But let's not pretend that Ivy League school operate on anything resembling merit. The reason you want to go to those schools is not their top-notch academics, which you can get that in many other places, but as a shortcut to the old-boys networks. Unfortunately those old-boys networks don't serve as patrons out of the goodness of their hearts, so they require that many of their otherwise unworthy offspring to get admitted.
It's a tough nut to crack. If Ivy Leagues started admitting based solely on merit, they'd lose much of what makes them desirable, hence they need to add vague criteria so admissions personnel can safely discard and let in the right people.
Basically, Harvard is Harvard not because the exams are tough, but because the scions of the rich and powerful go to Harvard. So how can you have both the scions of the rich and powerful go there AND admit people based on merit?
Here's a summary: http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/revisiting-the-...
Here's the paper: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17159
The study worked by looking at students that got in to a more- and less-prestigious school and chose the less-prestigious one.
In short, being good enough to get in to Harvard is what matters, not actually attending.
I assume you didn't go to an Ivy League school. Most of the people who are there by academic merit genuinely are at the top of their academic year/class. If you can handle it, you can take math classes with IMO medalists, chemistry classes with IChO medalists, etc. And this holds true for most departments.
It's not that there aren't sharp people at less prestigious schools, but that there are generally more at more prestigious schools.
edit: Though to be clear I'm not really claiming "Yale is worse than [X]", just that past a certain level it depends more on what you care about. Do you care about small class sizes? About the opportunity to engage in undergraduate research? About big projects happening in your department? Do you care about AI, compilers, graphics, or theory? About practice-oriented programming or software engineering? Depending on your preferences there are more like 50 schools that will provide a top-notch education, not 8.
(Disclaimer: Not an alumni of any of these schools, but know and have worked with many people who attended them)
That's extremely funny if intentional, even funnier if not :)
Although I agree with you that the further you get in a field, the more likely a prestigious school will be better. But I would credit that to having a more direct relationship with professors. When you are actually helping a professor with their research, the quality of the research matters more than when you are simply being lecture by that same professor.
Huh. I don't have any hard data, but I always thought the opposite. I mean, I didn't go to school, but I put a lot of effort into being around people who are better (at things I want to be good at) than I am, and I attribute much of my success to surrounding myself with people who are better than I am.
I mean, I agree about the second bit... my understanding is that undergrad at a prestigious school offers little contact with the (usually very good) professors (thus, my assertion that it's all about the quality of the other students.) - thus, grad school there, where you get more contact with the (very good) professors would be even better.
Perhaps I am unqualified to say, because I didn't go to school. On the other hand, I managed to learn enough without school to get a job that often requires a degree, so maybe I am qualified?
Most engineering courses are based on a curve. If the rest of the class is brilliant, it's significantly harder to compete and get a good grade.
Berkeley is a top school, and I don't think you'll find much of any evidence to the contrary.
Harvard has 4 levels of Multivariable Calculus, for example, whereas most schools have just 1. The 2nd-highest level is basically Real Analysis, except (a) it is more deep/accelerated than the actual Real Analysis class, and (b) it is only taught to first-years.
The highest-level class was designed for students who were expected to learn an undergraduate math degree curriculum "on their own time" and pursue more advanced topics in clads.
And even if your reason was actually the top-notch academics, you still benefit very much from a strong old boys' network of professors and researchers.
We went for the academics and the reputation. I wanted to work in finance and so Wharton was a good place to go. My sister went to Yale I think solely based on the fact that she liked the campus. Our mother only applied to NYU and Columbia back in her day and that was a pretty easy decision to make at the time.
"I wanted to work in finance and so Wharton was a good place to go."
That's what the old-boys-network IS. It's not literally people smoking cigars, it's the preferential treatment you receive for having the brand name on your degree.
Konstantin Guericke, one of the co-founders of LinkedIn, now offers coaching and mentoring to students and would-be entrepreneurs. But because he's deluged with requests, he tends to give preference to students from his alma mater, Stanford's engineering school.
"I don't feel a Stanford student is better than another one," he said. But "since there are so many, I use that as a filter."
Any school that is capable of giving an education of similar quality has a similar reputation. Claiming that the point of an education from a school like MIT is the "old-boys-network" is in essence confusing the effect with the cause.
Business is just as prestige driven as finance (management consulting, Fortune 500, etc.).
You're also getting the opportunity (not guarantee) to get a top tier education - but that can be gotten anywhere. Study for the CFA tests if you really want to know finance. Go to Wharton if you want to get a job.
Was going to jibe about "high paying" job, but that's not really it. It's just any competitive placement benefits from active recruitment.
The dirty little secret is to rank feeder schools vary highly in the admissions process. Few poor people send there kids to 30+k / year private high schools.
If you wanted to design a system such that the families in charge of the country will always be in charge, you probably couldn't do better than the Ivies. You have the rich and powerful mingling with (and marrying) the smartest people in the country. I'm not ready to believe it's all deliberate, but that's how things play out.
AFTER EDIT: If, on the other hand, the statement is factually correct about that school's procedure, some denied applicant has a very good basis for a lawsuit under current federal law.
edit: what I said about public schools is incorrect.
My youngest daughter was adopted from Korea, but our family heritage is almost entirely Swiss-German ... She's been part of our family since she was 11 months old, and she loves the ethnic German foods we eat (mostly Pennsylvania-Dutch type cooking), but is also fond of many Korean dishes (such as Bulgogi). What should an admissions office consider her ethnicity? A twist on the classic nature versus nurture conversation.
N.B. Decendents of the Jutes, Angels, and Saxons who remained behind when those tribes invaded England are not referred to as Anglo-Saxons.
anglo saxon nope, and not even if she were your biological daughter.
protestant ... maybe. is she religious?
Acceptance rate at Harvard is 5.9% for instance. So you get almost 20x applicants than you can accept.
I'm not talking about undergrad.
Except you get an entirely different applicant pool; if the numbers from the article are accurate, the former gives you far fewer Asians and Whites and far more African Americans and Hispanics than the latter.
