!! Burn the witch!!"

"She is Asian." -- Not racist. "Her family is very patriarchal." -- Not racist. "A lot of my Asian friends have overbearing fathers." -- Almost... "Asian families are very patriarchal." -- Racist. If you can't tell the difference, then quit talking about my race, fucker.

>>> Everyone on HN sees right through you.

I doubt anyone else is reading this. I just wanted to let you know that the way you speak about THE "Asian Culture" and "Asians" really offends me. Is it still unclear why? Is it clear to you why anthropologists do not produce ethnographic accounts of RACES.

>>> rock solid scientific finding of the social sciences


Collectivist vs. individualist is one of the most extensively researched concepts in the social sciences with respect to cultural differences. Everyone knows it's real. You might as well argue the Earth is flat.


Asia is simply way more collectivist than the West, and this cultural difference holds for Asians immigrants throughout the world.

You're trying to bully me with the race card into shutting up. Decades of high quality research on individualism-collectivism is not racism. It's just a genuine cultural difference that can be measured in a million ways.

By the way, black people also score lower on intelligence tests than other races, women are more enraptured by cute babies than men are, and republicans score higher on measures of magical thinking than democrats.

Hope these statements of fact help you with your witch hunt.

Succint and straight to the point. You should give a course in "social demythification"... I am serious a lot of people suffer because in such a pragmatical way. I 'll just add that rising to top position is more often than not a question of "hacking a system" and if some institutions are really in the business of selecting people that will secure prominent position, they should reward greatly those who have proven they possess plenty of "hacking" skills. It follows that if those institutions don't follow this logic, it's not because they "anticipate" who will hold power position in the future but because they actively decide on which bias it will be decided.

Ah okay, I fully agree then. One issue is that you want a "diversity of interests" on a college campus, but there is no evidence to convincingly say that schools would be more or less diverse if we admitted people in a race-blind manner.

Diversity of interests wasn't always a priority in college admissions though. Malcolm Gladwell has a good piece on how the current Ivy League admission focus on non-academic indicators was originally a racially driven policy. One could make a good case that "diversity of interests" is a policy put in place to ensure that highly performing performing demographic can dominate admissions. I imagine colleges con't want that to happen because it would jeopardize the long-term health of their institution.

Malcolm Gladwell's article is here: http://www.gladwell.com/2005/2005_10_10_a_admissions.html

What role does object relational mapping have in football?

> I don't understand why they require ethnic proportions to stay close to population averages.

Thank god, I hope it means the world is a different place.

First, I'm guessing you're about 30 yo. (Sorry if I'm way off.) When I applied to colleges in late 1981, there were still some dumbass amounts of discrimination for being black. Affirmative action occurred in the 60s/70s to try and rectify some of that.

It was a given back then that admissions would overlook somewhat lower SATs if you were otherwise promising, and if you could be identified as being from a disadvantaged background. The downside was that some completely kickass guys I knew felt that they had been admitted because of their skin color.

I assume there's still discrimination out there, but perhaps it's a lot less than 30 years ago.

The more common downside is that some qualified guys are passed up in favor of others that are just "promising" but have the right skin color.

I don't know if this is a downside.

First a bit of background. I come from India where they practice reservation which I think would be considered much "worse" than affirmative action over here. The way the system works is that a certain percentage of seats are reserved for people from certain (usually lower castes). So for my engineering examination, I wrote a common exam conducted by the government along with about 80,000 other students from my state. Among the 80,000 about 35k or so did well enough to be given a "rank". The rank means exactly what you think it means.

Now, students are allowed to choose the college they want to go to in the order of their ranks. However, reservation means that people like me, who don't "have a reservation" have to choose seats from the general quota. The general quota was, believe it or not, 20% of all seats. Out of my class of 140 EE students, we had 29 students who came through the general quota. About 15 more seats were available to students who were willing to do without the government subsidy.

Side note: Because my education was subsidized by the state government, I paid about $300 dollars a year in fees. The ones who went without the subsidy paid about $1200 dollars a year. All

All the remaining 100 or so seats were reserved for people from one or another of the reserved castes. For people in the general quota, the lowest (highest numerically) rank admitted to my department was 114. For a person coming from a reserved quota, the lowest rank admitted was 29xx.

At the time I felt this was grossly unfair. I busted my ass to be ranked in the top 100 among 80,000 candidates to get into this place and these guys were admitting students who weren't even in the top 2000 simply because they were born into the right family.

Over time, I've come to realize that I enjoyed a great many privileges these other kids did not. I had sporadic access to the internet, I had parents who were reasonably supportive of my studies, I knew English really well. I didn't get the 90th rank simply because I was awesome. I got it because I was lucky enough to be born with (some) privilege in a third-world country.

Many of my classmates from disadvantaged backgrounds have gone on to become competent engineers. I realize now that they fully deserved their chance.

Do you have evidence to back that claim?

It's not clear to me that qualified people who lose out (i.e. not get a place anywhere) would be so greater in number that they would outweigh the doubts created about people who may or may not have had a helping hand through affirmative action. Those kinds of doubts are pernicious and likely affect that person's social groups and career for many years; while unambiguously able people would be held up a year at the very worst - but most likely just having to attend a different college than their preference.

I chose my above words carefully: It was an issue of SATs, not qualifications in general.

Prior to affirmative action, SATs were the be-all-and-end-all of equilibration for GPAs; A GPA of 3.9 at the Bronx school of science was not the same as 3.9 at Rural High. Along came some studies showing that the SATs (esp English) had some cultural biases.

The admissions depts were truly trying to figure out: Which candidates will have the biggest impact after graduation? SATs were called into question as a predictor of that, and that "standardized" tests were maybe not so standard after all.

Also which candidates have the greatest opportunity for growth by attending that school vs not. Global opitimization can mean admitting a slightly less accomplished student who will do better with that degree than without, where a more accomplished high school will end up at the same academic/professional outcome even without the special support from the institution.

I don't buy that.

Its easy to point out the EAP kid who can't hack it in college. But I've never heard of anyone bemoaning the "qualified" upper-middle class fratboy who flunks out of school in a drunken haze.

When someone offers the opinion that rejecting high-performing Asians is a "serious double standard" I ask myself a few questions.

Do Asians have considerably higher academic performance than most other ethnic groups? Yes, they do.

Do I believe Asian people are inherently more intelligent and capable? No, I do not.

Do I think that colleges should admit students based on academic performance or intelligence and capability? I think intelligence and capability are clearly more important qualities.

The only conclusion I can draw is that academic performance is clearly a bad indicator in some ways, if it so severely favors one racial group. Therefore colleges' unwillingness to judge Asians with the same standards of academic performance is a reasonable policy to me.

This is plain silly.

How do you plan to measure "intelligence and capability"? By this logic, a brilliant-slacker-underachiever should be the most sought after candidate. Who cares about results, after all, when all that matters is someone's raw intelligence (regardless of whether or not it has been or will be applied to anything at all).

I somewhat agree with you, however I do not know the US system very well. In Germany university admission is done by grades alone; however we don't really have elite universities like the ivies, but all universities are at a rather mediocre level.

For example I could have easily gone to med school with my grades, which is one of the majors with the higher grade cutoffs, but it is maybe open for the top 10-15%? At this level I don't believe parental involvement matters too much, everyone at age 18-19 is mature enough to know: OK, if I want to study medicine, I should try to get these grades etc...

But if admission is based in the 99,99% area, I don't know if a system based on merit alone is "fair". If I look at areas like competitive sports or piano competitions etc., I would believe at least 2/3 of the contestants at the national stage had "helicopter parents" relentlessly pushing them, often against their own will...

So having a "tiger mom" simply gives you a huge competitive advantage over "normal" kids/families. So if your system is based on ideas like affirmative action, where people from disadvantage backgrounds get a boost, it seems sensible to give people from advantageous backgrounds a detriment.

So that they can tell the public, "Look! We're not racist!"

Even though they are pretty much making racist choices, the public is happy with it.

Look not without, but within, for the enemy is us.

Indeed, the myth of equality across racial and cultural lines must be protected at any cost.

The myth of equality of opportunity is indeed to be protected; but it is a myth, because uncountably more opportunities are afforded to the children of the privileged - things like affirmative action are tiny in the overall scale.

