Asian Americans and College Application Discrimination

By Guest Contributor Angry Asian Man, originally published at Angry Asian Man

Here’s an interesting op-ed piece from the Boston Globe on the possible discrimination (an “Asian ceiling”) Asian Americans face in the college admissions process — a topic that isn’t new, but continues to persist as access to higher education gets even more competitive, and the numbers reveal some questionable disparities: Do colleges redline Asian-Americans?

Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade, who reviewed data from 10 elite colleges, writes in “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal” that Asian applicants typically need an extra 140 points to compete with white students. In fact, according to Princeton lecturer Russell Nieli, there may be an “Asian ceiling” at Princeton, a number above which the admissions office refuses to venture.

Emily Aronson, a Princeton spokeswoman, insists “the university does not admit students in categories. In the admission process, no particular factor is assigned a fixed weight and there is no formula for weighing the various aspects of the application.”

A few years ago, however, when I worked as a reader for Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, it became immediately clear to me that Asians – who constitute 5 percent of the US population – faced an uphill slog. They tended to get excellent scores, take advantage of AP offerings, and shine in extracurricular activities. Frequently, they also had hard-knock stories: families that had immigrated to America under difficult circumstances, parents working as kitchen assistants and store clerks, and households in which no English was spoken.

But would Yale be willing to make 50 percent of its freshman class Asian? Probably not.

Indeed. Probably not. I find it hard to imagine any elite university busting open ts admissions to let all the qualified Asians applicant in. Is it possible for a school to be “too Asian?” Somebody out there certainly thinks so, and to prevent that from happening, it essentially means maintaining that ceiling — and a white student majority. What’s a college-bound Asian kid to do?

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