In seriousness: I think they'd classify her as "Asian". Whether that's good or bad, I don't know. I think it's a shame we "need" to classify anyone at all.
Unless of course she is in competition with hordes of similar cases of transplanted adoptees.
Do they implicitly acknowledge that it doesn't take a smart person to become a doctor as long as they get admitted and can get a loan?
This entrenches class concentration. You end up with entire geographic regions that are exclusive, and others that are outcast. People who want their kids to be able to be at a certain school value catchment housing higher than others would. As a result, there's a slide of people who care about their kids' education towards certain regions. By consequence, there's a drain of people who are focussed on their kids' education in poorer areas. This pushes parents who would otherwise have been easy-going to join in the same game, which re-enforces the pattern.
There are plenty of crazy people with a burning, status-seeking ambition to have their child go to medschool (regardless of the wishes of the child). They would absolutely move their address to a catchment for easy access to med school. In the list of the crazy things these crazy people do, this would be among the least surprising.
Regarding schools - there's a policy that would kill this and lead to better schools, called vouchers. In this case, parents apply to schools (anywhere) and the schools choose who they take.
But it's very difficult to introduce this when you have a large, highly educated segment of your voting population who are struggling with a huge mortgage that they took on to secure their children access to a certain school catchment. As they see it - they've paid for something, and now the evil government is stealing that from them and leaving their children to compete on an even footing with the children of parents who haven't made the same sacrifices. "Outrageous!"
Teachers unions also come out hard against vouchers, because it makes the sector more competitive, and that leads to bad teachers getting fired, and wage discrepancy, which undermines the union interest of bringing the sector towards collectivised bargaining.
There's social-engineering arguments that say it's better for people use facilities near them to reduce load on transportation or the like. This is petty rubbish, and also often wrong (mass transit gets more efficient and nicer to use with scale, and that leads to less cars), but it gets trotted out in vouchers debate.
Public universities tend to operate on a voucher arrangement at the moment. Their example is a tangible example that vouchers is good policy, and that is very valuable in the campaign to bring good policy to public schools.
No they are against them because the money for vouchers comes out of the public school budget. In poor areas this can be quite devastating. Unlike the Harlem Children's Zone, most school districts don't have a rich, billionaire uncle giving them millions of dollars each school year. Teacher's also recognize that charter schools have one ability they do not, unload disruptive and under-performing students before test time.
> Public universities tend to operate on a voucher arrangement at the moment. Their example is a tangible example that vouchers is good policy, and that is very valuable in the campaign to bring good policy to public schools.
Please explain? I've gone to public universities and don't remember vouchers at any point. You were accepted on merit. Tuition was paid based on merit and need. But, unlike public schools, they were free to kick you out at any point.
No they are against them because the money for vouchers
comes out of the public school budget
Teacher's also recognize that charter schools have one
ability they do not, unload disruptive and
under-performing students before test time.
Please explain? I've gone to public universities and
don't remember vouchers at any point.
From memory, in Swizerland, it's more pronounced. I think students say where they want to go, and the university has to accept them and find a way to make it work. But they get commensurate funding for it. If this is correct, this is quite remarkable. If you live in Switzerland and want to go to the most prestigious university, you just say so and you're there. They're not obliged to give you passing marks once you're there. It takes all the snobbery out of things!
Interesting way to do things. I think as long as standards weren't watered down, it would be a way to make it work. People could fail fair and square, and it would cut down on "I coulda been a contender" sour grapes.
However, in the case of medical education, it's extremely expensive to have everybody who thinks they might want to be a doctor "give it a try". So the college grades and extracurriculars is a way to filter people out who would not likely be successful.
I know of one state in which vouchers were opposed by the teachers' union, even though public schools would still receive full funding for every voucher student they didn't have to educate.
Actually, there are a fair number of social programs around the country that like these students since they tend to generate more revenue (you get paid more for disabled / problem). It happens a lot in social programs (I remember a lecture by a man from Chicago). I can see this working well for a voucher system if properly done.
"money for vouchers comes out of the public school budget"
Technically, it comes from the taxpayers. If the public school was good, then they get to keep the money.
In other words, a Hispanic doctor from LA might find a comfortable life in Miami serving the Hispanics there, whereas he may be completely uncomfortable serving a largely white, affluent neighborhood in the LA basin.
1. I have no idea if this is true or not; I'm just laying out the hypothetical of my GP.
Throw in some homophobia and you can try for bigot of the year.
But here is a real question, one that actually rises to the level of being thought-provoking, just for you:
You have a six-year-old girl who has recently begun to complain of headaches, dizziness, and double-vision. Tests show that she has a tumor in an especially difficult-to-reach part of the brain. If left untreated, she will die, but any attempt to remove the rapidly growing mass has a significant chance of leaving her a vegetable. You must choose between two neurosurgeons, both of whom seemingly have very similar resumes, but one of whom is non-white/non-Asian, the other of whom is white/Asian. Do you choose the former to operate on your little girl, knowing that affirmative action policies may well have greased the skids for him all the way from college to medical school to his residency, or do you pick the latter, for whom no such programs exist?
If you pick the former, then your commitment to egalitarianism is on a par with Abraham's to Yaweh when he bound Jacob to the sacrificial altar.
IMHO Skin color isn't the only designation.
And who is more African American that someone like Teresa Heinz Kerry, who was born in Mozambique and is a naturalized citizen?
Yeah, it's a stupid term.
An anecdote: Egyptian friend studies abroad in the US, gets arrested visiting New York state for very overdue parking tickets he was unaware of (studying elsewhere in the US). They bring him to the station, and the cops attempt to fill in the paperwork, and they admit to my friend they are not sure what to fill in. In the end, they look in their procedure book, and said he is Arab and that is considered a subset of Caucasian in their definition. I was actually surprised by this.
Race is something that affects people's lives in the real world, beyond boxes on applications. This argument is becoming a little academic.