I really don't like what you are insinuating. You appear to be implying that some people are inferior due to the ancestry of their parents, or the daily practices of their parents.

You should learn something: that variance within groups is far larger than variance in the averages of groups; and thus race and culture are poor signals for use in judgement. To protect against this bias, we do hold to equality across racial and cultural lines; to do otherwise, is to be racist and simply morally wrong.

You appear to be implying that some people are inferior due to the ancestry of their parents, or the daily practices of their parents.

No, the implication is that P(inferior | race X) != P(inferior | race Y).

...we do hold to equality across racial and cultural lines;

There are two types of equality under discussion:

a) Statistical equality - P(Q > cutoff | race X) == cdf(Q > cutoff| race Y), where Q is some quality measure which is not a function of race.

b) Equality of treatment - using the same cutoff value for race X and race Y.

Which type of equality are you referring to?

I'm referring to "equality" in this statement:

    Indeed, the myth of equality across racial and cultural lines must be protected at any cost.
and trying to tease out its meaning in the context at hand.

The context at hand appears to be in making decisions about people's lives. I don't see how to read it in any other way than "people should discriminate on the basis of race and culture"; and given reinhardt's previous comment against positive discrimination, he can only mean negative discrimination. Statistical equality does not seem relevant at all; I don't know why you brought it up. I'm suspicious that you are dissembling.

I interpreted "equality" in reinhardt's statement to mean statistical equality. Statistical equality is an empirical claim - if people wrongly believe it to be true, it would be a "myth".

> You should learn something: that variance within groups is far larger than variance in the averages of groups; and thus race and culture are poor signals for use in judgement. To protect against this bias, we do hold to equality across racial and cultural lines; to do otherwise, is to be racist and simply morally wrong.

I don't want to take sides in this debate, but I often see your above post appearing on debates about this issue.

Can you explain what your first three sentences even mean? It is basically vague, ambigiuous and devoid of any meaning (while sounding academic - perfect for online debates).

That spiel is known as Lewtonin's Fallacy (please look it up).

PS: typed from cellphone so please forgive typos.

I really don't like what you are insinuating. You appear to be implying that some people are inferior due to the ancestry of their parents

Is this just willful blindness? Do you really believe all ethnicity are perfectly matched in their potential?

It's hard to study academia because we don't understand the brain well enough, but do a little reading about ethnicity and genetics as it relates to sports.

"In the mosaic of America, three groups that have been unusually successful are Asian-Americans, Jews and West Indian blacks — and in that there may be some lessons for the rest of us."


"Do African immigrants make the smartest Americans? The question may sound outlandish, but if you were judging by statistics alone, you could find plenty of evidence to back it up. In a side-by-side comparison of 2000 census data by sociologist John R. Logan at the Mumford Center, State University of New York at Albany, black immigrants from Africa average the highest educational attainment of any population group in the country, including whites and Asians."


I think it is more cultural than genetics.

"black immigrants from Africa average the highest educational attainment of any population group"

-- this is because of selection bias: only the brightest Africans get the chance to immigrate to the US.

So, isn't it also so with Asians?

Not to the extent of African immigrants, no.

First, there's already an established Asian community that has been here for a long town. There are old Chinatowns, Little Tokyos, etc. There's no Little Nairobi that I've ever heard of. So many Asians aren't actually recent immigrants.

Second, regarding those who are, many Asians aren't here by merit alone. Sure, there are some (like my parents) who came from a poorer background and managed to make it to the US. But increasingly they are supplemented by people who were born into rich families (fu er dai, "second generation rich people"). Now, I don't have statistics to back this up, but this seems to be more prevalent now because of China's recent economic boom. It's just my own theory, anyway.

Also, if you were to visit some Chinese social event (church for example), there are distinct groups of people. It's not just middle class white collar workers, there are also lower class people and older people. There are multiple generations, from the older people (mostly Cantonese speaking, at least where I live), to the middle aged people, to the young people (either ABCs or international students).

I don't mean to make any particular assertions about one ethnicity or another. My point is simply that, given the (genetically driven) physical variance between ethnicities, I expect there is a reasonable chance of (genetically driven) mental variance as well. In what way? I have no idea, and no opinion.

Culture is often inherited along with genes.

I don't think "all ethnicity are perfectly matched in their potential" is an interesting statement one way or the other. I believe individuals are more interesting than arbitrarily chosen groups. I believe we should judge people on their own merits, rather than choosing groups, taking averages of those groups, and then using those groups to make judgements.

While I am all for treating individuals as individuals, this discussion thread is not about individuals, it is about groups.

I thought the thread was about college admissions, which at their best, really ought to be about individuals, not groups.

Perhaps in an ideal world, but for better or worse we're currently stuck with everyone looking at ethnic distributions and being really upset about them. Affirmative action, for example, is probably the counterpoint to admissions being about individuals...

I don't want to take either side, but it sounds like you have a huge taboo that you want to put to bed by saying 'I don't like what you are insinuating'.

I'm not taking neither reinhardt's nor your side. But this 'don't touch this subject because it's sensitive' strategy is getting old and pretty ridiculous to resource to.

A few lines after you wrote this

__You should learn something: that variance within groups is far larger than variance in the averages of groups; and thus race and culture are poor signals for use in judgement.__

So, race and culture are poor signals for use in judgement, but you still admit that they are signals (poor or not) and that their averages does vary, even if less than within the group.

All I can conclude is that you are afraid to touch the subject. You start by saying that it doesn't exist then you prove it is not relevant. That is not coherent, you can't believe them both because they are exclusive.

Not saying that I agree or disagree with you, but if we're going to have discussions about this topic we're getting nowhere if we're stuck to the old taboos.

I think taboos exist for very good reasons. The fact that something is a taboo does not, in and of itself, mean that it needs to be challenged. The problem is that very few people are rational. There are a lot of people who gain courage to do very unpleasant things once they've heard arguments that they can use as internal justifications, when they are not themselves sophisticated enough to understand how sound the arguments are.

I live in a poor area of London. Racism isn't an abstract taboo; it's a daily sight, and it's disturbing to hear the rationales some people come out with. It's clear they didn't come up with it themselves.

Basing your values on provably incorrect myths is building a house on the sand. Values must be fundamental and universal. They must be ends in themselves. They should not be based on trivia. They definitely should not be based on provably incorrect non-facts unless you plan on those values crumbling.

Good Value: All human beings deserve a basic, dignified standard of living regardless of their intelligence, who their parents are, or what their culture is like.

Stupid Value: All races deserve a basic standard of living because they have the same intelligence.

Fact: Jews score higher on intelligence tests than other races. Society widely agrees that intelligence tests measure intelligence. Therefore, Jews are more intelligent than other races.

If you base your values on stuff like "all races being the same" you are basing your values on non-truths and those values will crumble when faced with reality. Not all humans are the same. Not all cultures are the same. Not all biology is the same. Values should transcend petty questions about biology - they should be ethical value statements that recognize the value of all human life.

We should give minority groups fair treatment and a helping hand not because they "deserve" it but because it is fair and because we believe in the values of fairness and equal treatment for all human beings. Because we believe in the inherent value of human life - the sanctity of human life - and want to promote human life regardless of which culture it comes from, regardless of what biological quirks it displays.

I completely disagree with you. You might want whatever taboos you like, I'm ok with that and won't challenge them.

But heck, if you are going to discuss something then you must be free of taboos in that particular mater, or else your opinion is just bananas. I mean, of what value is your opinion on something you're afraid of talking about?

EDIT: I don't want to be a downvote bitch. But it I am noticing my comments on this thread are all downvoted. I guess some people has the taboo so strongly imprinted on their minds that they don't even want me to mention it.

A taboo is a means of enforcement of a group norm. I don't think supporting or opposing a taboo prevents you from having a valid opinion on the group norm itself.

For example, talking to children about sex with children is a major taboo. Supporting this taboo doesn't mean an opinion on the immorality of sex with children is automatically invalid.

That's not really a good comparison. In both cases they're trying to put together the best team. Right or wrong, the idea is that having diversity of experiences improves the academic experience for everyone. I don't know why people have such a hard time understanding this. It's fair to disagree with the idea, but it's completely different from racism.

Actually that's exactly racism.

In this case, the assumption is that asian are a homogenous group, and that having a class full of asians in necessarily not diverse. That's in line with the "violin playing automatons" perception of asian students.

