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A MUST READ: WSJ - Is Admissions Bar Higher for Asians At Elite Schools?

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School Standards Are Probed

Even as Enrollment Increases;

A Bias Claim at Princeton

By DANIEL GOLDEN

November 11, 2006; Page A1

Though Asian-Americans constitute only about 4.5% of the U.S. population, they typically account for anywhere from 10% to 30% of students at many of the nation's elite colleges.

Even so, based on their outstanding grades and test scores, Asian-Americans increasingly say their enrollment should be much higher -- a contention backed by a growing body of evidence.

Whether elite colleges give Asian-American students a fair shake is becoming a big concern in college-admissions offices. Federal civil-rights officials are investigating charges by a top Chinese-American student that he was rejected by Princeton University last spring because of his race and national origin.

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Meanwhile, voter attacks on admissions preferences for other minority groups -- as well as research indicating colleges give less weight to high test scores of Asian-American applicants -- may push schools to boost Asian enrollment. Tuesday, Michigan voters approved a ballot measure striking down admissions preferences for African-Americans and Hispanics. The move is expected to benefit Asian applicants to state universities there -- as similar initiatives have done in California and Washington.

If the same measure is passed in coming years in Illinois, Missouri and Oregon -- where opponents of such preferences say they plan to introduce it -- Asian-American enrollment likely would climb at selective public universities in those states as well.

During the Michigan campaign, a group that opposes affirmative action released a study bolstering claims that Asian students are held to a higher standard. The study, by the Center for Equal Opportunity, in Virginia, found that Asian applicants admitted to the University of Michigan in 2005 had a median SAT score of 1400 on the 400-1600 scale then in use. That was 50 points higher than the median score of white students who were accepted, 140 points higher than that of Hispanics and 240 points higher than that of blacks.

Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity, said universities are "legally vulnerable" to challenges from rejected Asian-American applicants.

Princeton, where Asian-Americans constitute about 13% of the student body, faces such a challenge. A spokesman for the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights said it is investigating a complaint filed by Jian Li, now a 17-year-old freshman at Yale University. Despite racking up the maximum 2400 score on the SAT and 2390 -- 10 points below the ceiling -- on SAT2 subject tests in physics, chemistry and calculus, Mr. Li was spurned by three Ivy League universities, Stanford University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Office for Civil Rights initially rejected Mr. Li's complaint due to "insufficient" evidence. Mr. Li appealed, citing a white high-school classmate admitted to Princeton despite lower test scores and grades. The office notified him late last month that it would look into the case.

His complaint seeks to suspend federal financial assistance to Princeton until the university "discontinues discrimination against Asian-Americans in all forms by eliminating race preferences, legacy preferences, and athlete preferences." Legacy preference is the edge most elite colleges, including Princeton, give to alumni children. The Office for Civil Rights has the power to terminate such financial aid but usually works with colleges to resolve cases rather than taking enforcement action.

Mr. Li, who emigrated to the U.S. from China as a 4-year-old and graduated from a public high school in Livingston, N.J., said he hopes his action will set a precedent for other Asian-American students. He wants to "send a message to the admissions committee to be more cognizant of possible bias, and that the way they're conducting admissions is not really equitable," he said.

Princeton spokeswoman Cass Cliatt said the university is aware of the complaint and will provide the Office for Civil Rights with information it has requested. Princeton has said in the past that it considers applicants as individuals and doesn't discriminate against Asian-Americans.

When elite colleges began practicing affirmative action in the late 1960s and 1970s, they gave an admissions boost to Asian-American applicants as well as blacks and Hispanics. As the percentage of Asian-Americans in elite schools quickly overtook their slice of the U.S. population, many colleges stopped giving them preference -- and in some cases may have leaned the other way.

In 1990, a federal investigation concluded that Harvard University admitted Asian-American applicants at a lower rate than white students despite the Asians' slightly stronger test scores and grades. Federal investigators also found that Harvard admissions staff had stereotyped Asian-American candidates as quiet, shy and oriented toward math and science. The government didn't bring charges because it concluded it was Harvard's preferences for athletes and alumni children -- few of whom were Asian -- that accounted for the admissions gap.

The University of California came under similar scrutiny at about the same time. In 1989, as the federal government was investigating alleged Asian-American quotas at UC's Berkeley campus, Berkeley's chancellor apologized for a drop in Asian enrollment. The next year, federal investigators found that the mathematics department at UCLA had discriminated against Asian-American graduate school applicants. In 1992, Berkeley's law school agreed under federal pressure to drop a policy that limited Asian enrollment by comparing Asian applicants against each other rather than the entire applicant pool.