Of course, a substantial number of white Americans would be surprised by discovering they had ancestors from Africa in the recent past. (Most African-Americans, on the other hand, wouldn't be too surprised to find out many of them have European ancestry.)
For sure! But I suspect the most meaningful coarse clusters might end up being some large number of divisions of sub-saharan africa and then everyone else. Definitely not the "White", "Black", "Asian" categories people in the states take for granted. And even ignoring the amazing diversity of Africa (compared with the rest of the world), did the Irish become more genetically white when they became culturally accepted as white? Did Latin Americans of European descent become less genetically white when people further North stopped viewing them that way? Why do some races trump others (i.e., why is Barack Obama considered black)? The boundaries of these categories seem very arbitrary and not derived by any rigorous means at all.
The outcome would no doubt have a lot in common with the ugly and ill-fitting suit made for Gulliver by the tailors of Laputa, who used quadrants, rules, and compasses rather than a simple tape measure.
I mean, I could claim that there are "too few" (whatever that means) Estonians in a given medical school and claim minority status.
I was also rejected/waitlisted from every one of my top choices.
To be honest, I'm not really sure now to respond to this article. From the point of view of a student applying to college, these "discriminations" exist pretty universally, and not just to Asians. The notion that race, gender, wealth, etc play a role in college decisions is very widespread among my classmates and peers at other schools. I don't view it as particularly bad, though, even if these colleges will never publicly admit such a thing.
College is not a completely merit based system. I think that we all like to believe that it is, but colleges also have duties outside of admitting the best students. They have to keep their alumni happy, somehow obtain outside funding, keep its population diverse enough (this is ambiguous and controversial, but I think it's a legitimate concern). Most importantly, a college also has the duty to improve society, and that's where a system like Affirmative Action comes into play. It's not perfect, but it does allow for a great deal of social mobility where society would otherwise resemble something like plutocracy. After all these considerations, there's only a fraction of each year's class that they have for purely "merit" based acceptances. And at the level that these elite colleges are at, it's almost impossible to differentiate between candidates. So this small group of accepted students is essentially random (or I like to tell myself).
There was a quote by a Yale admissions officer who lamented that he could've filled 3 identical classes with students on the waitlist.
Perhaps I'm naive, but I think that one of the benefits of our society, especially in the entrepreneurial community, is that success is ultimately the result of hard work and talent. College is not the end-all and certainly not the determinant of your future.
I ended up going to Cornell (I think my other choices were UPenn and CMU). Anyway, it ended up great. There were tons of things that interested me in school; I got very high grades but didn't concentrate on them. I played in bands and partied. I developed a reputation for being the guy who stayed out all night and still got 100 on all the tests people were cramming for. There is freedom in not trying to compete with others.
Like everyone, I had some rough years after college, but with a decade of hindsight it all turned out great. I also did better on the Asian parent metric of making more money than peers who went to Harvard, etc. I think it was mainly by valuing honest work (i.e. problems people actually have) rather than working on things that are supposed to be hard or prestigious. If you follow the advice of a lot of Asian parents, you'll end up working hard and not smart.
It sounds like you have a great head on your shoulders, and a great outlook on the situation, so good luck to you!
Getting into college is only the starting point; the key is to find a place where you have room to grow and that will challenge you, and where there is an overall good work ethic. Those are the things that will really determine your trajectory later in life.
Alan Kay (who I previously bashed here) has said "perspective is worth 80 IQ points" and that definitely applies to your education.
In addition to the comment you mentioned that Yale could have filled 3 identical classes from their applicant pool, I've heard quotes from Harvard admission officers saying 95% of their applicants would be capable Harvard students.
Another thing that is important to remember is that not only are some of the admission decisions arbitrary but they are differentiations among young people whose lives have been vastly shaped by their family and schooling. Whatever merit is, at the undergraduate level students are already being evaluated on resume and preparedness. This is not at all a competition on equal grounds for students across the country, let alone across the globe as elite US undergraduate admissions are increasingly a global competition.
Echoing your last point, instead of arguing that undergraduate admissions decisions are significant judgments we should be thankful that we live long lives that allow us to do great work outside of a system that at its highest levels does not have the volume or capacity to discover meaningful distinctions between applicants.
so why aren't more position made available for these applicants? Isn't the root cause of the problem one of not enough spaces for the number of applicants? If each applicant paid their own way (either through their own, or borrowed money), how come there isn't enough spaces to satisfy everyone? A more educated society is a better society.
You don't need the prestige of the Ivies to get a great education.
Their reasoning goes that the engineering sections of Ivys often don't attract the very best candidates (Ivy League engineering << MIT, CMU, etc.) in these fields. So by applying in this manner, you end up competing against an "easier" pool of applicants. The major bit adds icing to your application as it makes you appear to be a focused student and allows the school to fulfill career diversity goals. Of course, all of this is just speculation but for the Ivys that rank their engineering schools separately, it is pretty clear that it would be much easier to get into those schools.
So I took this advice and that one school ended up being the only school that didn't reject/waitlist me (none of my waitlists even panned out). Once you get in, just bust your ass freshman year and "transfer" into the general school. Or if you decide to do engineering anyway, change majors (what I ended up doing).
This is just one anecdote and admissions may very well be fair. However, I don't think it is naive for anyone to think otherwise because the perception is shared by many educated people.
Benefiting who, exactly? Success at what, exactly?
Don't worry if you don't make it into your top choice. You can always apply to grad school there. :)
Where did you end up getting accepted to? Did you do things like sports in school, or did you dedicate yourself to academics?
I am Asian-American and I went to an ivy league university. I think (hope) that essays hold particular importance for admission to the most competitive schools because academically there's very little variability between most serious applicants. Everyone was the valedictorian, everyone had a 4.0+, everyone had 1500+ on the SAT (out of 1600). Everyone played an instrument, everyone was in every honor society, everyone performed hours of community service. When you get that far as an applicant you know how to play the academics "game." So in the midst of a lot of redundancy -- "“Another piano playing, hard working kid, with perfect SAT scores" -- you have to stand out for other reasons. Like the passions that will ultimately lead to a student body that enriches itself rather than one where everyone is constantly holed up in their room studying non-stop for the next exam.