Why is it not possible to have diversity of experience without artificially restricting access by race. The assumption that people of a certain race are defined by the same experiences is exactly racism.

>The assumption that people of a certain race are defined by the same experiences is exactly racism

That's not what's being implied, nor is that implication racist. What's implied is that people of a similar ethnicity who have similar profiles on a college application probably have a similar backgrounds. This is both logical and entirely not racist.

To help ensure university doesn't look as racially and sexually homogenous as the tech industry?

Are you bothered when professional sports leagues are racially homogeneous? Would you prefer that they practice affirmative action?

Professional sports leagues aren't the keys to wealth and power in this country. That's why there's a big fuss over college admissions and not about sports.

No, there's no big fuss about sports because an affirmative-action-privileged race happens to be superior in this area.

I'm failing to find a more colorful way to put this so here it is plainly:

One becomes an affirmative-action-privileged race precisely because there are systematic barriers to the keys to wealth and power. If sports were that, and there were systematic barriers to it, we would be having this same discussion about Asians. Being good at sports is overall irrelevant to wealth and power in this country.

This stuff isn't hard.

Stories like this irk me, because they overlook the larger injustice of continuing to think about elite schools as meritocratic institutions, when they are plainly not. At Harvard, for example, the bottom half of the income distribution makes up 6.5% of students.[1] When we consider the most selective schools in aggregate, we see that nearly three-quarters of incoming freshmen at those schools are drawn from the top quartile of incomes.[2]

The illusion of merit that graduation from these schools imparts leads to a false sense of mastery amongst those who've been able to scale the pyramid of achievement, a self-deception that has had pretty profound consequences for the country since, oh I don't know, say 2008 or so.

[1]: http://chronicle.com/article/Pell-Grant-Recipients-Are/12689...

[2]: http://books.google.com/books?id=4JyQus8r9JYC&pg=PA150&#...

According to this study (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/27/sat-scores-and-...), there's a clear correlation between students from high income backgrounds having higher scores versus students from lower income backgrounds having lower scores as well.

I suggest this piece [1] by David Leonhart. As he points out in the final paragraph:

    [...] all else equal, a low-income applicant was no more likely to get in than a high-income applicant with the same SAT score.
[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/25/business/economy/25leonhar...

The idea that test scores are "meritocratic" is itself a myth. Wealthy people score higher on tests for very simple socioeconomic reasons that are not related to any innate merit but rather to the advantages conferred by an aristocratic upbringing.

Attendance at elite schools and the myth of the "meritocratic test score" is just the most recent form of upper class hegemony. It's a fiction created to justify hereditary rule. The far majority of wealth, power, and status is obtained through heredity and nepotism. The "meritocratic test score" myth is there to hide this simple fact.

> "Not to really generalize, but a lot of Asians, they have perfect SATs, perfect GPAs, ... so it's hard to let them all in"

Why is asking for ethnicity even legal?

It's not, at least in my country France and probably most of Europe... I've never seen a form asking me if I'm white. Was kinda shocked to realize it's common practice in US.

Employment information is tracked this way in order to judge if there is a systemic imbalance in employment. We can say (in the US) that certain minorities are over- or under-represented in different fields. Hopefully that knowledge can help reduce the imbalance. Some places (voluntarily or under court order) also track the ethnicity of people involved in police incidents because across the country, ethnically discriminated minorities are more likely to be stopped, frisked, and/or cited than non-minorities. Tracking this information helps reveal the effect of that discrimination.

As I understand it, France also has systemic discrimination - grand-children of guest workers from the 1960s have a hard time finding employment, for example, and the official state position is that "there are no ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities." The Human Rights Committee disagrees with that view, and I think it's a bizarre viewpoint.

The French Constitution and Penal Code prohibit the collection of data based on the origin, race or religion, so of course you haven't seen such a form. On the other hand, it's widely believed that the lack of such information makes it hard to determine if there truly is wide-spread discrimination or not. The view of the French government is that there is no discrimination and so there's no need to measure it. While I say that without measurements, you don't know if it exists or not.

These are all fine points I agree with. It wouldn't surprise me if there were more racism here. It sounded like I was indignant but I'm really just shocked you manage to break the taboo. But you still have to be careful with these college things... It should be controlled a little.

What taboo?

Putting people into "race" categories. In France we don't even acknowledge the existence of races. It's not even about discriminating. You're not allowed to say white people and black people are different races, that's labeled as racism. We talk about ethnicity or origin. And even then you have to be very careful. You don't say "arabs", you say "people originating from Maghreb" (or Middle east..). It's a sensitive matter. And there would be nation-wide riots if forms started asking about race or even skin color. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_(classification_of_human_b... "In many countries, such as France, the state is legally banned from maintaining data based on race, which often makes the police issue wanted notices to the public that include labels like "dark skin complexion", etc." "The decennial censuses conducted since 1790 in the United States created an incentive to establish racial categories and fit people into those categories."

Yes, I had to fill a form for a an American corporation once that asked me about my ethnicity and it was very weird. It was the first time I saw anyone do that, much less in an official form - I was wondering all the time if that was legal - and according to the very detailed instructions I had to select an option that did not match my opinion about my ethnicity at all.

Companies which meet a certain criteria (eg, companies over 100 employees, or smaller companies which are federal government prime contractors) must file an EEOC-1 report to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. See http://www.eeoc.gov/employers/eeo1survey/faq.cfm .

ive never seen anything like it, is it a compulsory question?

we often have "are you a aboriginal or torres strait islander" but that is always clearly marked as optional and only used for measuring progress in improving the absolutely disgusting state of education for indigenous australians.

really i always thought america was better then this... TIL

They have always been optional in my experience (hence the whole point of the linked article). Perhaps you don't see questions like this as much because Australia is less diverse (92% white)?

These questions are optional from my experience.

For demographic surveys of data.

According to PBS, Race is an Illusion: http://www.pbs.org/race/000_General/000_00-Home.htm

Jared Diamond concurs: http://www.learntoquestion.com/resources/database/archives/0...

If you believe their arguments, there is no scientific basis for categorizing someone on the basis of race. Appearance is particularly hazardous.

Therefore, why can't Asians mark black on the application? Who is to say they are not black if they self-identify as black? According to PBS, Jared Diamond, and many sociology departments, it is impossible to administer a genetic test that distinguishes African Americans from Asians, so self-identification is the only measure that matters.

So: why would Asians simply self-identify as white? Why not self-identify as black?

If race just a sociocultural construct, well, many Asian Americans certainly are into rap music and cultural markers that are associated with socially constructed category of African American. So why aren't they black?

I haven't read much on the subject, but the idea that races can't be separated based on genetics is either false, or due to the fact that we don't have enough sensitivity in the measurement.

Phenotypically, I can easily identify a black person vs. an asian person, with nearly 100% accuracy. What I'm seeing are phenotypic differences in hair type, skin colour, facial structure, etc. that are all defined by genetics.

It's ludicrous to think that I can't sort people into groups based on these apparent differences(and I'm talking broad racial categories, not Ukranians vs. Russians or anything). Ignoring that might be PC, but it's definitely not realistic.

Just to be clear, I'm not insinuating anything about intelligence, ability, or whatever. I'm just saying that to deny that there are distinct categories that humans can be classified into is unrealistic. There may be edge cases, but nobody would mistake one of China's 1.6 billion people for an east African.

You are 100% correct, and anyone can verify for themselves that you can predict geographic ancestry from saliva to an incredible level of detail:


Nevertheless, if you take for the sake of argument the fallacious concept that "geographic ancestry has no connection to genetics", then there is and should be nothing stopping an Asian American (or a European American for that matter) from self-identifying as an African American. Is a university going to start administering blood tests?

>Phenotypically, I can easily identify a black person vs. an asian person, with nearly 100% accuracy.

This is a rather hyperbolic statement. You concede edge cases, but the fluidity of phenotype means that it fails to map cleanly onto neatly delineated categories. We can look at the recent book describing the history of 'passing' reviewed here [1] for one of many examples.

>I haven't read much on the subject, but the idea that races can't be separated based on genetics is either false, or due to the fact that we don't have enough sensitivity in the measurement.

