Asian-American Students React to Admission Bias

Two recent stories from the Associated Press and the Chronicle of Higher Education report a disturbing consequence of race-oriented college admissions.  More and more Asian American high school students believe that the admissions process is geared against them, and as a result an increasing number do not record their race as “Asian” on the application form.

Both pieces begin with the simple fact that Asian students need much higher SAT scores than white students (and much, much more than African American and Hispanic applicants) to secure admission.  Asian American high school students respond rationally by concealing their racial identity.  If they are half-Asian and half-white, they choose white.  If they are 100% Asian, they simply leave the race box empty.  The irony is thick: being white or being nothing is better than being Asian.

An added irony in the Chronicle story is how all the administrators interviewed for the article deny the obvious.  An Asian senior at Wootton High School outside DC (where I went to high school for a few years) states bluntly, “Definitely Asians are being held to a higher standard by admissions offices.”  But the college counselor at Wootton “was surprised to hear students’ sense that they are held to a higher standard.  ‘It’s interesting that they believe that,’ she says. ‘I don’t.'”  She didn’t know they believe that?  And given the numbers, it “surprises” her?

The dean of admissions at University of Virginia complicates the numbers by citing “holistic admissions,” and notes that it is “hard to understand from the outside.”  Indeed it is.

But the most disturbing quotation comes from another Asian senior at Wootton, who justified the entire enterprise even though it works against her: “I don’t blame the colleges.  I can see it from their point of view.  They want to have a diverse college.”


  • Mark Bauerlein

    Mark Bauerlein is a professor emeritus of English at Emory University and an editor at First Things, where he hosts a podcast twice a week. He is the author of five books, including The Dumbest Generation Grows Up: From Stupefied Youth to Dangerous Adults.

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