But the question remains, are admissions committees negatively weighting stereotypically Asian activities (e.g. violin) to reduce their enrollment? Anecdotal evidence is insufficient.
One problem is that too many people think the SAT is some amazing indicator of applicant quality. In fact it has biases. In fact it can be coached and responds to test prep and experience.
Another problem is that it's easy to lose the forest for the trees when you feel you're being discriminated against. There is a great society wide wrong that affirmative action is meant to partially redress. Some Asians having to go to Columbia instead of Yale is not an equal wrong to kicking in the doors to provide opportunity.
Finally, diversity does matter. I learned a hell of a lot from the hispanic and black students I lived with. And they certainly would not have been there without affirmative action. The same thing in classes (although there's less certainty on whether they were beneficiaries of AA).
"Does test preparation help improve student performance on the SAT and ACT? For students that have taken the test before and would like to boost their scores, coaching seems to help, but by a rather small amount. After controlling for group differences, the average coaching boost on the math section of the SAT is 14 to 15 points. The boost is smaller on the verbal section of the test, just 6 to 8 points. The combined effect of coaching on the SAT for the NELS sample is about 20 points."
(1) This is not a universal conclusion.
(2) Many forms of "coaching" are lumped together here. In fact some may only add 30 pts or less while others add over 100.
(3) Controlling for self-selection is self-defeating here since poor black/hispanic/native american kids don't have the same opportunity to self select into say private schools with test prep programs.
(4) Taking post PSAT gains ignores coaching received prior to this.
(5) This only measures indirect coaching. The effects of a superior school itself could be large.
Some forms of coaching "add over 100". Do you have data to support this?
Poor black/hispanic kids don't have test prep programs in school. So they are unable to get privately provided test prep or have no incentive to do so, and therefore receive a smaller amount of test prep than other racial groups. Do you have any data to support this?
The effects of a superior school "could be large". Do you have any data to support this?
You also say that you learned a lot from black and hispanic pupils. Would you have learned less from white pupils?
Having a worthwhile discussion requires a basic standard of reasonableness. Some of the perfectly reasonable claims I made could have also benefited from citations, sure. OTOH you've given me at least 5 data points that say you've just decided to be a pedantic troll about this topic. Good luck with that.
Espenshade (2009) pp. 92-93.
In a recent article, Ross Douthat claims that America’s elite private colleges and universities are discriminating against white, rural, working-class applicants, especially those from “Red” states, and he cites work that Alexandria Radford and I did on college admissions to support his argument. Douthat seizes on one relatively minor finding in the entire book to push an interpretation that goes far beyond the bounds of the actual evidence.
We find that applicants who demonstrate a strong commitment to career-oriented extracurricular activities while in high school have a slightly lower chance of being admitted to a top school. This outcome affects only students who have won awards or assumed leadership positions in these activities, not those known for their extensive involvement. These extracurriculars might include 4-H clubs or Future Famers of America, as Douthat mentions, but they could also include junior ROTC, co-op work programs, and many other types of career-oriented endeavors. Participating in these activities does not necessarily mean that applicants come from rural backgrounds. The weak negative association with admission chances could just as well suggest that these students are somewhat ambivalent about their academic futures.
... students who apply from “Red” states appear to have an advantage in the process. Compared to otherwise similar applicants from California, those from Utah are 45 times as likely to be admitted to one of our elite colleges or universities. The advantage for applicants from West Virginia or Montana is 25 times greater, and nearly 10 times greater for students from Alabama. Because top private schools seek geographic diversity, and students from America’s vast middle are less likely to apply, it stands to reason that their admission chances are higher. On the other hand, coming from such “Blue” states as Virginia or Colorado lowers the odds of admission.
I have no idea if the Ivy's aim for geographic diversity; since they are not taxpayer funded, they probably don't have that mandate.
ROTC was only allowed on campus recently:
"Yale, Harvard and Columbia all signed agreements this year  to bring back ROTC"
It's tough to do ROTC when you have to go to another campus every week.
Ivy League admissions for both undergrad and graduate programs is NOT what most people think it to be. There are MANY factors they consider and it's not all about grades/test scores/sports.
For #1, grad schools are looking for extremely different things than undergrad. In fact, the plurality, if not majority, of grad admits at top schools are internationals. As another example, most PhD programs care about your research almost to the exclusion of all other factors. Extracurriculars? Don't matter very much.
Business school programs most heavily weight your work experience (followed by test scores, essays, and extracurriculars), which is why a lot of military officers get in, because of their impressive leadership-related work experience.
And data is not what you're basing your argument on. It's an interpretation of some data that might be flawed in collection methodology, reporting errors, false conclusions from over fitting and other common errors that occur in studies.
For the record, I served in the military, and earned an undergraduate degree from Harvard and know of many others who did the same. Painting the Ivies as somehow anti-military kinda rubs me the wrong way.
If the "holistic admission" thing is being used to disqualify Asian candidates I would expect that two students with equal grades would be disadvantaged if they played piano rather than windsurfed.
From my anecdotal experience, I find this very plausible. (I'm a white guy who had extraordinarily poor grades in highschool yet was accepted to the school of my choice. My Asian peers almost universally far outclassed me in academic skill (proper student discipline in general); if you told me that I was accepted because I was on the swim team instead of another student with better grades who played the piano (both forms of self-improvement, not community service), I would not be surprised. Very disappointed, but not surprised.)
So do universities honestly think they have too many classical musicians, but not enough casual athletes? I don't think so. That seems incredibly implausible. I don't think they are thinking anything at all along the lines of "we better introduce some athletic viewpoints into our student body, lest all the musicians dominate discussion."
I think they are arbitrarily classifying hobbies as "well rounded" or "square" to allow themselves to shape their student body demographics to their liking.