Again, I'd caution against letting your intuition be your guide on this topic. A cursory examination of the literature (i.e., 15 minutes on Google Scholar [2]) might lead you to the conclusion that: (1) genotype != phenotype, and (2) while we can reliably sort humans by ancestry using genetic information, there is variation within these clusters because the proportion of any individuals ancestry that arises from different populations also varies.

I think that the upshot is that the science is less useful when applied to a nebulous term like race, which involves a host of cultural, political and historical factors. The way we Americans define race in debates like these is a legacy of our binary 'one-drop rule' concepts of identity, and it isn't at all clear that appeals to science couched in sweeping generalizations have any connection to the biology.

[1]: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/books/review/Arsenault-t.h...

[2]: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=genomics+race

> According to PBS, Jared Diamond, and many sociology departments, it is impossible to administer a genetic test that distinguishes African Americans from Asians

Are you sure Jared Diamond actually made that statement? It seems weird. For example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_genetic_clustering mentions a study where genetic markers were found to predict self-reported race/ethnic group with a discrepancy of only 0.14%.

Of course Jared Diamond was wrong.


But many people accept his premises.

That is one of the worst entries on all of Wikipedia, and misrepresents what the sources say by undue weight. The clean-up of Wikipedia on these issues


will take a long time.

I don't think you even need to get into the "race is an illusion" argument to self-identify as a different race. I remember when I applied, all the applications asked the question with phrasing like "Which race do you consider yourself?" I wondered if there would be any consequence if I answered Black or Hispanic (I'm white). Probably not, I'd think, as they can't prove I don't "consider myself" one of those.

Surprising that it doesn't happen more often. Or maybe it does...

Your argument strongly misses the mark. While there may be dubious scientific basis for race, there is a very strong sociological importance for our construct of race. This is undeniable. Race as a sociological phenomenon is very real and thus makes sense to address it as such.

My friend (Asian wife) hopes that his son might get into MIT. His son is not a superstar but has done quite well in math competitions. His son was a pretty good baseball player until they had to decide between Math competitions and sports. I always tell him that his son has to become more interesting - less one-dimension Math/Science stud - like Cal Newport talks about on his blog. And that some schools for MIT could be looking for a few good baseball players.

The interesting thing is that the cutthroat high school his son is enrolled at - the AP weed-out courses, the hardest ones are the humanities. Courses like Modern European History.

> For these students, extracurricular activities play a different role than for their peers. They don’t use activities to signal their qualities, they use them instead to transform themselves into more interesting people. In other words, what’s important about an activity is not its impressiveness, but its impact on your personality.


Serious question: Is there any reason not to just lie about your ethnicity? Why not put "black" or "native american" on your app to really up your chances?

I mean, I'm sure the school would reject you if they knew you were lying about it, but there really isn't any way for them to tell, is there?

They'll know when you show up for class. At best, that seems like a bad start for the year, if anyone from admissions happens to match your name and face.

This isn't true. Lots of people don't look their race for one thing

Not to mention how politically incorrect it would be to try to call someone out on it: "Hey, aren't you Louis Smith? You said you were black on the application, but you don't look black at all!"

I can't imagine it happening.

Not to mention how politically incorrect it would be to try to call someone out on it: "Hey, aren't you Louis Smith? You said you were black on the application, but you don't look black at all!" I can't imagine it happening.

I saw it happen, back at my law school in the 1980s. (I have no comment about how generally this might happen today.) The classmate of mine who was called out about his "race" self-identification had a dad who almost anyone in the United States would identify as "black" (who definitely had African ancestry, along with European ancestry) and a mom whose historically traceable ancestry was all European. He (the student) himself looked "white," so much so that he could pass as my brother. According to a report in our university's daily newspaper, after his presence in the Black Student Association (to which new students who had indicated that they were black were automatically invited by the law school) became noted, when he filled out his application forms, he checked the boxes for both "white" and "black." (This was before "choose one or more" was the standard language next to race categories on admission forms.) He stayed in law school, and he graduated, and he still practices law. But the other members of the Black Student Association ostracized him, even though he shared many aspects of the black experience in his daily life, and would have legally been classified as black in any southern state during segregation. (Our state, Minnesota, has never had de jure "race" segregation nor has it ever had a law against "interracial" marriage.)

No, they're not likely to say it, but they'll know you lied about it, and that will color their perception of you. It just seems to me like a bad idea all around.

It seems unethical, sure. But a "bad idea"? Consider that all of the following must be true for it to affect how you are perceived by a non-trivial number of people:

1) someone on the admissions committee must come to know you (that is, match your face to your name)

2) they must then remember that you were one of the people who identified as black on an application

3) they must then assume that you aren't actually black based on appearance alone (knowing that there are indeed many half-black people who don't look obviously black)

4) they must then decide to tell other important people about this

This just seems really unlikely in any reasonably sized school. If you really want to be careful, find out who is on the admissions committee and avoid them.

Full disclaimer: I'm a sophomore at Yale, my adviser last year was an admissions officer, and a friend of mine works in the admissions office. I'm also friends with the girl photographed, but that's irrelevant :)

This is roughly how admissions works at Yale:

1. An officer reviews your application for 20-25 minutes. 1a. Some kids are clear rejects. 1500/2400 SAT and a 2.7 GPA, with no activities usually does the trick. The director (or an experienced officer) reviews these. 1b. Some kids are clear admits. These are incredibly rare - something like 20 kids out of 26000 I think? The director also reviews these but they're pretty much auto admits - think multiple gold medalists at IMO, IOI, and IPhO, stuff like that.

2. The officer writes a summary sheet that contains what the officer feels about you, good points, etc, if they like you. If they don't, you get put in the "no" pile. 2b. I believe most of these "no" applicants are reviewed by another officer, but not as deeply. The goal is to find false negatives - most people in the "no" pile stay there.

3. The application goes to a committee of 3-4 officers. They all read your profile and debate about whether or not to let you in. Your admissions officer is supposed to argue in your favor, and the others can argue for you or against you. Usually, most candidates at this point are solid, so the officers argue about possible negatives.

Something like 70% of applicants are qualified to attend Yale, so it usually breaks down to what you'll contribute to the campus community, what kind of a person you are, etc. A lot of admissions officers were former Yalies, so I imagine they even ask "would I hang out with this person?".

4. If you're accepted, you're golden. If you don't make it past committee, you usually don't get in. Some people get waitlisted. They also review several of the "no's" to avoid false negatives, and some people might be brought to committee again. If you're borderline between "admit" and "reject," you will usually be rejected or waitlisted. There's just too many really good applicants.

There is no EXPLICIT comparison of Asians to Asians. Nobody looks at your application and says "Oh, another Asian, let me turn on my asian scale!" What happens, subconsciously, is that the stereotypical asian profile is "high scoring, high gpa, piano/violin, tennis, math/science."

So a lot of qualified asians get rejected because their admission officer can't find enough good arguments for them. Regardless of how qualified you are individually, Yale is trying to build a diverse class, so if you do the same thing as 1000 other candidates, it's very hard to vouch for you. "What do you bring to the campus that this other kid doesn't? , and that's the end of it.

I don't think checking "Asian" or "not Asian" makes a huge difference, because in the end, it's your activities, recommendations, and essays that differentiate you. Once your scores are high enough, nobody is going to say "well Bob and Melinda are both cool, but Bob has a 2310 while Melinda has a 2270, so we should clearly go with Bob." That's just absurd - they always go with the person who will contribute more to Yale.

I hope that dispels some of the myths you see and hear. Correlation does not imply causation. People don't get rejected because they ARE Asian - it's usually the lack of differentiation. Again, I don't represent Yale or anything like that, and this is just what I've heard, but I believe it's fairly accurate, and for most Asians, they'll figure it out by your name, so a box isn't making a huge difference.

Edit: Legacy students (parent(s) went to Yale), recruited athletes, and under-represented minorities have higher admission rates than the overall pool. I don't know why or by how much or anything like that. This exists at almost every elite school.

Yale has an explicit, declared policy to discriminate by race in admissions and hiring decisions. Sorry, it felt at least a little relevant towards the question of whether Yale racially discriminates.

