Many Asian Americans feel that an objective analysis of admissions data of most elite colleges would reveal evidence of discrimination against Asian American applicants. A notable exception to this finding would be the University of California system, including Caltech and Berkeley, which outlawed the use of race as a factor in admissions in 1996. Admission to these schools is based on a meritocratic and objective standard, and Asian American enrollment has increased in line with the growth of the Asian American population. However, UC is a public institution, and the legislature and the voters determine its policies.
In contrast, elite private institutions such as Ivy League and other top-tier colleges and universities devise their own admissions policies. This is the core of the issue for Asian Americans. These schools have adopted a holistic approach to admissions, which means that they consider more than just academic achievement, and their most valued non-academic attribute is how an applicant adds diversity to the student body. Their rationale for seeking diversity is that it broadens the experience of all students and better prepares them for a pluralistic world.
To be considered for acceptance at a highly selective school, applicants must possess strong numbers, i.e., high GPAs in rigorous curriculums and high test scores. Since more applicants have sufficiently high numbers than can be accepted, other more esoteric and subjective factors are considered to separate out the best of the best applicants and, at the same time, to achieve the desired degree of diversity.
In seeking diversity, Ivy admissions officials may become interested in a farmer from Wichita, a skier from Oslo, a math prodigy from Bakersfield, a short story writer from Boston, or a decorated veteran from Phoenix. Officials will consider them for ways in which they may enrich their campus communities to encourage interaction among people of different backgrounds with a variety of life stories, talents, goals, viewpoints, and interests.
It seems to some Asian American applicants that the admissions process at ultra-selective private colleges and universities has treated them unfairly. There have been applicants with perfect or nearly perfect SAT/ACT scores and a GPA of 4.0 who have excelled in high quality high schools with advanced curricula, yet have been rejected by Ivy League schools. As the mother of one such student said, “We came for the American dream: you work hard… you do well. This just doesn’t add up.”
What makes it add up is the quest for diversity, which works against Asian American applicants. A great many Asian American students excel in all aspects of academics and they compile records that fully reflect their success. They quite reasonably consider themselves worthy of acceptance at Ivy League and other elite institutions, so they apply in large numbers. So many of them apply that if an institution were to accept all Asian American applicants with excellent numbers it would prevent the degree of diversity that these institutions value so highly. This is clearly unfair to Asian Americans but, given that these are private institutions, it may not be possible to get them to modify their policies.
IvySelect has had substantial experience assisting Asian American students, so we are particularly sensitive to this problem. We work hard to get past the ethnic issue by guiding our students in discovering, enhancing, and ultimately strategically reflecting their distinguishing talents and abilities in their applications. We advise students on proven ways to elevate their personal profile above the crowd. In other words, we make the search for diversity work for the Asian American student instead of against him or her. As a result, IvySelect has had a great deal of success in gaining admission for our Asian American students into all Ivy League schools, Stanford, MIT, Duke, and other very highly selective institutions.
It is extremely difficult to get accepted by an Ivy League school or similarly elite institution. Unfortunately, it’s even more difficult for Asian Americans due to the high number of well-qualified applicants from the Indian-American, Chinese- American, and Korean-American communities. At IvySelect, as professional college admissions consultants, we work hard to shape a unique and highly interesting persona for each of our students. They become three-dimensional figures who appeal to admissions officials not only for their academic excellence, but also for the tremendous value that they will bring to the school’s community.