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.
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.
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.
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 race in other parts of the globe correlate pretty much to culture, and personality, communications style, even socioeconomic group correlate strongly.
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.
Note to self: if I get an Asian girl pregnant, the kids get my name.
 Take the 450pt gap between blacks and asians on the 1600pt SAT and multiply by 2400/1600.
"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"
That item is an even bigger injustice imho.
FWIW, The rationale back then: Large donors run in families, it was deemed essential to keep the universities funded.
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.
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.
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.
Not checking this box shows an aspect of your personality, maybe the differenciator you're looking for.
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.
You can only admit so many violin playing science hopefuls.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Not if you know how affirmative action actually works.
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.