You can review, but not make copies, of this written policy. It is kept at - I kid you not - the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs.

i definitely agree with patrick.

every school clearly remarks similar policies and reviewing the statistics is pretty self-evident. i don't see why everyone is making an issue to explain away the current standards when they're pretty clear.

i'm asian and it doesn't really bother me, since i've experienced similar situations in the "real world" during my career.

i've dealt with the principals and superintendents in nyc and they've made it abundantly clear that they want asians in their schools because "they raise the stats and increase funding." race clearly has an influence on the admission process at multiple levels of education.

the glass ceiling is pretty obvious when i had a "literal" 100% turnover rate within 12 months of every asian in my department at prestigious firm. this includes myself, i left within 12 months.

you simply make it so that your accomplishments are so undeniable that race no longer becomes an issue. however, i do personally feel that race shouldn't be a question that is asked at all or at least no one should answer them. i'd even go so far as to eliminate or redact applicant names to the admissions board as a question of independence.

go one year where no one is aware of an individual's race or name and i think that would be an interesting data set!

i hope that we'll move towards a true meritocracy instead of constantly worrying about race and other irrelevant facts.

How is race irrelevant? If the goal of a University is to recruit those with the highest SAT scores, then yes its irrelevant. But if its to foster a diverse and intellectually stimulating environment, while preparing future leaders of the world, then race (as a proxy to diverse cultures and experiences), is very relevant.

What a pity (well, not really) that race, whatever that is, is a false proxy for the diversity of outlook desired. What a shame it is far more likely to be shown by e.g.: personality type, communication style, preferred role in group dynamics, rich/poor, city/country, literate/numerate/ten other things, musical/not, and so on.

It's a pretty decent proxy, unfortunately, given that you can't meet people before you interview them. Re: asians-

I went to a magnet high-school in the late 1990's, and at the time it was about 25% asian. My brother went there later, and by the time he finished (10 years after I had started) the demographics had skewed to 50%+ asian and the culture had changed dramatically. People were a lot less fun and a lot less outgoing, and a lot more intense and competitive.

When I went to law school I met a lot of fun, outgoing asians, so I don't want to paint things with too broad a brush, but honestly I wouldn't want my kid going to a school that was 50%+ asian. College is a time when kids should be getting socialized. Drinking, figuring out the opposite sex, even a little bit of risk taking are valuable in teaching people to navigate modern American society, and when you're surrounded by people whose parents spent 18 years telling them not to do any of those things I think you have an impoverished experience. Actually, when my brother was choosing between HYP and Caltech, I helped him lobby my parents for the former for precisely these reasons.

But it's not a false proxy; its a pretty good one. This country (America) is not as culturally homogeneous as some would like to think. Race correlates with this, especially when dealing with underrepresented minorities.

Um, many of those are pretty commonly clustered by race. In America we have a diverse pool of folks, so we make up 'races' by skin color or whatnot. Under that system we see that race doesn't matter much; people vary all over the map.

But race in other parts of the globe correlate pretty much to culture, and personality, communications style, even socioeconomic group correlate strongly.

The problem is that these universities receive federal funding, and it is (rightly) unconstitutional to discriminate on the basis of race.

But they're not discriminating on the basis of race. They're not attempting to fill a quota with a certain number of people from X group. Race is but one of many signals to determine if you're someone that will benefit the university. This country is not as culturally homogeneous as some would like to think. Race correlates pretty strongly with this.

Don't most admissions discriminate? For example, http://yale.lawschoolnumbers.com/stats/1011/

Play around with the year/school. Clicking on data points shows self-reported profile information. It's pretty clear there is a shifted standard in many cases.

Yes, they do. The university I attended for undergraduate studies, Tulane in New Orleans, had a minor blowup when I went there because they were very much trying to make the school less lilly white and explicitly declared they had a pro-diversity admissions policy. Now they can do whatever because it's a private school, but it was still very controversial. It was actually heavily based on the Yale policy.

According to the article, it's closer to "Bob has a 2310, Melinda has a 1675" [1]. This is far more of a gap than you portray - do you really believe that both 2310 and 1675 are above the cutoff, and indistinguishable except via extracurriculars?

Note to self: if I get an Asian girl pregnant, the kids get my name.

[1] Take the 450pt gap between blacks and asians on the 1600pt SAT and multiply by 2400/1600.

The study was done in 1997. The applicant pool is much larger today and far more competitive than it was back then.

"For the first time in Harvard’s history, more than 30,000 students have applied for undergraduate admission. Applications have doubled since 1994, and about half of the increase has come since the University implemented a series of financial aid initiatives over the past five years"

Source: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2010/01/a-first-for-ha...

Thank you for your detailed description. I do note: There is a conspicuous absence of "legacy admit".

That item is an even bigger injustice imho.

You're right. I don't know enough about how legacy/recruited athletes get admitted, so I didn't talk about it. They do, however, get admitted at higher rates, so let me edit that in.

I graduated from Penn a few years ago and have a couple varsity letters. It's similar for athletes, there is just an extra step/another person at the university arguing for you. You still go through the screening process like other applicants and get a ranking, I believe it was called your academic index. The difference is you have some kind of flag on your application that says once you get to the committee, they talk to the coach. Different schools do the flagging differently, not sure how it works now with online applications, but I've seen different colored envelopes, stamps on boxes, numeric codes on sections, or the coach just contacts the admissions office for the heads up. When athletes, like non-athletes, fall into the no pile they tend to stay there, but when you get to a maybe you can have a strong voice for you saying they will add a lot to the community. Each coach gets a limited number of people to argue for and varies depending on sport. One downside to being in the athlete pile is that if you fall in the middle you are very unlikely to get in if you are low on the coaches list. So basically it's another activity with some extra leverage.

Last I knew (= 1990s), Harvard had about 1/3 legacy admits. That number seems incredibly high now, does anyone know a modern number?

FWIW, The rationale back then: Large donors run in families, it was deemed essential to keep the universities funded.

Considering the drops we have been seeing in public funding, at least for public universities keeping funded is perhaps going to become an ever more crucial goal...

Harvard's endowment is $32 billion, equal to the annual budget for the US department of education. I don't think they need to worry.

I have heard that the admissions procedure is similar for top UK universities, Oxford, Cambridge etc. Except that they have a policy to openly discriminate against privately educated pupils. You need better exam results to get through the first filters if you come from a private school than if you come from a state school. This is because private schools drive their students harder, have better facilities, lower staff/student ratios, less problems with disruptive behaviour etc. However, they also tend to produce lots of stereotypical 'public school boys' (A British cultural meme). Universities prefer diversity. So, if you are privately educated, to do well in the admissions procedure you need good grades and a distinctive resume / personality.

But this is quite different to discriminating on grounds of race, as patio11 describes. If it's really true that Asian pupils are discriminated against purely because of a tick box then this is clearly racist even if it's because of the supposed 'hothousing' effect of Asian attitudes towards studying. Is this kind of discrimination not illegal in the US? In Britain and probably most of Europe it is illegal to discriminate on grounds of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation and disability.

You are generalising and taking too much at face value.

I went to Oxbridge (not going to say which) for my first uni and also interviewed at several colleges, as well as many of my friends also going to Oxford or Cambridge.

1. Neither Oxford or Cambridge university have an open policy to discriminate against privately educated students. This is just a public perception due to political pressure. In fact, in the 1960s, 30% of domestic intake was from private schools, it is now holding at roughly 45%.

2. You are largely correct that you need better exam results if you're from a private school compared to maintained schools. But within that large group, you are actually differentiated mainly by your entrance exam (70% of all admissions), application and interview.

3. Oxbridge has no inate preference for diversity. Academic excellence in general matters far more:

i. Your first critical generalisation is that preferences are expressed from a university level. This is not the case. Every college has its own admissions office and select based on their own college preferences which vary significantly from college to college and can be surprisingly strong and consistent across time.

ii. Therefore, your resume matters far less than you think, depending on which college you apply to and even what subject. For example, for the most competitive subjects, the academic bar is extremely high and in the interview they will be looking for additional indications of the nature of this intelligence such as quick or lateral thinking as well as confidence of expression. For the least competitive subjects, the academic requirement is far more flexible and you can get in largely based on how well you fit in with that specific college's ethos or how much they value diversity.

4. Oxbridge DOES effectively discriminate, not on any illegal basis, but on your "class". Almost all Oxbridge students have a background from upper or upper middle/professional classes, even those from state maintained schools. It is rare to find lower middle or working class kids who go to Oxford. This is likely due to the heavy emphasis on education from an early age as well as the Oxbridge staff, culture and traditions all being from the same cut.

