Eric L. Michigan

Discrimination against Asians in College Admissions

How would you feel if you were rejected from a college in favor of someone less qualified? This is a reality for many Americans, and is something that we should fix.

Affirmative action is meant to allow for a good, even distribution of students, giving a healthy diversity in a school. However, this is hurting many people across the country. It is growing increasingly harder for Asians to be accepted to colleges, and the statistics clearly show what is happening. In a 2009 analysis of college-bound graduating seniors, Espenshade found that everything else equal, Asians need 140 SAT points higher than whites, 320 SAT points higher than Hispanics, and 450 SAT points higher than African Americans. (Out of a 1600 point scale)

This problem is especially prevalent in Ivy League colleges, shown by a complaint filed by the Asian-American Coalition for Education (AACE) against many such schools. This complaint claims that Admissions officers “often treat Asian-American applicants as a monolithic block rather than as individuals, and denigrate these applicants as lacking in creativity/critical thinking and leadership skills/risk taking.” (AACE v. Yale, Brown and Dartmouth) The statistics prove that the applicants are entirely capable, after the Department of Education started investigating Harvard, admission rates jumped from 10.8% to 16.1% (for Asian applicants). The same effect was shown at Princeton after a student complaint, with rates jumping from 14.7% to 25.4% (Douglas Belkin, 5/23/16)

Affirmative Action and racism cannot be the only factors, in this complicated mess of an equation that we call college admissions. No, one reason there is a predominant white population at top colleges is because of legacy admissions. 10-15% of Ivy League students have a parent or grandparent who attended the school.(The Economist 1/8/2004) These admissions should not be allowed, as they allow people who could not have gotten into the college to be admitted just because of family connections or a “Generous Donation” (read: bribe). Another way a white majority is retained is due to so called “feeder schools” these high-end private schools are predominantly rich and white, and thus allow the students who can afford such education an advantage (Huffington Post, David Cahn, 6/3/15). This sort of advantage given to upper class whites who have more money than intelligence is not fair and should not be allowed.

And if these are valid ways to get into a good college, which they aren’t, then there is one more example that shows that college admissions have gone too far. It clearly shows when college counselors are telling Asians to appear “less Asian” when applying to college. (Boston Globe, Bella English 6/1/15) There are counseling services completely based around getting Asians to look less Asian. The counselor urges the students to not just continue with the piano, but to join musical theatre. To stop playing tennis in favor of basketball. And on college essays, especially, they are urged not to write about “your family coming from Vietnam with $2 in a rickety boat and swimming away from sharks.” When Asians have to appear less Asian just to get into college, that’s when you know that affirmative action has gone too far.

The sort of discrimination we see in college admissions could be a result of the idea of the “model minority”, a stereotype of Asians as hard working, well-off, affluent, high-achievers.(APA Yi-Chen Wu) However, this is simply not true, as many Asian-Americans are the children of worse-off immigrants from Cambodia or Vietnam, with only a middle or high school education. In fact, the test scores of Asians usually fall into similar distribution with the rest of the US, kids with parents that earn more money usually do better on tests.

These facts lead in one simple direction, the questioning of race as a metric used for determining diversity. All of the current statistics clearly show that standardized test scores correlate with better economic situation in the household and time spent on studying. If so, then shouldn’t affirmative action be more based on household income than on race? And if a diverse campus is wanted, then shouldn’t student interests and club affiliations matter more than race? Finally, if the goal is equal opportunities, then we just need to look at a school without race as an identifier on their college application. I present, UC Berkley, a topnotch school without racist affirmative action policies. There, the student body is a massive 49% Asian. This clearly shows that many other schools on this level are flat out racist, and giving preference to students without as much qualification.

Thus, I propose a system of college applications where whomever review the applications is not allowed to see any identifying tags of the student. These include race, name, sex, etc. The only materials allowed to be viewed would be the essay written by the student, their SAT and/or ACT scores, student transcript, and referral letters. Of course, the name and other feature would be blanked out on all of the above materials. Now, I know it might seem a bit far to remove names, but a study of how often professors wrote back to meet with students clearly showed that names that were seen as “white” and male were chosen more often versus names that were clearly “ethnic” or feminine. (NPR 4/22/14 4:56 AM) This is the reason that we must go so far as to blank out name and gender. This system would allow for very little bias, and all the reviewers get to know about the student is told by the student in their essay.



Belkin, Douglas. "Asian-American Groups Seek Investigation Into Ivy League Admissions." WSJ., 23 May 2016. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

Cahn, David. "What's Behind Asian Discrimination in College Admissions?" The Huffington Post., 3 June 2015. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

English, Bella. "To Get into Elite Colleges, Some Advised to ‘appear Less Asian’." Boston Globe, 01 June 2015. Web. 8 Oct. 2016.

Espenshade, Thomas J., and Alexandria Walton Radford. No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2009. Print.

"The Curse of Nepotism." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 10 Jan. 2004. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

Vedantam, Shankar. "Morning Edition." NPR. NPR. WAMU, Washington DC, DC, 22 Apr. 2014. Radio. Transcript.

Woo, SB. "Discrimination Is Obvious." New York Times. New York TImes, 19 Dec. 2012. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

Wu, Yi-Chen. "Admission Considerations in Higher Education Among Asian Americans." American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2016.

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