EDIT: Agreed with jlgreco, added  to what I said earlier.
If we are saying "Black student life is just playing basketball", then that is clearly an unfair stereotype. If however college admissions start disqualifying anyone who has ever played basketball, then I think it would be prudent to ask if perhaps the admissions people are attempting to disadvantage black applicants (particularly so if the "has played basketball" metric is accompanied by a series of other metrics that have a relationship to stereotypes).
1) Most colleges admit large numbers of students who are officially reported as "race/ethnicity unknown." (The graphic in the submitted article, showing race/ethnicity questions from a college application, is dishonest by omitting the part on the application that says that whole section is optional, as it must be by federal regulation.)
2) The definition of "race" categories in current United States regulations is arbitrary, acknowledged by the Census Bureau to be unscientific, does not match categories used in any other country, and has changed several times in my lifetime.
3) "Jewish" has never been an officially regarded category in the United States for tracking data on the issue of college admission, but Jews once faced considerable barriers getting into many colleges.
4) The subset of United States high school students who are college-ready by what courses they have completed during high school has a much different "race" composition from the general United States population.
Several of the replies in this interesting thread speculate about details of the practice of colleges in the United States, so I will refer here to the definitive FAQ about "race" in United States college admission,
so that those of you who like to look up reliable sources and check facts are able to do that about this contentious issue. The FAQ will have to be revised, of course, after the Supreme Court issues its opinion in a pending case (cited in the FAQ). Full references to the facts listed above can be found in the FAQ.
TL;DR Asians are "the new Jews" and are discriminated (often implicitly) - for example they ace at high-school STEM competitions, yet they don't make that many undergrads as they should (with a notable exception of Caltech).
Gelman says in that critique that he agrees there is an underrepresentation of Asians.
That's not actually Gelman's analysis. He's just relaying some criticisms that were sent to him by Janet Mertz. Ron Unz responds to this, corrects some of his own errors, and shows his claims still hold. Then Gelman (proxying for Mertz) and Unz go back and forth way too many times, using way too many words and almost no data.
Eventually Gelman gives up, so Unz moves on to reviewing Mertz's old work. Let's just leave it here: http://www.ronunz.org/2013/03/16/meritocracy-dangerous-cance...
The author suggests that top Asian students are being discriminated against (implicitly or explicitly), and it's unclear whether top non-Jewish white students are being discriminated against, or whether they apply in much smaller numbers to the Ivies.
In the article from The American Conservative, the claim that Jews are over-represented is rather hard to miss.
What I can contribute, however, are my (admittedly anecdotal) experiences with Asian households, and my own personal experience with the college application process. I am not Asian.
Probably because of my own interest in sciences and mathematics, many of my friends in high school were Asian. They tended to excel in schoolwork, in no small part because they were under huge amounts of pressure from their parents. I'm not saying that all Asian families "force" their children to study ad-nauseum, but the "high expectations Asian father" Internet meme is at least somewhat based in truth, stereotyped or not.
Because of this pressure (and supportive culture of success), Asians tend do incredibly well in school, as well as on standardized tests... but the more they study, the proportionally less time they have to do other activities that make students "well-rounded," which is one of the qualities that top-tier universities value.
My personal college application process involved SAT scores that were very good, and a GPA that was solid but somewhat average. However, I had done several sports in high school, done a considerable amount of community service, had three technical jobs (two as a developer, one as a security analyst), and released open source software--all while passing my classes. I was passionate about computer science, and I believe that that helped me gain admission to very good universities.
I'm not trying to "blame the victim" with this comment--it may very well be that admissions officers harbor prejudices against Asians--but I also think it's worth noting that when you're talking about the top-tier of our education system--the Stanfords, Harvards and MITs of the world--great grades aren't enough to gain admission.
"Well rounded" is code for "like the WASPs we used to admit in years past." Look at the kinds of things colleges value: community service, sports, etc. These are the things that used to in years past set people of good breeding apart from the regular people who were too busy keeping a roof over their head.
No it isn't. "Well rounded" is in fact code for any activity that has completely subjective merit which admissions offices can use to create quotas without officially having quotas.
What I've noticed is that the kids who have to be "forced" to study ad-nauseum usually aren't the top performers. They're around the middle, but their families desperately want them to be the top.
The top students are much more self motivated. They tend to be more or less equivalent to their supposedly more-well-rounded white counterparts.
Few people manage to get ahead solely through being compelled to work hard. It's very difficult to force someone to sacrifice four years of their life to attain a goal that they themselves are ambivalent about.
For example, when I look to hire developers who are recent or soon-to-be college graduates, I may glance briefly at their GPA. While I care that they didn't flunk their classes (and aptitude in their language of choice is certainly important), I check to see what projects they did on the side. What open source software did they release or contribute to? Did they launch mobile or webapps while studying? Are they conversant in current events around their field of choice?
To me, passion is more important than grades or even degrees--in business. My question, which I believe is the same one posed in the article, is whether it is appropriate for schools to evaluate on that metric, too.
To give a specific example, I've always thought that community involvement is one of those developmental stages that happen later in life. Bill Gates is a great example: obviously a "leader in business, innovation and politics", who went from active, principled disdain towards all charity when he was younger to the world's biggest philanthropist today. Whenever I see community involvement coming from a high schooler, I always "blame" parents, college admission coaches, church, etc.
Similarly, serious commitment to more than one sport makes me think "ambitious parents" and "affluent" rather than "drive". I just don't buy that a high-schooler, all by him/herself, has the wherewithal to manage multiple athletic training programs. I did serious ballet before I went to college, and let's face it, while I did all the sweating, my mother gets more than half the credit.
What this boils down to, to me, is the inability for admissions boards to release their exact criteria for admitting a prospective student. If, say, MIT released the exact formula for their perfect student, then people would immediately game the system (more so than they do already).