Asian-American enrollment at Berkeley has increased since California voters banned affirmative action in college admissions. Berkeley accepted 4,122 Asian-American applicants for this fall's freshman class -- nearly 42% of the total admitted. That is up from 2,925 in 1997, or 34.6%, the last year before the ban took effect. Similarly, Asian-American undergraduate enrollment at the University of Washington rose to 25.4% in 2004 from 22.1% in 1998, when voters in that state prohibited affirmative action in college admissions.

The University of Michigan may be poised for a similar leap in Asian-American enrollment, now that voters in that state have banned affirmative action. The Center for Equal Opportunity study found that, among applicants with a 1240 SAT score and 3.2 grade point average in 2005, the university admitted 10% of Asian-Americans, 14% of whites, 88% of Hispanics and 92% of blacks. Asian applicants to the university's medical school also faced a higher admissions bar than any other group.

Julie Peterson, spokeswoman for the University of Michigan, said the study was flawed because many applicants take the ACT test instead of the SAT, and standardized test scores are only one of various tools used to evaluate candidates. "I utterly reject the conclusion" that the university discriminates against Asian-Americans, she said. Asian-Americans constitute 12.6% of the university's undergraduates.

Jonathan Reider, director of college counseling at San Francisco University High School, said most elite colleges' handling of Asian applicants has become fairer in recent years. Mr. Reider, a former Stanford admissions official, said Stanford staffers were dismayed 20 years ago when an internal study showed they were less likely to admit Asian applicants than comparable whites. As a result, he said, Stanford strived to eliminate unconscious bias and repeated the study every year until Asians no longer faced a disadvantage.

Last month, Mr. Reider participated in a panel discussion at a college-admissions conference. It was titled, "Too Asian?" and explored whether colleges treat Asian applicants differently.

Precise figures of Asian-American representation at the nation's top schools are hard to come by. Don Joe, an attorney and activist who runs Asian-American Politics, an Internet site that tracks enrollment, puts the average proportion of Asian-Americans at 25 top colleges at 15.9% in 2005, up from 10% in 1992.

Still, he said, he is hearing more complaints "from Asian-American parents about how their children have excellent grades and scores but are being rejected by the most selective colleges. It appears to be an open secret."

Mr. Li, who said he was in the top 1% of his high-school class and took five advanced placement courses in his senior year, left blank the questions on college applications about his ethnicity and place of birth. "It seemed very irrelevant to me, if not offensive," he said. Mr. Li, who has permanent resident status in the U.S., did note that his citizenship, first language and language spoken at home were Chinese.

Along with Yale, he won admission to the California Institute of Technology, Rutgers University and the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. He said four schools -- Princeton, Harvard, Stanford and the University of Pennsylvania -- placed him on their waiting lists before rejecting him. "I was very close to being accepted at these schools," he said. "I was thinking, had my ethnicity been different, it would have put me over the top. Even if race had just a marginal effect, it may have disadvantaged me."

He ultimately focused his complaint against Princeton after reading a 2004 study by three Princeton researchers concluding that an Asian-American applicant needed to score 50 points higher on the SAT than other applicants to have the same change of admission to an elite university.

"As an Asian-American and a native of China, my chances of admission were drastically reduced," Mr. Li claims in his complaint.

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For you Asians out there that went to college, planning on applying to college, or are currently in college. What are your thoughts? I know the university I went to capped the % of Asians at 25% for the longest time.

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I gotta wonder what else was on his application. I mean... we all know that grades and SAT scores aren't the only thing schools are looking for.

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Interesting extra curriculars, an great college entrance essay, good recommendations, and all sort of other things are actually becoming far and away more important to colleges every year.

Standardized testing is slowly being phased out of important as it's really not representative of anything about the people who take them.

Personally, I can name several friends with incredible arts portfolios who got into many schools that their average to only fairly-impressive GPAs would have usually precluded them from, often in front of people who scored higher on SATs and grades and may have lacked other... things.

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it amy be a bit off topic but i thought it'd be interesting to share: in italy it doesn't matter at all if you had extracurriculars, you don't even have to write an essay to get in, you just take an admission test. it doesn't matter if you get i high or low score, it matters only if you get the sufficiency. depends on the career chosen but the difficulty level is pretty high in scientific majors, so that's what they use to weed out the people who enroll 'just because'..

