College Admissions Profile
Think you’ve got a handle of your daughter’s college admissions profile? One question we sometimes hear during free consultations with prospective clients (we don’t hear these kinds of questions with our clients — they know better!) goes something like this: “My daughter is white, she’s from the northeast, she’s got great grades and great scores. But does she have a chance at the most highly selective schools since there are so many others with her profile?” It’s a question that is indeed a bit irritating. After all, the subtext of the question is that it’s very hard for Caucasian students to earn admission to America’s most elite colleges. And that’s not untrue. It is difficult for Caucasian students to earn admission to America’s most elite colleges. It’s also difficult for Indian American, Chinese American, African American, and Latino applicants, among others to earn admission to these institutions. We had to say that. It doesn’t go without saying.
But the other subtext of the question is whether these schools are even looking for Caucasian applicants. And that is ridiculous. Of course they’re looking for Caucasian applicants. The vast majority of every class at every highly selective school continues to be Caucasian. They’re looking for intellectually curious and talented Caucasian applicants just as they’re looking for intellectually curious and talented Native American applicants. Now does it help in the admissions process to be an underrepresented minority? Of course it does. You weren’t born yesterday. We don’t have to tell you that. But to suggest that it’s near impossible to get into these institutions if you’re a white applicant from the northeast is preposterous. And we’ve got a body of work (a body of work that includes many Caucasian students!) over the last quarter of a century that counters this suggestion.
Which brings us to the “similar profiles” component of the question. One’s race and geography does not a profile make. Ridiculous. There are oh so many more components to a “profile” and that’s a big part of what we at Ivy Coach do — we help shape students’ profiles so they are interesting, so they are compelling. Indeed we consider it our task to dare admissions officers not to admit our students with their unique and wonderfully weird college admissions profiles.
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You need only to look at the admissions rates of these selective schools, the number admitted divided by the number that applied. You’ll quickly see the big disadvantage many of them place on being Caucasian and/or being male.
My kid has a 36 ACT score, straight As for a 4.7 GPA, perfect SAT2 subject scores and a boatload of AP classes and scores of 5. Visited the schools, made good impressions on interviews and wrote solid essays. A lot of community involvement and accolades, too. Rejected by Cornell and a handful of their peer schools. No, we couldn’t check any of the right boxes, like minority or foreign or wealthy donor or superstar athlete. All that hard work on academics, but still not enough to overcome being Caucasian. So, rejection letters and disappointment followed.
Yes, that’s a life lesson. No big deal, a number of good schools with wiser admissions policies did offer a spot because they want exceptional *students*. Then we learned the financial aid game is just as bad! Our child accepted an offer to a good state school. All will work out for the best. But if your kid is a true scholar and you think they will earn admissions or academic scholarships based on hard work and excellent academics, you may be surprised that some of these top rated institutions of higher learning place a lot more value on things other that have absolutely nothing to do with academic achievement or the ability to succeed at these universities.
We don’t know your son other than what you’ve presented above but we can tell you this — he didn’t not get in because he’s Caucasian. Highly selective colleges are filled with high-achieving Caucasian students. Might it be possible you’re not the most objective judge of his applications?
Hi and thank you for the reply! We are sure there are various subjective reasons why my kid didn’t make the cut. Maybe from the same school as the admissions counselor’s ex-spouse? Maybe the teacher who wrote a reference letter was drunk at the time? Who knows. We thought the application had a lot going for it, but we know it wasn’t a guarantee. But that’s not the issue here. Your article was about whether being Caucasian was a disadvantage or not, or if so, how much. If you have the relevant admissions rates based on ethnicity or nationality, I suspect it’s the same at Cornell as other elite schools where I’ve found this data. Caucasian US citizen admit rates, especially for males, can be as low as half the overall admit rate and significantly lower than other nationality and ethnicity rates. I’d love to see that data from Cornell, maybe it’s buried in common data set.
Or you can look at it another way. Imagine another student with the same objective, academic profile and little else on their resume. Heck, make it a 35 ACT, 4.5 GPA and 780 SAT2 scores if you like. If this student is the child of a major legacy donor, or qualified for the basketball or lacrosse team, is African American or Latino or is Caucasian from any country in South America, Africa or the Middle East, what do you think the admissions rate is? We know of a couple in that category who were accepted with much lower objective scores. I’ll bet it’s above 25% for that group, maybe much higher. For my son’s demographic group, I bet it’s below 10%, probably closer to 5%. What do you think?
That difference in admit rates is the relevant information here, not the subjective reason why any child was rejected. There’s no blame or sour grapes in this, just looking for numbers to prove or disprove your notion to know if being Caucasian is a liability or not, and if so, how much of a disadvantage. My sample size of three isn’t enough, obviously.
sorry to hear about your son. our daughter had same problem. perfect academics and salutatorian. would have been valedictorian except the other student was excused from a non weighted gym class. first chair violin. 2nd place state badminton. debate team, math club and so much more. rejected by cornell and penn. we learn it is a not a very well kept secrets that ivy league and other top schools have quota caps on asian students also. she has white friends with lower grades scores and activities who were accepted. google search how bad it is for asian americans even worse than for white students but everyone blames it on something else that must be wrong with your daughter. the truth is that some students have to meet much higher standards than others.
It seems my previous reply was lost, or apologies if it just hasn’t been approved yet. To answer your question, it’s certainly possible. On the other hand, objectively, the applications were pretty solid. And while admissions based on subjective or non-academic factors is a related topic, the case of my child is only a sample size of one.
The real question pertaining to your article is whether things like race (or even sex or nationality) make it significantly more or less difficult to gain admissions to selective universities. Data I’ve seen suggest that Caucasians, especially males, have admit rates much lower than the overall admit rate at many highly selective schools, and significantly lower than many other demographics. This isn’t to assign blame or cite unfair practices or to receive pity; universities do what they feel is best to attract the type of students they want. This information does go directly to the point of your article. I’m not talking about how many students of a particular race/sex/nationality are admitted to these schools, but the rate of those admitted divided by the number that applied from any particular group. That would be key data to prove or disprove if there is a significant hurdle for some groups to overcome.
I have little doubt that had my child been able to check some different boxes about race, sex, nationality or other non-academic factors, they would have had a much greater chance of admission, given only the objective credentials on their application. In fact, we have some data points of admits that demonstrate this pretty well. It all worked out for us in the end, but it does address the topic in your blog if you happen to have this data. For example, if my child had been Asian, it would have been even more difficult.