Since this tends to cover a large proportion of immigrant groups, this means you will rarely find such pupils at Oxbridge. For example, there was a notorious article that exactly ONE Black-Carribean student had been admitted to Oxford in 2009. Even the British Prime Minister got involved. Oxford vociferously denied this and said there had been 26 "Black" students out of 3,202.

5. As for Europe, I dare not generalise. This is especially the case since many European countries have lower proportion and diversity of immigrants as well as strongly integrationist rather than the multicultural policies of the UK and US. Also, difficulty of access to tertiary education tends to be much lower in Continental Europe because it is heavily subsidised publically. For example, many courses in many German universities are effectively free, even for foreigners. When things are that different, there's little point trying to compare directly on one specific issue.


So, Britain does not do "tick box" discrimination even for the most competitive universities. Quite the contrary, at least for Oxbridge, they will take academic quality even if that means sourcing from a monoculture. Only political pressure has stemmed the further reduction in state school access.

In short, you could say that Oxbridge is almost a perfect example of the minimum you could expect without legalised "positive" discrimination in a university system of a multicultural anglo-capitalist society.

Sorry, I realise I am guilty of over generalising privately educated people. I think your point 2 contradicts point 1 but you are, of course, correct that you have to have the academic excellence to get in. No amount of teaching DJ'ing to gangstas at youth clubs in Tottenham is going to get you into Natural Sciences at Cambridge if you can't do the maths. The critical point here is the application and interview. Given two candidates with similar results they will pick the 'trumpet playing circus performer' over the 'quiet grey blazer wearer' because they are more likely to have a rounded personality which will allow them to thrive amongst all the other things that university life entails. A real world example of this: Two guys in my A-level physics class at school were given offers to study natural sciences at Cambridge. One who was quite shy and introverted without much social life but very hard working with a natural genius for maths and physics. He had a difficult interview and was made a very tough offer conditional on getting the highest possible grade in all his A-levels and two STEP papers. The other guy was more outgoing and I don't remember what his requirements were but they were more lenient. I remember us all discussing the injustice of it in school and the admissions coach said that in his experience they did this as a test to see if he was brilliant enough that they would take him despite the risk that he wouldn't integrate well. They both got in by the way.

I have to say though, I think the current lack of poorer kids from more ethnically diverse backgrounds is more a reflection on the terrible quality of the state education system in inner cities than it is on the universities themselves. When I was thinking about which A-levels I wanted to do (~20 years ago) it wasn't possible at any school in my borough to study the required combination of A-level subjects for a science or engineering degree at say Cambridge, Imperial or equivalent. I switched to the private system for the last 2 years of school because of this and my fellow pupils were light years ahead of me, it was a real struggle to catch up. Their GCSE maths exam (taken at age 15) was set by a different exam board than the state school I left. The first question in their exam was "Factorise the quadratic", the first question in mine had been "Whats the time?" followed by a picture of a digital clock at a railway station. I could hardly answer any of the questions in their GCSE maths exam, I'm sure they would have been able to answer all the questions in mine.

> I don't think checking "Asian" or "not Asian" makes a huge difference,

Not checking this box shows an aspect of your personality, maybe the differenciator you're looking for.

Not checking also revs up the "race-based selector" in admission officer's mind. Now they imagine you having the most disadvantageous "race" for your admissions.

I don't think checking "Asian" or "not Asian" makes a huge difference

My guess is that this is true in a narrow sense; it's just that if you check "Black/African American" or "Latino/Hispanic" you dramatically increase your chances of admission. At that point, the admissions officer does have an argument for what you add to the campus: your race. Asian is neutral in their book, but many more Asians are qualified for admission than can possibly be accepted. The result is de facto discrimination against Asians.

The effects are vicious even when the intent is good. But the road to hell, etc., and it helps to consider a case where we can all agree that the intent was evil: the numerus clausus law, which required that university admissions reflect the ethnic composition of the broader community, passed in Hungary under the "White Terror" regime of Admiral Horthy. Its intent was to keep Jews out of academia. Whether the professed goal is to keep out the Jews or to ensure diversity by letting the "right" groups in, the effect is the same.

This is pretty close to how we did things at Princeton.

You can only admit so many violin playing science hopefuls.

If I found you a dozen extra violin-playing science hopefuls with high scores and GPAs who were black you and I both know exactly what would happen. The "meh, they don't have a hook" functions as a post-hoc neutral justification of a policy whose stated goal and naked application is to discriminate on the basis of race. It's as transparent a fig-leaf as "We can't admit blacks, they might only speak Ebonics, yo!" would be if you were staring at a transcript which showed multiple awards for competitive forensics, a 4.0 GPA, and a role as Iago that got written up in the NYT. It is also, verbatim, the justification of ethnicity-conscious "holistic" admissions processes which were adopted at Harvard in the 1930s with the explicit, documented aim of keeping "the Jewish problem" to a manageable level.

Sure, those black students would be admitted, and the justification is that it's a rarer, more unusual "profile."

My understanding is that 0% of MIT admissions is non-academic admits (legacy, recruited athletes, development, under-represented minorities).

Is that incorrect?

My understanding is that 0% of MIT admissions is non-academic admits (legacy, recruited athletes, development, under-represented minorities). Is that incorrect?

You are thinking of Caltech. MIT, by contrast, very vigorously practices affirmative action by race and ethnicity. (MIT filed "friend of the court" briefs in the last Supreme Court cases about affirmative action in college admission.)


After edit: A kind reply just denied that MIT has "non-academic admits," and I agree with that denial. Everyone who is admitted to an undergraduate degree program at MIT (but also at Harvard, Yale, or Princeton) is plainly academically above average, generally qualified to be in an honors program in a strong state flagship university. So while everyone in MIT has strong academic credentials, there does seem to be a genuine admission advantage at MIT and several peer institutions correlated with "underrepresented ethnicity." Thanks for focusing in the reply on the language from the earlier post I was quoting. Yes, MIT has no admitted students whose qualifications could be called "nonacademic." But, no, Caltech differs from MIT in being genuinely more purely focused on academic qualifications rather than other student characteristics. (I know the whole family of a black woman who is an undergraduate at Caltech. She and her parents, and her sibling, are smart, period. I'm sure she had other college choices, and for all I know she found Caltech appealing because its admission policies make very clear that EVERYONE who comes in the door must meet a very high academic standard for admission.)

>"The California Institute of Technology, a private school that chooses not to consider race, is about one-third Asian."

When I attended Caltech in the 70's, I can vouch for them not considering race. They would go out and encourage underrepresented groups to apply, but to the admissions committee race was explicitly irrelevant.

Caltech has a very adult and enlightened attitude about the way they treat their students, the race thing is just a part of that.

You're correct that MIT practices affirmative action, but incorrect that this means they have "non-academic" admits.

"Non-academic" status wouldn't work there anyway. The smartest person I ever met went there, and was in mortal fear of flunking out a few times.

This. MIT doesn't not flunk you based on who you know or what you look like.

Note that you can adjust demographic characteristics of your student body without considering that characteristic in the admission process. You can instead work very hard to get more qualified people with the desired characteristic to apply, and to get those who are accepted to pick your school instead of some other school.

Caltech did this at one time with women (I don't know how they do it now). They would seek out high school women who showed promise in math and science, and encourage them to consider Caltech. Women who were accepted would be given trips for themselves and their parents to come visit the campus where the benefits of Caltech could be pitched.

Do Africans count as an underepresented minority?I had a 2100+ SAT and failed to get into any top 100 school

I'm not sure from what you've written that you're applying from somewhere in africa but international students are considered on a completely different scale than domestic students.

> I don't think checking "Asian" or "not Asian" makes a huge difference, because in the end, it's your activities, recommendations, and essays that differentiate you.

This flies in the face of the fact that affirmative actions exists and that the racial demographics at any given college are typically consistent year-to-year. Somehow the numbers get hit every single year, yet you claim it's an inherent property of the applicants themselves that naturally results in those numbers appearing every single year. I find that highly suspect.

This flies in the face of the fact that affirmative actions exists and that the racial demographics at any given college are typically consistent year-to-year.

Not if you know how affirmative action actually works.

How does it actually work?

