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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.

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