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Fri, December 2, 2022 | 11:54
Battling the Asian Quota at the Ivy League: College Applications at Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford
Date : 2014-03-12 / Hit : 11737

Asian Americans comprise a little over 5% of the U.S. population, and there’s little question that they dominate high schools academically, especially in the STEM fields, but why isn’t that academic excellence reflected in the percentage of Asians at elite American universities?

Asian American performance in high school:

- National Merit Semifinalists nationwide - 26% Asian
- math olympiad team - 72% asian
- physics olympiad team - 81% asian
- intel talent search finalists - 64% asian

The disparity between Asian American academic dominance in high school and their representation at elite colleges:

- Harvard - 16% asian
- Yale - 14% asian

- Caltech, a school that admits based on 100% merit - 39% asian
- Berkeley, post ban on Affirmative Action - 40% Asian

Provocative quotes from admissions officers at elite Ivy League schools:

- "Asian Americans are the new Jews, inheriting the mantle of the most disenfranchised group in college admissions."

- "Asians are very good students, but they don't provide the kind of intellectual environment that Jewish students provide."

- "Yet another textureless Asian math grind…"

- “So if you come off as just another Asian math genius with no personality, then it’s going to be tough for you. An admissions officer is not going to push very hard for you.”

Common perceptions that elite colleges have of Asian American applicants:

1. Asians are notorious for being pre-professionally oriented, often majoring in premed(bio/humbio)/engineering/business and blowing off liberal arts.

2. Asians tend to have a homogeneous set of extra-curricular interests, such as the stereotypically Asian EC's like tennis/violin/math team. Unfortunately, Harvard isn’t going to want 400 Asian premeds/engineers who excel at piano/tennis/math in its freshman class of 1,600; they are “building a class,” and 400 Asian premeds/engineers are not on the list of goals.

3. Many elite colleges view Asians as being grade-grubbers who value grades over learning, leading to comments such as “they [Asian students] don't provide the kind of intellectual environment that Jewish students provide.”

4. Ivy League schools give applicants two scores: an academic score and a personal score reflecting qualities such as independent thought and passion. The byproduct of a fairly homogeneous immigrant Asian culture with strict parenting that values education and honoring a family’s sacrifice is that it tends not to allow for as much freedom to become independent thinkers. Unfortunately, Asians tend to rate low on the personal score, and surprisingly, on the academic score as well for reasons I’ll touch on below.

5. Asians are viewed as quiet, diligent students who don’t rock the boat. Unfortunately, this is not what elite colleges are looking for, and far too many recommendation letters reinforce this stereotype.

Common misconceptions regarding elite college admissions to mull over:

1. Thinking about applying to an elite college but not sure how to position yourself strategically to maximize both your academic score and your personal score? Think that your GPA, class rank and SAT/AP scores define your academic score? Think again.

2. Thinking of Columbia and Brown but clueless on why they attract polar opposite candidates both in terms of applicant evaluation and personality?

3. Dreaming of studying finance at Wharton or through Penn M&T, landing that first i-banking gig on Wall St., yet not sure why these Penn programs are so much harder to get into than non-Wharton Penn?

4. Dreaming of sunny Stanford but in the dark on what their supplemental essays are looking for? From that terrifyingly open-ended "What matters to you, and why?" question, to the quirky "note to your future roommate" essay to the all-important "intellectual vitality" supplement, find out how Stanford rates its applicants and why the supplemental essays make or break.

5. Thinking of studying engineering but clueless about how Duke Pratt, Columbia Fu, Cornell and CMU handle engineering admissions criteria differently from Arts & Sciences?

6. Want to be a doctor but not sure whether you are committing a faux pas by centering your application around the dreaded "premed" label?

7. To be well-rounded or not to be - if this is a question you are thinking over, you are clueless on how elite colleges build their incoming freshman class.

8. Thinking about retaking your 2170 SAT in order to "improve" it to a 2280 so that your chances to get into a top 15 school improve? You are wasting your valuable time.

If any of these questions and/or misconceptions resonate with you, I may be able to point you in the right direction. As someone with insider knowledge from the other side into how the process works at elite colleges, feel free to send me your questions.

I leave you with an article that rings true for so many hardworking Asian American applicants: