Monday 19th February 2018,

Asian Americans

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Asians Applying to Ivy League Schools Advised to Appear ‘Less Asian’

posted by Nicole Ki

Harvard Librrary

As the summer rolls in, so do SAT and ACT prep classes for many high school students. College campus tours, long road trips, and the pressure of taking the SAT and ACT mark the start of the college search.

For those high-achieving Asian Americans pursuing Ivy League and other elite university, the path may be different.  Some are advised to be “less Asian.” The Boston Globe says some refer to this as a “bamboo ceiling” or racial quota to limit the number of Asians enrolled in universities. Many high-scoring Asian American students with a perfect track record of SATs, ACTs, grades, and extra curriculars are rejected or put on the long list of students deferred.

Some families are turning to college advisors such as James Chen, founder of Asian Advantage Consulting. He calls it the “Asian penalty,” or bias towards top Asian students applying to elite universities.

Chen has clients in California, where his company is based, and in the East Coast. He advises students to change musical instruments if he sees fit or try sports out of their element, to essentially “de-emphasize the Asianness.” For the infamous personal college essay,  he tells his clients: “Don’t talk about your family coming from Vietnam with $2 in a rickety boat and swimming away from sharks.”

There is evidence that Asians are held at a higher standard than other ethnic groups in the U.S. A 2009 study conducted by the National Study of College Experience shows that Asians have to score 140 points higher than white students, 320 points higher than Hispanic students, and 450 points higher than black students on the SAT to be viewed equal to them. Forbes says that statistics show the amount of Asian applicants for Ivy League colleges has tripled since 1993, but the proportion of Asians in the student body has stayed at 18 to 20 percent.

In response to this “bamboo ceiling” many families and Asian American groups have filed federal complaints, one recently against Harvard which AsAmNews previously reported.

These lawsuits have received both support and opposition.




Harvard’s responded to a similar lawsuit in 2014 that the institution has a “holistic” process of admissions and has a “strong” record of admitting Asian American students.

“Then and now, the College considers each applicant through an individualized, holistic review having the goal of creating a vibrant academic community that exposes students to a wide-range of differences:  background, ideas, experiences, talents and aspirations, ” Robert Iuliano, Havard University General Counsel, said in the statement.

The admissions process for many elite universities is vague and controversial to many. Asian Advantage Consulting and other companies  that use the strategy of making their clients appear less Asian have succeeded in some cases.  Those who oppose affirmative action find the need to do this alarming.

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