Colleges Discriminating Against Asian American Applicants in Admissions

Asians in Admissions, College Admissions Discrimination, Ivy League Asian Discrimination
Harvard is currently awaiting a legal judgment on their admissions practices.

A number of folks have been asking us if we happened to see the editorial penned by Jay Kaspian Kang in The New York Times Magazine entitled “Where Does Affirmative Action Leave Asian-Americans?” Of course we’ve seen the editorial! And, yes, it’s excellent — the story is well told and it’s generally quite accurate, with only a couple of exceptions (e.g., “first generation” from a college admissions standpoint means the first in the immediate family to go to college — not first generation American). Mr. Kang paints a portrait of the Asian American experience in highly selective college admissions and he offers a comprehensive overview of allegations that America’s elite colleges discriminate against Asian American applicants. It’s a piece worth reading.

We Have Been Writing About Asian American Discrimination in Admissions for Decades

But it’s also a story we’ve been telling for years. We’ve detailed on the pages of our college admissions blog and in the press how highly selective colleges — in spite of their claims to the contrary — discriminate against Asian American applicants. We’ve detailed how Asian American applicants can beat an unfair system at an unfair game ethically and honestly. We’ve detailed how Asian Americans can distinguish themselves in the admissions process and overcome stereotyping by admissions officers who so often claim they don’t stereotype applicants, but of course they do.

In fact, our favorite sentence in The New York Times Magazine piece was this: “‘Look, I support Harvard’s right to pursue the diversity they want,’ said one Asian-American who described herself as a ‘staunch supporter of affirmative action.’ ‘But of course they discriminate against Asian kids.'” That student is right on. Of course these schools discriminate against Asian American applicants. Of course admissions officers stereotype and compare one Asian American applicant to the next Asian American applicant.

But Affirmative Action Should Not Be Singled Out for Asian American Discrimination in Admissions

But, as we’ve long articulated, Affirmative Action is not to blame for this discrimination. To single out Affirmative Action as the root cause for the wrongful discrimination that Asian American applicants face in admissions is inaccurate and misleading. Asian Americans often aren’t legacy applicants and yet legacy applicants have a leg up in admissions. Asian Americans often aren’t recruited athletes and yet recruited athletes have a leg up in admissions. So why must a policy — albeit a flawed policy — designed in the hope of fostering equality face more public scrutiny than, say, legacy admission or the advantage afforded recruited athletes? It’s a question that has long boggled our minds.

It’s high time to end Asian American discrimination in admissions. But to do so, let’s not attack a practice that doesn’t in itself directly correlate with this discrimination. Doing so will only hurt students of other races, including African American and Latinx students deserving of admission to our nation’s elite schools.


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  • Jefferson Bowen says:

    In time, Asian Americans who attended elite schools will have legacy kids and the playing field will be more level for them. Be patient grasshopper.

    Also, Asians should get more active in sports instead of chess and math tournaments to increase their odds of admission.

    • Sebastion says:

      Asians are active in sports, but Asian applicants with a background in a team sport are either discriminated against or overlooked. They are well represented ( overrepresented when compared to general population and a little underrepresented when compared to their Ivy League population) in individual sports (except squash) in the Ivy League. There was a recent story about a star Asian lacrosse player, top tier academically, who was recruited by some of the sport’s powerhouses (like Duke, Johns Hopkins, Virginia), but not by any Ivy League lacrosse coach.
      If Asians are openly discriminated against in admissions, what makes you think they wouldn’t be discriminated against behind closed doors when recruiting for sports teams?

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