As some other users pointed out, and as you alluded to here, how can we tell the difference between 'drive' and 'trying to appear well-rounded'? How can we tell if a high schooler wanted to do those five-hundred hours of community service, or if they were coerced into doing so by a parent or school?
I personally believe that there is more to a successful academic (and professional) career than grades, so my initial dispute was the use of standardized test scores and GPA to indicate discrimination when it may have simply been another variable skewing the results.
It would be a very interesting case study for a university to release their full (objective) admissions criteria, however--while, sure, it would result in applicants trying to game the system, would it end up resulting in a more cohesive student base? What would the main factors be? How do you weigh passions vs., as you stated, ambitious parents?
I don't have any of the answers to the questions I posed in this comment (nor in my earlier ones), but it's an interesting thought experiment nonetheless.
that's a good question - and this same question needs to be asked by a prospective employer during hiring interviews. In other words, you have to try and understand the applicant, and see if they really want it, or is only wanting it for extrinsic reasons (which i deem to be a bad reason for wanting to study).
You play sports to get laid, not because your parents make you.
This entire "holistic evaluation" thing, at this point is pretty much gamed out and the savviest parents and students know what the admissions officers are looking for, which means it plays out very much like the tests and the grades - people who really, really want to get into the top schools and will put in the effort are the ones who get in.
Someone's physicality (Let's move on from just thinking about sports only) can/does have relevance to someone's aptitude for CS, or, their ability to do well.
The high achieving students you're describing aren't not participating in extra curricular activities. That just sounds bizarre. Anyone who's intensely focused on getting into a top school also has their application filled with extra curricular engagements.
When affirmative action is letting more people from some group in than they normally would, then isn't it kind of obvious that other groups will take the hit?
It's not some magical force... when A + B is to be constant (total capacity), then increasing B decreases A.
You can't win here. Colleges admissions desire a diverse mix of students. Identifiable ethnicities have different median qualifications. So someone has to lose in that tradeoff.
The point upthread was simply that usually when you see this argument made it's a complaint that whites are being "penalized". This time it's asians. But despite being a novel spin, it's still the same story.
They could try looking for actual diversity, then, instead of just an aesthetically pleasing mixture of superficial skin colors. Accepting 100 multiracial kids who all attended the same boarding schools is going to be way less diverse than a selection of 100 kids from different levels of income. Actually, I believe income quite dominates race in terms of predicting academic success these days--the interracial achievement gap looks quite small by comparison. (As well it should, in a country currently headed by a black president.)
There's no winning here. Don't fool yourself into thinking you know the right way to do education selection, and stop sneering at all the people who want different things than you do.
Race based discrimination supporters love to pretend that race is everything when it means less now than it has in the entirety of US history. You can throw yourself in with the "gravity is a social construct" people if you want, but at least there's hard data to back up my beliefs, instead of just collectivist guilt that punishes truly disadvantaged people for the crime of being born with the wrong skin color for that particular decade.
The "natural" (equally-represented) proportion isn't that in the total population, it's the proportion in the population of interest, which in this case is the set of qualified applicants.
How is that novel? The effect is the same as ever, whoever is part of the majority takes the hit.
"Asian applicants have 67% lower odds of admission than white applicants with comparable test scores."
I don't think it matters to anyone, though, because they're white kids.
Asian ivy league pop % / merit scholar % given by Unz is about 70%. Same for non-jewish whites is about 35%
Asians are getting the short end of the stick, but non-jewish white kids are getting it worse.
I mean, I've seen forms asking for my race, but I've never seen one asking if I considered myself Jewish. (and it seems, well, pretty slippery, as nearly all the people I know who identify as Jewish also identify as "White (non hispanic)" - And I've seen several studies saying that without cultural context, even experts can't tell Jewish faces from non-Jewsh faces from similar parts of the world.)
Seems to me like there are a lot of people who could identify one way or the other, who will answer the question differently, depending on how they think you want the question answered.
If it's > 1, then obviously Asians will take a bigger hit, since they're the majority, that's the whole point of my comment.
If it's <= 1 though then yes, the situation is very interesting indeed.
IF there were more qualified Asian applicants than qualified White applicants (ratio > 1) _and_ admissions was not racially biased, THEN there should be more Asians than Whites in the student body.
We know that there are more Whites than Asians in the student body of these colleges, so look at the contrapositive:
IF there are more Whites than Asians in the student body, THEN there more qualified White applicants (ratio <= 1) _or_ admissions was racially biased.
Look carefully at the logic statement I wrote - it means that one of two things must be true:
1. There exists racial bias specifically against Asians in admissions.
2. Qualified White applicants outnumber qualified Asian applicants.
If you concede (1), then your point that Asians get treated more harshly because they're majority is moot. If you concede (2), then, as you said, your argument doesn't work since "ratio < 1".
I don't know how to make this more clear than by using propositional logic.
Maybe it's just because I'm running low on sleep, but consider this scenario:
1. Qualified Asian applicants outnumber qualified White applicants.
2. A higher percentage of qualified White applicants are admitted than that of qualified Asian applicants.
3. There are more Whites than Asians in the admitted student body.
Can you tell me which sentence of mine this scenario runs counter to, or which logical impossibility you think it results in?
That's neither a sentence of mine, nor a logical impossibility. It's a perfectly valid, logically sound scenario, but for some reason you think it's a logically impossible scenario.
Just because you think it's false doesn't make it logically impossible! And here I was arguing with propositional logic as if I'd claimed 2+2=5.
Your original premise was that the article was unsurprising since _someone_ (Asians and Whites) must bear the downside of pro-minority AA:
> Well, if minorities are being positively affected, then majorities (in this case, Asians + whites) must be negatively affected.
> How is that novel? The effect is the same as ever, whoever is part of the majority takes the hit.
Then, asdfologist clearly points out that the interesting part is that Asians, a "minority", get affected worse than Whites (a majority):
> You don't get it - the parent's point is that your argument doesn't explain why Asians take a much bigger hit than whites.
