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The views and opinions expressed on this site and blog posts (excluding comments on blog posts left by others) are entirely my own and do not represent those of any employer or organization with whom I am currently or previously have been associated.

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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

October 12, 2006

Written by C.N.

Asian Americans Applying for College: Too Asian?

Is it an advantage or disadvantage to be applying for college as an Asian American? This was one of the questions asked at the recent annual conference of the National Association for College Admission Counseling. As Inside Higher Education reports, meeting’s participants had plenty to say in regard to how Asian Americans are treated compared to other groups when it comes to applying for college admissions:

“Rachel, for an Asian, has many friends.” That’s the kind of line that apparently is turning up more and more in letters of recommendation on behalf of Asian American applicants to top colleges. . . . [M]any in the audience at first seemed angry that in 2006 people would reference race in that way. But when it came time for audience comments, one high school counselor said that counselors feel they have no choice but to mention students’ Asian status and to try to make it seem like their Asian students are different from other Asian students.

“We make those comparisons because we feel it’s the only way we can get through and get our students looked at,” said the counselor, to knowing nods from others in the audience. Many Asian students and their families have for years believed that quotas or bias hinder their chances at top Ivy or California universities. But to listen to panelists — and members of a standing room only audience — the intensity of concern has grown, as has mistrust of the system. . . .

Based on working with institutions where Asian enrollment exceed 25 percent — something that is increasingly common at elite publics in California and top universities elsewhere — she said she hears lots of talk about admissions officers who complain about “yet another Asian student who wants to major in math and science and who plays the violin” or people who say “I don’t want another boring Asian.”

As previous studies have argued and as this article also describes, for whatever reasons, Asian American applicants are evaluated using a different and arbitrarily higher set of standards than other applicants. In other words, the reason why the admissions rates for Asian American applicants is the lowest among all major racial groups is because of racial discrimination, plain and simple.

I can appreciate that colleges don’t want a campus full of students who want to major in math and science and who play the violin. At the same time, I think it’s disgraceful, unacceptable, and yes, racist for college administrators to automatically assume that even if many of their Asian American applicants want to major in math and science and play violin, that they do have any other unique or interesting qualities, interests, or life experiences.

Beyond the simple fact that the category of “Asian American” itself contains many diverse ethnic groups, even Asian Americans who share similar majors can be quite diverse in many other ways. With this in mind, college administrators who reject Asian American applicants based solely on this superficial and misguided criteria are perpetrating racial discrimination based on biased and prejudicial assumptions, pure and simple.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Asian Americans Applying for College: Too Asian?" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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