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it amy be a bit off topic but i thought it'd be interesting to share: in italy it doesn't matter at all if you had extracurriculars, you don't even have to write an essay to get in, you just take an admission test. it doesn't matter if you get i high or low score, it matters only if you get the sufficiency. depends on the career chosen but the difficulty level is pretty high in scientific majors, so that's what they use to weed out the people who enroll 'just because'..

Actually this is how it works with much of the rest of the world. Test mean everything in most Asian countries. I know many of my Chinese / Japanese / Korean / Indian friends spent most of their childhood studying for entrance exams to get into their top National schools. Passing beyond certain sufficiency levels allows you a seat in certain majors. I oversaw two Chinese interns this past summer at my firm who are from Fudan university; probably the best or second best university in all of China. I think the admission rate there is less than 1% now, since there are so many Chinese who want to get into too few spots. In any event, I was really impressed by their resumes because they had much financial background courses and took several certification exams. But when I started to actually work with them, they couldn't even explain to me how a bond worked. Needless to say, they told me that they're very good at cramming/remembering things for a test but soon forget everything they learn....

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^

There lies the difference between education and knowledge, rajio. Some people do very well at school but never assimilate the teachings, while others don't perform as well at school, but they understand the concepts. The first looks good on paper, but performs usually pretty badly after school. Maybe I'm too tired, sorry if this doesn't make any sense, I don't have and education nor do I have knowledge, sadly.

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^

There lies the difference between education and knowledge, rajio. Some people do very well at school but never assimilate the teachings, while others don't perform as well at school, but they understand the concepts. The first looks good on paper, but performs usually pretty badly after school. Maybe I'm too tired, sorry if this doesn't make any sense, I don't have and education nor do I have knowledge, sadly.

while this comforts me somewhat, with my graduation coming up in may, it still scares me that my less than exceptional grades (still above a 3.0) and lack of internships due to running collegiately are going to play major factors in getting my foot in the door.

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are asians the new jews? (ie hated coz of their ability to suceed)

off topic, in london asians refer to indians/pakistanis and the trem orientlas is used to describe our yellow skined chums

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i wonder where the figures in the chart are from and how accurate they are, because at my own school and at several schools i've visited, most of them mentioned in the article, asians completely outnumber blacks and hispanics, combined, hands down.

there's a little bullshitting going on with this article- i think they're exaggerating the problem. competition is fierce- and if you examine the subset of excellent asian students, they're all competing country-wide to get into a finite number of spots.

so, for the sake of what exactly should they increase the number of spots that that

are open, the bruised egos of a few intelligent students who don't yet realize that what you do with your time in college is more important than what particular college you do it at?

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Well when schools are being inundated with Male Asian-American applicants then it becomes an issue of diversity. Every school says they want to be diverse and right now that category of Asian American applicants is huge compared to other groups such as Hispanics, and even White males (or so I hear).

It's just like if a white person wasnt accepted because an equal applicant of Native American descent also applied, except right now Asian Americans are the least "diverse" applicants I guess.

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Well when schools are being inundated with Male Asian-American applicants then it becomes an issue of diversity. Every school says they want to be diverse and right now that category of Asian American applicants is huge compared to other groups such as Hispanics, and even White males (or so I hear).

It's just like if a white person wasnt accepted because an equal applicant of Native American descent also applied, except right now Asian Americans are the least "diverse" applicants I guess.

exactly. which, in my estimation, is not a reason to go and call racism on all the universities. each university is allowed to try to balance out its student body any way it can. they're focusing on a negative consequence of something positive.

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For you Asians out there that went to college, planning on applying to college, or are currently in college. What are your thoughts? I know the university I went to capped the % of Asians at 25% for the longest time.

i support affirmative action even though it may work against me. i didn't read the thread or the replies yet.

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Interesting extra curriculars, an great college entrance essay, good recommendations, and all sort of other things are actually becoming far and away more important to colleges every year.

Standardized testing is slowly being phased out of important as it's really not representative of anything about the people who take them.

Personally, I can name several friends with incredible arts portfolios who got into many schools that their average to only fairly-impressive GPAs would have usually precluded them from, often in front of people who scored higher on SATs and grades and may have lacked other... things.

while it's getting better, i don't think it's true. and you're talking about art schools i assume- or at least art programs if they're sharing their portfolio. scores matter if you're sat/act/gpa is lacking your application can be thrown out quite easily. the college and graduate admission process is still a classist system - those who can afford the time and money to take a prep course will usually come out on top.