My friend and I wrote an article about this here: http://tech.mit.edu/V124/N45/faberpius4.45c.html

TL;DR follows:

Affirmative action comes into play only at the final stages when making the extremely difficult decisions that come along with deciding between two qualified applicants. This is the time when the admission staff is comparing the “fit to the Institute” of Bobby, whose dad paid for him to learn 10 different languages and backpack through Europe for a semester, to that of Jerry, who started the world’s first solar-powered electric violin club at his local church and snorkels on weekends. Notice how none of these activities are essential to determining whether or not these students can graduate from MIT, but only to guessing at what each student’s potential contribution is to the positive atmosphere at MIT. Yet, these types of things are used in colleges and companies across the country to decide between two qualified applicants.

An asian high school senior here. I'm currently in the process of applying to colleges. In most college applications, demographics are listed under the section where they say the information you provide won't hurt your change of getting in. I have not and will not lie about my race on any of the applications. I understand that, statistically, it will hurt my chance of getting into a top-tier college, considering I don't have perfect SAT score and GPA. But I believe that the admission officers would be wise enough to evaluate a person as a whole instead of just puting "tags" on him/her.

> I understand that, statistically, it will hurt my chance of getting into a top-tier college, considering I don't have perfect SAT score and GPA. But I believe that the admission officers would be wise enough to evaluate a person as a whole instead of just puting "tags" on him/her.

Er... what? So you believe putting the wrong tag on yourself will hurt your evaluation by the admission officers; but you also believe they are wise enough to not just put tags on yourself.

You're saying something here, but I don't know what it is.

Wisdom is rare, and not easily discerned. Tread carefully.

I don't see why colleges should even be allowed to ask that on applications.

No one has to answer.

But can they figure out by inspecting your parents (as it says in the article) ?

Additionally if they have a pic that would it give it away.

Historically that's why many schools asked people to submit a picture

> "Not to really generalize, but a lot of Asians, they have perfect SATs, perfect GPAs, ... so it's hard to let them all in," Olmstead says.

I didn't know there was a quota on how many Asian students a college could accept.

And besides, doesn't a college want the best students in their college, regardless of ethnicity?

'best student' != 'best score/gpa'

Thank you. It is insane how many people think college admissions is the official scoreboard oof high school, and not something to do with choosing students who are well matched to the college.

It's not insane. It's simply objective. How do you define "best match"? The gut feeling of the admissions officer? You need an objective measure.

I wonder how it would work out if Asian applicant self-identifies herself as African-American?

This guy "won him the title of president of the Black Student Union, despite not being, well, black" [1]

[1] http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/160/bill-nguyen-startups

Thanks. So Bill Nguyen proved that it's possible to self-identify yourself under different race.

University Admission Committee may not mind such "self race re-branding" practice too, because university ratios of admitted minorities would be improving as well.

The article talking about high school, not college.

Anyway I find, that Americans a little bit confused about things like race, ethnicity and nationality.

Asking to fill nationality in official documents is legitimate. Asking for ethnicity is borderline. Asking to fill a race is barbaric.

Have you ever dealt with an academic bureaucracy? Barbarism is a good description!

I guess universities are barbaric then.

I went to a high school in NYC with an Asian plurality, and it was pretty well known among the students and the counselors that being Asian was not something that would help you get into college.

In any case, there's a suit 'Fisher v University of Texas at Austin' which experts think will be heading to the Supreme Court sometime in 2012, and may have a good chance of bringing education a little closer to the meritocracy it should be: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/16/sunday-review/college-dive...

Seeing that it is optional to report your ethnicity, I'm kind of surprised that anyone (other than those who get an advantage) would do so. The admissions system is already arbitrary as hell.

If your last name is Asian then would omitting your ethnicity gain you anything? I would doubt it.

I’ll admit that I know nothing about the college admissions procedures as far as the selection process, but it seems to me that applicants should only be known by an arbitrary ID number. That is, admissions committees simply shouldn’t have access to this sort of (possibly discriminatory) information. Name, ethnicity, etc.

Why not just hide it from them? I suppose there are certain parts of an application which could give away information that’s meant to be hidden—being president of the Asian-American Student Club would pretty well give away the applicant’s ethnicity.

> but it seems to me that applicants should only be known by an arbitrary ID number.

And then there's the whole "legacy admit" thing.

Thanks. Haven't heard about [legacy admit](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legacy_preferences) before - That's some serious nepotism at play.

I too am no expert, but isn't discrimination on the basis of skin colour a 'feature' of the selection process? The novel thing here is that non-white students are not being discriminated in favour of for a change. Anonymising would prevent universities from discriminating on grounds of skin colour and could as a result get them into trouble with the government.

When asked for your race, answer "mongrel" http://yarchive.net/risks/mongrel.html

Quoting from the anecdote:

All of my known forebears came from Europe, mostly from Southern Germany with a few from England, Ireland, and Scotland. A glance in the mirror, however, indicated that there was Middle Eastern blood in my veins. I have a semitic nose and skin that tans so easily that I am often darker than many people who pass for black. Did I inherit this from a Hebrew, an Arab, a Gypsy or perhaps one of the Turks who periodically pillaged Central Europe? Maybe it was from a Blackfoot Indian that an imaginative aunt thinks was in our family tree. I will probably never know.

As an arrogant young computer scientist, I believed that if there is any decision that you can't figure out how to program, the question is wrong. I couldn't figure out how to program racial classification, so I concluded that there isn't such a thing. I subsequently reviewed some scientific literature that confirmed this belief. "Race" is, at best, a fuzzy concept about typical physical properties of certain populations. At worst, of course, it is used to justify more contemptible behavior than any concept other than religion.

In answer to the race question on the security form, I decided to put "mongrel." This seemed like an appropriate answer to a meaningless question.

I think the basic thing is, if you are of race X, you would prefer it if race X continues getting admission in reasonable numbers to the status-branding factories of America (i.e. colleges). That preference is thoroughly, whole-cloth racist, but I think it is valid.

If it happens to be the case that race Y dominates admissions (or race Z can't seem to get a leg up), whether that domination be through genetic or cultural factors (or both), it is arguably racist to handicap admissions by appeal to soft factors. But consider:

Let's imagine (e.g.) global warming has destroyed US agriculture so all the gringos in the US have to migrate south to Mexico. The University of Mexico is (say) the premier university of Mexico, the Harvard all the best Mexican students want to attend. Historically, whites outperform latinos on admissions numbers (SAT and GPA). Would it make sense then for the University of Mexico to cease accepting latino-Mexicans (or substantially decrease their admissions rates) in favor of the new white-Mexicans with higher numbers? Would that be the fairest thing to do? Or would the U of M admissions board say things like "yeah whites have good numbers but they all kind of look the same to us. All from the same middle class families, all played tennis and hockey in high school, all want to be business/psych majors and join greek fraternities. We look at other things than just numbers."

I'm not entirely sure it's unfair to handicap asians, or assist blacks, if we've essentially industrialized the production of status-signalling - fixing the recommended amount of prestige and job offers a person should receive for the rest of his life at age 18 - and have to determine some means of doling it out.

I think race acts as more of a red herring when it comes to this matter. This entire thread just sounds like privileged or talented people(nothing wrong with being either) fighting over admittance to elite universities. After all, people qualified to get into Yale, and this is a large number of applicants, will still get into a very good university.

Maybe the problem is that going to an elite school matters too much for arbitrary social reasons. We've all heard and read about how hiring at places, such as elite financial institutions, will simply discard any application from a person who didn't go to an elite university. No one wants to lose out on opportunity.

Why can't elite universities increase enrollment to increase the number of opportunities? They have the endowments for it. I'm not aware of any Ivy struggling to pay its bills.

If society thinks that people who attend these schools are a better value, then wouldn't it be of benefit to try to expand capacity?

It seems like an artificially created scarcity. Do top schools feel their brand is diminished if they start accepting 2k students vs 1.5k?

Because their brand CAN be diminished if they start accepting more students. More students need more professors, and it might be hard fighting over who gets to hire the best professors. It might also change the student community. I go to a university that is considered prestigious in my country, and what I like the most about it is how it's so easy to find incredibly smart people on the campus, with which you can have great intellectual discussions. If there were more people, it could be harder to find who these great people are. It's a Brazilian public university, which means it's free, and while recently it was created a quota for black and public school students, the majority of students is accepted in a completely color, name, cultural blind manner.

