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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.

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