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the college and graduate admission process is still a classist system - those who can afford the time and money to take a prep course will usually come out on top.

too true. or, the time and money to dedicate to a desired school before applying.

have a grant, harvard- but take my nephew, too.

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i think there might be some merit to this

though my experience is pretty limited

i ended up waitlisted at columbia while two non-asian peers with lower sats (i and ii), lower gpas, generally less character, fewer extracurriculars, and loads less charisma got in (they fit the "asian" cram and purge stereotype far better than i did)

:mad:

however i was the only one at my school to get into ucla (asian or otherwise)

and i imagine like half of all applicants there are asam

i'm glad to hear that civil rights officials have begun to look into something a lot of us have suspected for years (at least as far as standardized testing scores go, it is irrefutable that asians are held to a higher standard than anyone else)

plenty of people reject any suggestion of racial preferences, claiming that "standardized tests and grades aren't everything", which i certainly agree with, but they constitute the bulk each of thousands of largely faceless applications

sure there are extracurricular lists and essays, but from firsthand experience i've realized that essays are pretty inconsequential, i got into most of my schools (including bc, ucla, nyu) with some extemporaneous web application prompt garbage

i didn't even write essays for rutgers or tulane

i can't agree with the idea of suing a school over a rejection though

thousands of apps come in, each of which can only give the slightest idea of the applicant's personality and potential

i figure admissions is mostly educated guesswork

racist or not, i definitely agree with onemancult in his contention that it's what you do more than where you go

in a completely unrelated note fuck columbia and fuck stanford

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in a completely unrelated note fuck columbia and fuck stanford

I always think its funny that I have a bunch of coworkers that went to cornell and MIT and the like, while I went to some middle tier UC campus and do the same work and make as much money as they do :P

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^There lies the difference between education and knowledge, rajio. Some people do very well at school but never assimilate the teachings, while others don't perform as well at school, but they understand the concepts. The first looks good on paper, but performs usually pretty badly after school. Maybe I'm too tired, sorry if this doesn't make any sense, I don't have and education nor do I have knowledge, sadly.
It's very true I think, my father in law and I talk about this often. He never had formal education before becoming an engineer, he just signed on a a technician after getting out of the Air Force and learned the trade. He has worked himself up very high, and now has many people under him, and he often tells me that it's touch and go as to who is a good engineer. A lot of the 4.0's can't do anything, and a lot of the ones with like 3.0's are excellent engineers.I really do believe it's a matter of being able to retain the knowledge, I may not be the best in school, but I have a very good grasp of the things I'm interested in, mainly physics and such.I hate the racial profiles and affirmative action things schools have to go through now to prove they are not discriminating, because they miss out on getting really good people into their programs. My personal belief is that the best school should get the best students, period. Doesn't matter race, creed, underwear color, whatever, if the person is highly intellgent, a good student, and capable of handling the load, they deserve a spot, if there are 3 applicants who are equal and only one spot to fill, the first one who submitted should get the spot, that's it.
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in a completely unrelated note fuck columbia and fuck stanford

Stanford was very good to me. I think now the student population is half minorities now but definitely the level of calibar of the Asian population was much higher than that of the Hispanics and Blacks. That said, I majored in Computer Science and even if the undergraduate population was 50% minority, the majority of engineering undergrads were/are still white and asian males. Basically, you can lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink.

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I think the issue you're missing Keri is that colleges want diversity, and as there is a cultural aspect to race, colleges like to invite people with many different interests and backgrounds. Typically, I say. That's why they do have to do a certain level of jumping through hoops, because culture and background is an issue to them.

If there are three applicants who are equal and only one spot to fill and two of them are asian males, and you've already accepted two hundred other male asian students, why not accept an african female instead, even if she was the last to submit?

Just my way of looking at it.

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Basically, you can lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink.

i actually chuckled aloud when i read that

not sure if that makes me a jerk

honestly though, i am absolutely enamoured with stanford and their approach to higher education

i actually considered applying for a second year transfer before i decided alcoholism was more fun

someday i hope to end up in the bay area after i've had my fill of globetrotting

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Basically, you can lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink.