You then claim that this could because Asians are actually the majority of qualified candidates (the whole ratio > or <= 1 thing), which I admit was an unconventional but valid challenge of assumptions:
> What's the Asian to White ratio of qualified college applicants? i.e. are there more Whites or Asians who would be accepted based on factors other than their race?
So then I point out the logical issue with your argument there, which I guess you had some trouble understanding.
But now you say that Asians do, in fact, get treated differently than Whites in admissions, so I guess we actually do agree that there probably exists some racial bias against Asians vis-a-vis Whites in elite college admissions. Cheers?
> But now you say that Asians do, in fact, get treated differently than Whites in admissions
> logical issue with your argument there, which I guess you had some trouble understanding.
What I'm not understanding is, when did I ever claim or imply that that is not true? When did I ever claim Asians are treated the same as whites? There was no inconsistency in my logic as far as I can see, I think you just made too many assumptions.
It doesn't strike me as highly unlikely.
Asians tend to have much higher education levels than Whites:
This unusual event happens because Asians are an outperforming minority. Most minorities suffer from the "cultural bias" of the education system and do worse than whites. But Asians just seem to kick ass regardless.
Affirmative action was designed to come at the expense of majority students only. Now that minority students are negatively affected, we have to rethink the justice of it.
You must not be in the US. The history of the US has been policies against minorities. It's only been since the early 60s has there been policies that favored minorities. And even then it has pretty much been relegated to schools (and most just undergrad college) -- it's never been very effective in the workplace. And affirmative action has been pretty much dead for the past decade.
According to the article, being black is like getting 450 extra points on your SAT compared to an Asian student. I don't think AA is as dead as you think it is.
IMO it's just not a useful test, and I suspect the Harvard admin committee knows so as well.
That said, it can be used as something to see how much work people are willing to do. In which case I think the delta over their HS peers is more useful than anything else. A 1500 at Andover would be a lot less impressive than a 1300 at Crenshaw.
Furthermore the data isn't really believable (remember the article used pretty much made up data). Data from actual schools disputes that. For example:
"Harvard's Asian Americans in the Class of 1995 have average SAT scores of 1450, Blacks averaged scores of 1290, whites scored 1400 and Hispanics averaged 1310, the report states. "
"Asian-American students who enrolled at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina in 2001 and 2002 scored 1457 out of 1600 on the math and reading portion of the SAT, compared to 1416 for whites, 1347 for Hispanics and 1275 for blacks, according to a 2011 study co-authored by Duke economist Peter Arcidiacono."
"Asian-Americans admitted to the University of Wisconsin’s flagship Madison campus in 2008 had a median math and reading SAT score of 1370 out of 1600, compared to 1340 for whites, 1250 for Hispanics, and 1190 for blacks, according to a 2011 study by the Center for Equal Opportunity"
And I suspect if you control for recommendations, geographic, and socio-economic diversity the gaps would shrink, not grow.
It's fairly obvious to me that colleges do discriminate against Asians, and that this reverse racism does need to stop whether it's intentional or not.
Everyone here talks about how Asians are like this or like that... the reality is that Asians are a pretty diverse group of people, and while you do have your nerdy, book worm types, you also have Asians who were captains of their basketball team or who played football or another major sport. Most people who are at the top of their class are extremely gifted in more ways than one and good parenting isn't the only factor that gets them there. I have cousins who have 'tiger-mom' parents but their grades are still suffering. We need to stop generalizing everyone into the same buckets, that's part of the problem.
I'm all for diversity, I would love to see colleges adopt a race blind admission process and focus on all the criteria that they value and see what happens. I almost guarantee that we will see the Asian acceptance rates rise even with the focus on "diversity". Right now, it seems like it's straight forward discrimination at play that is guised as diversity seeking... since by diversity, what they're really saying is that we want less Asians in our top schools.
I realize with regard to affirmative action that race is a poor proxy for socioeconomic status, but it is statistically practical with regard to cultural values. You mentioned "I went to an Ivy League school, I fit the Asian model minority stereotype pretty well." How much did your parents influence your priorities in weighing education?
One of the issues seems to be that colleges are attempting to address institutionalized racism too late in students' lives.
I feel like the english language is being rapidly perverted.
> "by diversity, what they're really saying is that we want less Asians in our top schools."
Actually, it means they want fewer whites and Asians.
As you correctly point out, AA typically privileges NAMs at the expense of Whites and Asians.
I had a tougher high school course load, a better GPA, significantly higher SAT I and SAT II scores, and comparable extracirriculars to everyone in my class who got accepted to elite university X.
Thing is, I'm Asian, and they were all more coveted minorities.
The good news is, your university does not determine your future. You do. Once class is out and you're in the real world, the only thing that matters at the end of the day is PRODUCING VALUE.
Admissions officers are not some kind of mind reading wizards who are able to churn through thousands of applications and figure out who are amazing people despite bad test scores and grades and who are frauds despite high test scores and grades, merely based on short descriptions of what they did outside of classes. They are underpaid paper pushers forced to judge people who are likely smarter than they are, with very little information. There are two main reasons for the holistic evaluation. One, to give themselves plausible deniability when they need to tweak the student body to fit institutional purposes. Two, to introduce sufficient randomness into the process to reduce the incentive to game the process.
The truth is that top private schools are in the business of soliciting donations from wealthy donors and selling an image of prestig while avoiding major controversies. Having a heavily Asian-dominated student body doesn't serve any of those goals. They are politically weak, not a threat to organize and are seen as foreign by a large portion of the population.
Yes, because using quotas would be illegal.
But I don't understand how "does not use quotas" translates into equal treatment.
Wasn't the whole point of the UC v. Bakke case to say that quotas are illegal, but race is still a legitimate factor to consider in admission? This sentence means nothing.
It is simple to construct a non-quota admissions system from a desired set of quotas (though one would probably do well not to write down the desired set of quotas). Each year one could adjust the bonus/penalty assigned to each race to target admissions levels at the hidden quotas. Conversely, given a set of per-race bonuses and penalties and admissions data for a particular year, one could calculate what (non-quota) admissions level was most targeted by the set of bonuses and penalties.
