Are College Admissions Tougher On Asians?

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Former Yale admission counselor Kara Miller argues in the Boston Globe that Asian-American students are unfairly discriminated against in college admissions. "[M]ost elite universities appear determined to keep their Asian-American totals in a narrow range," she writes. "In a country built on individual liberty and promise, that feels deeply unfair." She pegs this to Asian-American SAT scores, which are statistically high.

Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade, who reviewed data from 10 elite colleges, writes in "No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal'' that Asian applicants typically need an extra 140 points to compete with white students. In fact, according to Princeton lecturer Russell Nieli, there may be an "Asian ceiling'' at Princeton, a number above which the admissions office refuses to venture. [...]

A few years ago, however, when I worked as a reader for Yale's Office of Undergraduate Admissions, it became immediately clear to me that Asians - who constitute 5 percent of the US population - faced an uphill slog. They tended to get excellent scores, take advantage of AP offerings, and shine in extracurricular activities. Frequently, they also had hard-knock stories: families that had immigrated to America under difficult circumstances, parents working as kitchen assistants and store clerks, and households in which no English was spoken. But would Yale be willing to make 50 percent of its freshman class Asian? Probably not.

Miller acknowledges that  SAT scores aren't the whole story, and it's difficult to prove that elite colleges are really symptomatic of the entire U.S. educational system. Are college admission tougher on Asian-American applicants?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.