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Do Not Apply To College as an Asian

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When it comes to college admissions, there are certain groups that have significant advantages: the extraordinarily wealthy, children of the politically powerful, celebrities, children of alumni, faculty children, recruited athletes, and underrepresented minorities. There is also the socioeconomic upper class, which while not receiving any special consideration in the application process, do have the benefit of better schools, expanded opportunities for growth, and expensive test prep that helps them stand out relative to their middle class and lower income peers.

With all these advantaged groups, there has to be some groups that get the short end of the stick. The largest and one that we hear most often about from a political perspective are middle class and low-income whites. And while they have it tough, no group in America has anywhere near the hurdles to admissions as Asian Americans do.  Asian applicants are put at a huge disadvantage through no morally justifiable reason. While you may be able make a case for all the advantages that other groups receive in terms of what is in the best immediate interest of the schools (e.g., financial considerations, diversity, athletic performance) or “righting the wrongs of the past”, Asians are penalized for nothing more than performing too well historically as a collective group academically.

The bias against Asians manifests itself in a deliberately methodological process in which Asians are expected to outperform all other groups.  For example, Thomas Espenshade of Princeton University conducted a study on biases in college admissions in which he found that compared to white students on the old 1600 point scale, Blacks have an admission advantage of 310 SAT points (meaning that a 1150 SAT for a Black applicant was equivalent to a 1460 for a white student), while Hispanics received a 130 SAT point advantage, but Asians face a 140 SAT point disadvantage. Put another way, an Asian would need a perfect 1600 SAT score to compete with the Black applicant with an 1150 SAT score and the white applicant with a 1460 SAT score.

The bias against Asians also manifests itself in subconscious ways. According to Daniel Golden’s book The Price of Admission, in addition to the elevated academic expectations, Asians also get dinged for perceived social shortcomings.  In 1990, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights looked into Harvard University’s practice of admitting a lower percentage of Asians than whites despite their stronger SAT scores and grades and found that Harvard admissions ranked Asians lower than whites on “personal qualities”, portraying them as one-dimensional, quantitatively oriented doctor wannabes.

Given all of the challenges of the application process, it would make sense for applicants to not apply as Asians. If your name is Chen, Gupta or Park, that is going to be hard to escape, and I wouldn’t recommend formally changing your name for the sake of college admissions.  However, when it comes to self-identifying ethnicity, one should never check off Asian-American.  If possible, check multi-racial.  If not possible, leave it blank. There are other ways to not apply as Asian though

Another way to not apply as an Asian is to turn upside down the cultural misconceptions that Harvard’s admissions department holds. The Multiple Intelligences theory can serve as a good guide for doing so. Because Asians are seen as math heavy (strong logical-mathematical intelligence), to round them out in the eyes of the admissions committee it makes sense to develop any linguistic strengths that your child may have. Likewise, instead of forcing your children to master the piano or violin like so many others, help them identify their preferred musical activities (e.g., singing), or let them focus on other activities that they may be stronger at such as dancing or competitive athletics (spatial and bodily-kinesthetic intelligences).  To combat the introvert stereotype, if they have strong interpersonal intelligence allow them to get involved in community activities or political work where they can bring people together to accomplish something they care about.

There’s nothing wrong with being an Asian in any respect except from an admissions perspective. The standards rise much higher for Asians, particularly at the most selective colleges.  As with virtually all things education, the best way to meet those expectations and stand out from the crowd is through homeschooling. Unlike traditional schools which will track kids and put them into boxes, homeschooling allows Asian parents to develop the interests and talents of their children without the hamstringing them by social stereotypes.

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