I think they should... at least through some sort of incentivization. Certain professions aren't encouraged by peoples' cultures, I sometimes wish universities would make an effort to bridge that particular gap, too.

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I think that the universities don't want their schools to become like UCLA or UCI. Now, I understand why they wouldn't, but I still don't think that anything can warrant racism. This is an injustice to the students - of whatever race - that were rejected simply on grounds of ethnicity.

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since we are on this topic

does anyone know what sorta GRE score i'll need to get if i am aiming for universities like Stanford, Berkeley, etc

or they have some tips to offer me

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since we are on this topic

does anyone know what sorta GRE score i'll need to get if i am aiming for universities like Stanford, Berkeley, etc

or they have some tips to offer me

my little brother is in the prospect of applying to master programs, he's, like you, aiming for top schools. he was told about roughly 10% of ppl taking the GRE get perfect score (think it's 800, but not sure) in the quantitative portion and that if you want to make it to a top school, you need perfect or close to perfect score in that portion (as well as high score in the other). with that being said, your GRE score is only A factor in your admission, grade, essay, extra-curricular and recommendations do also matters. i'm sure some kind of magazine publish the average GRE score (i know you can find average and median GMAT score for MBA). anyway, i was told the GRE is not that hard, my brother didn't have time to study for more than maybe an hour or 2 and got perfect score in the quantitative portion and really high in the other...

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since we are on this topic

does anyone know what sorta GRE score i'll need to get if i am aiming for universities like Stanford, Berkeley, etc

or they have some tips to offer me

What program are you planning on applying to? In psychology, my field, the most important thing about an applicant (in addition to grades and GRE score, though they're a lot less important that you might think) is how his or her research interests line up with faculty members at the target school and letters of recommendation.

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Why do colleges want diversity?

Fuck I wish I was black.

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while it's getting better, i don't think it's true. and you're talking about art schools i assume- or at least art programs if they're sharing their portfolio. scores matter if you're sat/act/gpa is lacking your application can be thrown out quite easily. the college and graduate admission process is still a classist system - those who can afford the time and money to take a prep course will usually come out on top.

there are many many schools now that are not holding the SAT's in any light anymore. It's starting at a lower level now (my old school (small new england liberal arts) has now adopted a policy that optional SAT submission and candidates who choose not to submit SAT's are supposed to not be penalized.) and all it really takes is a Harvard or Yale to follow suit, and people will start to understand the bias of SAT's. Hopkins (#1 or #2 med school flip flop) doesn't even hold the MCAT in as much light as other schools.

i ended up waitlisted at columbia while two non-asian peers with lower sats (i and ii), lower gpas, generally less character, fewer extracurriculars, and loads less charisma got in (they fit the "asian" cram and purge stereotype far better than i did)

:mad:

as a former employee of an undergraduate admissions department for a university, it scares me that you know the stats and such of the other people waitlisted ahead of you. But in saying that, if you're applying to an ivy league university, most of the stats of fellow applicants are almost identical. Obviously they're not the same, scores vary here and there, but your personal statement and interviews are make and break. I've read essays where kids are like "fuck this standard...etc" and do you think they got in? Your personal statement is the only way any admissions officer is going to know who you are, after the general screening of GPA's and SAT's, you're all the same, what sets you apart is the personal statement and the interview. So, in saying that, either they pulled some strings (college counsolers do this as their jobs) or the admission officer thought they were better candidates at said school, if you're up at that level, again, you're all the same to them.

It's very true I think, my father in law and I talk about this often. He never had formal education before becoming an engineer, he just signed on a a technician after getting out of the Air Force and learned the trade. He has worked himself up very high, and now has many people under him, and he often tells me that it's touch and go as to who is a good engineer. A lot of the 4.0's can't do anything, and a lot of the ones with like 3.0's are excellent engineers.I really do believe it's a matter of being able to retain the knowledge, I may not be the best in school, but I have a very good grasp of the things I'm interested in, mainly physics and such.I hate the racial profiles and affirmative action things schools have to go through now to prove they are not discriminating, because they miss out on getting really good people into their programs. My personal belief is that the best school should get the best students, period. Doesn't matter race, creed, underwear color, whatever, if the person is highly intellgent, a good student, and capable of handling the load, they deserve a spot, if there are 3 applicants who are equal and only one spot to fill, the first one who submitted should get the spot, that's it.

thats such a simple thing to say if you completely ignore the reasons why affirmative action were enstated in the first place.....

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