Portrait of an Asian American Harvard Admit

Asian American Harvard Student, Asian American at Harvard, Harvard Admit

There’s a good portrait of an Asian American Harvard admit in “Asia Times.”

As the Supreme Court of the United States prepares to challenge the practice of Affirmative Action at Harvard University on the basis that it discriminates against Asian American applicants, it would be wise to examine the case for admission of Thang Diep, a Vietnamese American who earned admission to Harvard’s Class of 2019. As we’ve long argued on the pages of our college admissions blog and in the press, Asian American applicants do indeed face discrimination in highly selective college admissions. But the battle cry of the groups that have mounted legal challenges to various universities — like Harvard — is largely that Asian American applicants have better grades and better scores in many instances…and yet are denied admission. That is the wrong battle cry. Schools like Harvard have holistic college admissions processes where it’s not just about grades and scores. Schools like Harvard take pride in denying students with perfect or near-perfect grades and scores if the rest of their applications aren’t all that impressive. It’s why the story of Thang Diep, as told in a piece in “Asia Times” serves as a firm rebuke to these organizations’ claims.

Portrait of an Asian American Harvard Admit

As Doug Tsuroka wites in a terrific piece for “Asia Times” entitled “Harvard student’s story offers window on ‘diversity’ in US college admissions,” “He was an “A” student but didn’t have perfect college entrance exam scores. Nor was he captain of his high school debate team…He was raised in a lower middle-class family and has one sister. His father made a living in the import-export business; his mother worked for a local travel agency before becoming a full-time mom. But Thang also learned to cope in unique ways with other issues in the diverse San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles where his family put down roots and which was largely composed of Mexicans, Vietnamese and Filipinos. When some Latinos in his heavily Hispanic neighborhood called him ‘chinito’ (Spanish for ‘little Chinese boy’) it inspired him to forge an unusually strong sense of self, both as an American of Vietnamese ancestry and as someone who could transcend prejudice with compassion and a sense of morality.”

A Rebuke to Litigants Challenging Affirmative Action

What seems very clear is that this young man, Thang Diep, had a powerful story to tell. And he told it well. He was involved in activities that showcased who he was as a high schooler and what he stood for. As the article in “Asia Times” lays out in further detail, Thang demonstrated his passion for social justice, which as an American immigrant, was a big part of what made him tick. He wasn’t well-rounded nor did he participate in stereotypical activities for Asian American applicants. He seems to present as humble, as someone you just want to root for. The groups that have filed litigation against various highly selective colleges, like the Asian American Coalition for Education, would be wise to read the story of Thang Diep because while Asian Americans do indeed face unjust discrimination in the college admissions process, Affirmative Action is not to blame. If these groups truly do wish to bring about change, they should change their battle cry.

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