Edit: It is perhaps even more troublesome to hear "There is no formula for admission. We look at the academics, leadership, activities and references about the applicant's character." If a school explicitly states that it is not looking for anything in particular in its candidates, it would be very difficult for any investigation to find that it is turning away qualified candidates on the basis of race.
You don't understand it because it doesn't translate into equal treatment. "Diversity" is a legal dodge they use to keep out Asians and whites and accept less qualified people of other races. It's a de facto quota system that would never survive a court challenge if you rearranged the races a bit.
The problem with this reasoning is that it presumes that GPA + test scores is the definition of merit. These schools say this isn't the case. They want the stand-outs. If you are a part of a group that all has perfect GPA/SATs, then that simply isn't enough anymore. Cluster analysis is a valid technique to identify outliers.
So let me get this straight: GPA + test scores don't show merit, but race does?
> These schools say this isn't the case. They want the stand-outs.
So let's accept less qualified people just because they're doing better than even the lesser-qualfied people of the same race, even though there are perfect candidates we could be choosing instead?
I think you (like many Americans) are completely misunderstanding the point of affirmative action.
It has nothing to do with "encouraging diversity" or anything like that. It's trying to right a historical wrong, discrimination against certain groups based on race. "Diversity" is just a nice word to use to appeal to emotion so they just use that, but it's irrelevant to the purpose of affirmative action.
The point is, it has been a long time since merit was GPA/SAT scores for top-tier college admissions. The criteria changes frequently as kids pattern their lives after what they assume the current criteria is. If you are one of a million (Asian) kids with perfect GPA and SAT scores, well, you're likely not going to get in. You are not owed a spot in any sense.
You're owed exactly as much of a spot as anyone with the same qualifications as you, which is exactly equal to that of a Black or White kid with the same qualifications.
Even if that's a goal, it doesn't seem to be the main one. Frankly, I've never heard a college admissions official say they look at race to determine leadership skills, even if they really do do that.
If they do that, then it's fine for them to do so, but that just doesn't seem to be the issue here. And to the best of my knowledge, it didn't seem to be the issue in the Bakke case either, which nevertheless got the Supreme Court's nod toward promoting "diversity".
It can certainly be read this way, but it's not obvious that this is so. Diversity creates an atmosphere that will most likely mirror the world in which these future leaders will be required to navigate. That in itself is enough of a justification for diversity, assuming their goal is to educate future leaders. Also, there is the fact that leaders of ethnic groups tend to be of that ethnic group, so maximizing some proportion of diversity is increasing that schools chance of educating a future leader.
Er, you changed the subject from determining which future leaders are accepted into college to educating future leaders after they've been accepted.
That's a whole another discussion which I wasn't intending to get into. All I will say is that the status quo seems to point toward the use of race as a way to fulfill affirmative action requirements, not as a means for determining aptitude.
I think he's implying that cultural differences could be coming into play that skew the curve while looking like racial discrimination. Just like Academic scores differ between races, I'm sure Athletic honors differ between races as well, as well as Club honors, and Arts (band/choir/etc) Honors, and so on.
If you want to argue that Academic merit is all students should be judged on when colleges are considering applications, that is a separate argument, but GP is probably just saying that GPA + test scores doesn't singlehandedly define "merit" to a college because things like community service and athletics and student council and... and... and... all altogether factor into the cumultive merit of any given applicant in addition to GPA and whatnot.
It's been almost sixty years since discrimination based on race (or sex) was legal. It's time to let affirmative action die.
But "In the 30 years since this ruling, public and private universities have crafted affirmative action programs consistent with Bakke's requirements" , so I assume it probably would be, otherwise they wouldn't go through the trouble.
Even were a given university to forgo all government money, it would lose it's tax exempt status if it discriminated on the basis of race (see Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983)).
So as a practical matter -- yes.
By "force them to do X" he meant the government can refuse to fund them if they didn't do X (which forces them to abide by the government's rules if they are accepting its funds), not that the government can legally mandate them to do X unconditionally.
Suppose you have the right to exclude Blacks or Asians from your college (freedom of speech, associations or whatever)
Once you take even a penny of federal dollars, directly or indirectly, you may have to agree not to discriminate. So YOU give up that right voluntarily. No one forces you to take the government's money.
Those government dollars most certainly can be conditioned on associating with certain people (military recruiters, in that case).
Now more on topic, the being able to discriminate as a private uni one:
Q: Why doesn’t Hillsdale accept any federal or state taxpayer subsidies? A: In 1975, the federal government said that Hillsdale had to sign a form stating that we did not discriminate on the basis of sex. Hillsdale College had never discriminated on any basis, and had never accepted federal taxpayer subsidies of any sort, so the College felt no obligation to comply, fearing that doing so would open the door to additional federal mandates and control. Our trustees pledged two things: first, that the College would continue its long-standing policy of non-discrimination, and second, that it would not accept any encroachments on its independence. The case went to court, and Hillsdale College won a partial victory, but the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals did rule that Hillsdale College was an “indirect recipient” of federal funding because of participation in federal grant and loan programs. In 1984, Grove City College in Pennsylvania fought and lost a similar legal battle. The case then went to the Supreme Court, and in Grove City v. Bell, it was determined that if even one student received a federal grant or loan, it made that institution a direct recipient of federal funds. To avoid the hassles of government control, Hillsdale College announced its decision to end participation in all federal financial aid programs in 1985. In 2007, Hillsdale announced that it would no longer accept State of Michigan taxpayer subsidies earmarked for student financial aid, thereby making the College completely independent of taxpayer support.
Basically once you take their money you agree to their strings.
sorry for the sarcasm but he keeps going
This is an absurd principle, and you've offered little but snark to defend it.
You take advantage of government largess every time you drive on a Federal highway. That doesn't mean the government can make your travel on that highway contingent upon giving up completely unrelated rights.