Tiger Children: Getting into College Even Harder Because Asian Kids are So Damn Qualified
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When I went to Harvard a million years ago, or in the late 1980’s, my incoming class was about 9% Asian. At the time, I believe the U.S. population was about 4% Asian. I vaguely remember thinking that Harvard, while stating that they wanted to duplicate ethnicity percentages along the lines of the general population, actually doubled the Asian population in my incoming class. But what I didn’t know was the percentage of Asians that applied. I still don’t know, but I suspect that the rejection rate as a race is higher than for other groups.
I did a little research and found this article in The Washington Post…
“Chin said ‘Chinese and ALL Asian Americans are PENALIZED for their values on academic excellence by being required to have a HIGHER level of achievement, academic and non-academic, than any other demographic group, especially Whites, in order to be admitted to Harvard, the Ivies and the other Elites in this zero-sum game called admissions based on racial preferences.’
This may not be intended as a quota system, but Chin says it sure looks like one. He notes that in the 1980s some colleges, particularly Stanford and Brown, looked hard at their admissions decisions and discovered they were turning down many Asian American applicants while accepting white applicants with virtually the same characteristics.”
So what happens when admissions are color blind? The University of California system is a good example. Numbers from 2008:
- U.C. Berkeley 43% Asian.
- U.C.L.A. 40% Asian.
- U.C. San Diego 50% Asian.
- U.C. Irvine 54% Asian.
This provokes an argument for Affirmative Action for Caucasians in the U.C. system but what would happen if private colleges remove race as an admission criteria (which they would never do in a million years!)? Can you imagine the Ivy Leagues 50% Asian? But if you look at what happened at the U.C. system, arguably some of the best schools in the U.S. and maybe THE best schools judged by quality AND price, then it’s not a big leap to say that this could happen if elite private colleges ever decided to admit color blind.
This is the article that my friend sent me that started me down this train of thought … that while competitive public schools in N.Y. are color blind — the article is about Stuyvesant with its 72% Asian population — and how colleges (specifically elite private ones) have a way of correcting this imbalance. Reactions?!
p.s. Here are stats from the U.S. Census bureau on Asian Americans.
Entrance to Stuyvesant, one of the most competitive public high schools in the country, is determined solely by performance on a test: The top 3.7 percent of all New York City students who take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test hoping to go to Stuyvesant are accepted. There are no set-asides for the underprivileged or, conversely, for alumni or other privileged groups. There is no formula to encourage “diversity” or any nebulous concept of “well-roundedness” or “character.” Here we have something like pure meritocracy. This is what it looks like: Asian-Americans, who make up 12.6 percent of New York City, make up 72 percent of the high school.
This year, 569 Asian-Americans scored high enough to earn a slot at Stuyvesant, along with 179 whites, 13 Hispanics, and 12 blacks. Such dramatic overrepresentation, and what it may be read to imply about the intelligence of different groups of New Yorkers, has a way of making people uneasy. But intrinsic intelligence, of course, is precisely what Asians don’t believe in. They believe—and have proved—that the constant practice of test-taking will improve the scores of whoever commits to it. All throughout Flushing, as well as in Bayside, one can find “cram schools,” or storefront academies, that drill students in test preparation after school, on weekends, and during summer break. “Learning math is not about learning math,” an instructor at one called Ivy Prep was quoted in the New York Times as saying. “It’s about weightlifting. You are pumping the iron of math.” Mao puts it more specifically: “You learn quite simply to nail any standardized test you take.”
And so there is an additional concern accompanying the rise of the Tiger Children, one focused more on the narrowness of the educational experience a non-Asian child might receive in the company of fanatically preprofessional Asian students. Jenny Tsai, a student who was elected president of her class at the equally competitive New York public school Hunter College High School, remembers frequently hearing that “the school was becoming too Asian, that they would be the downfall of our school.” A couple of years ago, she revisited this issue in her senior thesis at Harvard, where she interviewed graduates of elite public schools and found that the white students regarded the Asians students with wariness. (She quotes a music teacher at Stuyvesant describing the dominance of Asians: “They were mediocre kids, but they got in because they were coached.”) In 2005, The Wall Street Journal reported on “white flight” from a high school in Cupertino, California, that began soon after the children of Asian software engineers had made the place so brutally competitive that a B average could place you in the bottom third of the class.
Colleges have a way of correcting for this imbalance: The Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade has calculated that an Asian applicant must, in practice, score 140 points higher on the SAT than a comparable white applicant to have the same chance of admission. This is obviously unfair to the many qualified Asian individuals who are punished for the success of others with similar faces. Upper-middle-class white kids, after all, have their own elite private schools, and their own private tutors, far more expensive than the cram schools, to help them game the education system.
So readers, here’s my question. When applying to private colleges when Asian, what happens if you DON’T check the box for race identification? Does it improve your chances? Do they check your box anyway when you appear for an interview? What if you are only partially Asian? Hmmm… things to research more deeply!! What do YOU think? Please share!!!