The university system has created a surplus of people with phds who are qualified and intellectually capable of being university professors. There are a lot of good articles about how the job market for those wanting to become professors is terrible.

I think race acts as more of a red herring when it comes to this matter.

Agreed. Allowing elite universities to continue to serve up this shadow-play of a sorting function has led to a perverse credentialism that often fails to reflect the actual performance or qualifications of elite graduates.

And even if I were to concede that admissions to elite schools should matter, this thread's focus on URMs reminds me of the joke that was circulating earlier this fall, punchline: 'Watch out for that URM guy. He wants a piece of your cookie.’


"Race/ethnicity unknown" is the fastest-growing category reported for enrolled students in United States colleges and universities, with more than 1 million students so reported to the federal government in the most recent year.


The federal regulations on the subject


require all colleges to ask, but no students to tell, which of the federally defined race or ethnicity categories


they belong to. A growing number of students decline to answer the questions, which are clearly marked as optional on all college application forms. Harvard


reports 12 percent of its enrolled undergraduates as "race/ethnicity unknown," and several other selective colleges have higher percentages of students reported as unknown race or ethnicity. Several state university systems, by state law, may not consider student race or ethnicity at all as part of the admission process.

The definitive online FAQ on the issue of race and ethnicity self-identification in college admission in the United States


links out to other relevant laws and official definitions and news stories, and gives links to reported enrollment figures for a wide variety of colleges.

After edit: A comment at the same comment level as this comment appears to be referring to a college's claimed rationale when it says:

I don't understand why they require ethnic proportions to stay close to population averages.

They don't. Indeed, it is strictly illegal to have admission quotas by race, since the Bakke decision decades ago. If you look at the actual enrollment figures, linked to from this comment, you will see that that is not what happens in practice either.

Another comment mentioned an applicant's view that he should not "lie about his race." This view motivates my children NOT marking anything on the forms, because the form questions are optional for applicants, and because my children think it is a lie to describe themselves as belonging to any narrower category than humankind. (From an old-fashioned American point of view, my children could be described as "biracial," but we prefer the term "human" and accept the term "postracial.")

I'm a baby boomer, which is another way of saying that I'm a good bit older than most people who post on Hacker News. I distinctly remember the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated--the most memorable day of early childhood for many people in my generation--and I remember the "long hot summer" and other events of the 1960s civil rights movement.

One early memory I have is of a second grade classmate (I still remember his name, which alas is just common enough that it is hard to Google him up) who moved back to Minnesota with his northern "white" parents after spending his early years in Alabama. He told me frightening stories about Ku Klux Klan violence to black people (the polite term in those days was "Negroes"), including killing babies, and I was very upset to hear about that kind of terrorism happening in the United States. He made me aware of a society in which people didn't all treat one another with decency and human compassion, unlike the only kind of society I was initially aware of from growing up where I did. So I followed subsequent news about the civil rights movement, including the activities of Martin Luther King, Jr. up to his assassination, with great interest.

It happens that I had a fifth-grade teacher, a typically pale, tall, and blonde Norwegian-American, who was a civil rights activist and who spent her summers in the south as a freedom rider. She used to tell our class about how she had to modify her car (by removing the dome light and adding a locking gas cap) so that Klan snipers couldn't shoot her as she opened her car door at night or put foreign substances into her gas tank. She has been a civil rights activist all her life, and when I Googled her a few years ago and regained acquaintance with her, I was not at all surprised to find that she is a member of the civil rights commission of the town where I grew up.

One day in fifth grade we had a guest speaker in our class, a young man who was then studying at St. Olaf College through the A Better Chance (ABC) affirmative action program. (To me, the term "affirmative action" still means active recruitment of underrepresented minority students, as it did in those days, and I have always thought that such programs are a very good idea, as some people have family connections to selective colleges, but many other people don't.) During that school year (1968-1969), there was a current controversy in the United States about whether the term "Negro" or "Afro-American" or "black" was most polite. So a girl in my class asked our visitor, "What do you want to be called, 'black' or 'Afro-American'?" His answer was, "I'd rather be called Henry." Henry's answer to my classmate's innocent question really got me thinking. Why can't individual human beings have the right to be treated as one more member of the general human race?

> She used to tell our class about how she had to modify her car (by removing the dome light and adding a locking gas cap) so that Klan snipers couldn't shoot her as she opened her car door at night or put foreign substances into her gas tank.

I doubt there are many young people today who have that kind of dedication. I wish I did.

People rise to the occasion. There isn't much need for that kind of dedication domestically today. As for abroad, most of the thousands killed in various military adventures over the last decade were pretty young. Whether you agree or disagree with the greater view of those adventures, many of those young people gave their lives for what they viewed as something worth dying for.

Disclaimer: I served in the US Navy and have many friends and family members who served or are serving in various branches.

If a few Asians don't tick Asian as their ethnicity when asked, that's going to reduce the stats for the number of Asians attending the university, effectively creating a negative feedback loop.

True story: my wife is Asian (from the Philippines). She's done with school, but some of her friends are not. When they ask me for advice on this point, I tell them to check "Hispanic" instead of "Asian." Most Filipino ancestry is a combination of Chinese, Spanish, and Malay, but since the Philippines was colonised by Spain in c.16, it usually works like a charm in differentiating them from the mass of students with Korean, Chinese, and Japanese ancestry.

So, if a private school shouldn't/can't discriminate on the basis of race, should they be able to discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation/belief?

I ask this as a graduate of a Christian liberal arts college, which discriminates on the basis of religious beliefs. It's not entirely on topic but I think the "logic" still applies. Or does it?

Is it possible to be admitted to a top-tier US university as a non-US resident (I'm Swedish)? How does that work with SATs and stuff then?

Also, is it possible to be admitted if one is outside the typical age range of applicants (ie 18-19)?

I just don't know how these things work for you in the US, so I had to ask :)

This is what I would like to see: Two comparative histograms of SAT scores for Asian and non-Asian applicants to Ivy League schools. One for all applicants, and the other for those accepted.

Here is my suspicion (or what I would like to hear): Asian students are significantly higher-scoring, in both histograms. Such a result would go a long way towards vindicating the college admission process, and suggest that universities don't explicitly judge those who mark "Asian" by a different standard but rather choose to largely discount SAT scores (and by proxy academic performance).

Similar studies were used to discredit claims that engineering and science departments were practicing gender discrimination against women. Does anyone have a reference to a study on race in undergraduate admissions that takes this approach?

I'd love to be able to explain my identity this way:

Asian [x] - If you're more "white"

White [x] - If you're more "asian"

Both [x] - If you open minded or PC

Neither [x] - If you want me to pick a side

Hapa [x] - If you'll allow me all of the above

Identity depends on where you stand.

This is inherently true. Unless you're at a very white dominated school ie Notre Dame where it helps to be a minority.

If you're half Asian and half European, why is checking 'White' considered hiding half your identity? That only makes sense in the background of US racial views, where Barack Obama is known as Black due to 50% of his heritage. So, if you're not 'pure white', you're not 'white', according to society. I feel it is worrisome that such an old style racist line of thought is ingrained into our culture in a way that few question.

"a member of HAPA, the Half-Asian People's Association" I was under the impression that Hapa was a Hawaiian word for "a person of mixed race." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hapa When did the Asians at Harvard decide to steal that one?

I'm curious how carefully these things are checked. Like many white people with ancestors from Appalachia, I'm sure I'm at least slightly Native American. Is it fair to mark Native American (and white?) on these forms?

As is mentioned in the official federal definitions, mentioned in the online FAQ linked to from a comment above,


the federal definition of "American Indian or Alaska Native" is "A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment." In other words, if you don't have community attachment to an Indian tribe, or formal legally recognized tribal membership, you are not a Native American or Alaska Native.

That article is in desperate need of citations.

By any chance, is this a honey pot post? Flag.

If I were Asian, my "college strategy" would be to not apply, since I wouldn't want to be an indentured servant for the next 15-20 years of my life paying off usurious student loan debts to crotchety Western institutions that are currently enjoying bubble tuition rates without offering remotely commensurate value.

Which is exactly what wouldn't happen should you go to any of the "elite" schools. Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and others go to great lengths to provide adequate financial aid, all of which is provided in the form of grants, not loans.

I'm very curious to know what could provide a greater return on investment than spending four years at Harvard for free.

The USA has financial aid available to qualified students.

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