There was recently an editorial on the pages of “The New York Times” written by Yascha Mounk entitled “Is Harvard Unfair to Asian-Americans?” that we figured we’d write a bit about for our readers. If you’re a regular reader of our college admissions blog, you know well what our answer to the question in the editorial’s headline is. And that is: Absolutely! Harvard is absolutely unfair to Asian-American (and Asian) applicants. We’ve been writing about this for a long time. But it’s not just Harvard. Every highly selective college in America is unfair to its Asian-American (and Asian) applicants. These applicants are by all means discriminated against in the highly selective college admissions process. A recent lawsuit brought against Harvard for their admissions practices simply singles Harvard out. But Harvard is but one of many offenders. And by many offenders, we really mean that they’re all offenders.
As Mounk writes in the editorial, “A new lawsuit filed on behalf of Asian-American applicants offers strong evidence that Harvard engages in racial ‘balancing.’ Admissions numbers for each racial and ethnic group have remained strikingly similar, year to year. Damningly, those rare years in which an unusually high number of Asians were admitted were followed by years in which especially few made the cut. The most common defense of the status quo is that many Asian-American applicants do well on tests but lack intangible qualities like originality or leadership. As early as 1988, William R. Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, said that they were ‘slightly less strong on extracurricular criteria.'”
While it may not have been politically correct for Harvard’s dean of admissions to say this (he said this quite a while ago), we never believe that people should get in trouble for speaking the truth. Is he lumping a whole group of people together? Yes, he is. But stereotypes are often based, in part, on truths. The fact is that to this day, Asian and Asian-American applicants all too often do the same extracurricular activities as…other Asian and Asian-American applicants. While saying this might be controversial, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. And we’re saying it in 2014, years after Dean Fitzsimmons made his comments. At Ivy Coach, we help distinguish Asian and Asian-American applicants in the highly selective college admissions process and one way we help do this is by helping them find a hook that sets them apart.