The White Male in Admissions

Are white male students discriminated against in the highly selective college admissions process? Don’t be ridiculous! Just about every day, we receive an email from a parent — who is not our client — in which he or she writes how they’re seeking help for their “white male” child. And since the parent typically shares very few details about their child other than his race and gender, yes, we can read between the lines: the parent believes the child will face discrimination in an admissions process on account of their gender and race. But is that so?

Many White Applicants Have a Leg Up in Elite College Admissions

Let’s first address the race component of the argument. As Katherine Hu writes in an editorial in today’s The Los Angeles Times entitled “The real affirmative action dominating admission to elite colleges benefits privileged white kids,” “An analysis of the Harvard data from that lawsuit, published last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research, showed that 43% of white students admitted to Harvard between 2009 to 2014 were either recruited athletes, legacies, applicants on the ‘dean’s interest list’ (those connected to donors), and children of faculty and staff, categories that are considered favorably in admissions. Among Black, Latinx and Asian students admitted, less than 16% of each group benefited from those preferences. The study also revealed, more shockingly, that 75% of the white students who were admitted under one of these privileged categories would have been rejected had they not been given those bonus points.”

Elite Colleges Covet Gender Parity at Expense of Many Female Applicants

And how about the gender component of the argument? As Jeffrey Selingo writes in a Wall Street Journal piece published this week entitled “The Secrets of Elite College Admissions,” “The shaping process, like competitive admissions overall, is particularly tough on qualified women. Men represent less than 45% of students at American colleges, and schools pay attention to gender balance. Among the tentative admits changed by the committee for the Northeast region was a girl with an A average and 1500 on the SAT who wanted to major in prelaw. She ran track in middle school and made the varsity soccer team as a sophomore. One admissions officer found the recommendations lacking because they focused on her personal qualities instead of what happened in the classroom. ‘I like her, if we have room,’ someone said. ‘Well, we don’t,’ said another.”

Poking Holes in the White Male Disadvantage in Elite College Admissions

So how exactly are white male applicants discriminated against in highly selective college admissions? Are we supposed to not acknowledge all of the white applicants who receive preferential treatment in admissions because of their legacy status or because they’re recruited athletes or the children of major donors? Are we supposed to not acknowledge that universities have to admit males — at the expense of more deserving females — to create gender parity? No issue on our college admissions blog inspires more heated conversation. Post a Comment below and we’ll be sure to jump in on the attacks. And by attacks, we mean conversation.


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  • James says:

    I think the frustration is that if
    you a poor white boy from eastern kentucky you have no chance of going to an ivy league school because you add nothing to the diversity. You ‘ don’t check any of the boxes’. If you are a poor minority you are at least on the radar.

    • Ivy Coach says:

      False. A students from the underrepresented state of Kentucky checks an important box for our nation’s elite universities: geographic diversity.

  • Charlie Driver says:

    I really think that inclusion and diversity should always apply to all races and not just the minorities. College and universities should strive for educational equity regardless of the race. In my opinion, most people and mainly media pushes the narrative for colleges and universities for mainly minorities ONLY, leaving the white male feeling excluded.

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Hi Charlie,

      We removed your admissions company’s name since this is not a forum for advertising your firm. But, as an admissions consultant, really? The “white male” is at a disadvantage? You do realize that males are underrepresented in elite college admissions, giving them an edge over female applicants, right?

  • James says:

    Hi Ivy Coach,

    The issue that I am finding with your argument is that I don’t believe you are considering the 25% (as per your article) of white students who do not benefit from the privileged categories. Although this number is greater for minorities, it does not change the fact that a white male with the same qualifications as a black male but who both do not benefit from the privilege of any of your aforementioned categories would have less of a chance to get into a specific school. Just because 75% of the white admits have a leg up does not mean that all 100% need to be penalized. Would it not be better to have affirmative action in favor of students who do not come from privileged circumstances, as opposed to simply being in favor of minorities? Please provide me with feedback about anything you consider to be incorrect.

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