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January 9, 2009 9:10 AM   Subscribe

Dirty Secrets of College Admissions Via The Daily Beast
All of your worst suspicions confirmed.

One favorite:

“After the letters came out, one father called me to complain his son hadn’t gotten in. He said he was an advisor on several TV shows and movies. So I asked him which ones, and he told me the show 90210. Well, that was my favorite show, so I asked him to give me some good gossip. Then the next day I got this huge package filled with stuff from the TV show: original scripts, autographs, etc. And I called him up and said, ‘Thanks for the cool package, but there’s still no way your kid is getting into this college.”
posted by mecran01 (155 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
Not to split hairs, but it's not via The Daily Beast, it's from The Daily Beast. Unless you found it on The Daily Beast by way of The Daily Beast. You're not getting into my school now.
posted by ardgedee at 9:17 AM on January 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


My worst fear is that people who drop names and try to bribe their way through the admissions process fail to do so?
posted by DU at 9:20 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


When you have way, way more qualified applicants than positions, the selection process is going to be goofy almost by definition. It's crazy that missing a single problem on a math test in your freshman year of high school could keep you out of Yale or Harvard, but there you go.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:21 AM on January 9, 2009


All of your worst suspicions confirmed.

Barack Obama is a Manchurian Candidate-style zombie slave programmed by Karl Rove?
Kevin Costner is starring in a remake of Road House?
Sex is fattening?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:22 AM on January 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


I thought this was going to contain something REALLY radical and not widely known, like, for instance, "Colleges that guarentee they'll cover 100% of financial need (i.e. "need blind") for every admitted applicant, as a result often don't admit applicants solely because they can't cover 100% of their financial need."
posted by availablelight at 9:22 AM on January 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


One night, I got food poisoning at a restaurant in Buffalo. The next day, I rejected all the Buffalo applications.

Sounds fair to me. I mean, food poisoning is not fun, right?
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:25 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


After RTFA, I'm still not cowering under my bed. They have a LOT of qualified applicants. Why NOT reject boring essays? Isn't that what the essays are for? The overachiever type applicants probably applied to N places anyway.
posted by DU at 9:26 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Sex is fattening?

Only for nine months.
posted by Forktine at 9:28 AM on January 9, 2009 [42 favorites]


Boring and largely apocryphal. Everyone knows about development admits, the real question is in the mechanisms. What I want to know is what percentage of admitted students don't fill out applications. The answer to that one is the key to unlocking the bigger questions.
posted by allen.spaulding at 9:28 AM on January 9, 2009


This actually explains a lot to me, especially the part about unusual students standing out and some preference being given to first generation college applicants. I always suspected that I got into better schools than I should have considering that I didn't even think about going to college until after the start of my junior year in high school. But my grades weren't horrible, nor were my test scores, my parents didn't go to college and here I'm submitting a picture of myself with crazy gignatic hair, wearing a Carcass t-shirt, and telling them that my extracurricular activies are playing in thrash metal bands and working as a plumber's assistant. I guess I never pictured the scene in my head of the admissions officers sitting around a table laughing their asses off, like, "holy shit, get a load of this kid. We HAVE to except this fucking guy, right?"
posted by The Straightener at 9:29 AM on January 9, 2009 [20 favorites]


One bias that's mentioned a couple times is against students from the Northeast. I think that's real -- I went to high school in a place that's basically the antithesis of the Northeast, with very little competition in the area for admission into top-tier schools, and I suspect that helped me out quite a bit by making it easier to stand out.
posted by gurple at 9:30 AM on January 9, 2009


Nthing the idea that this is full of yawn. Why not reject boring essays, poetry, and excessive letters of recommendation?
posted by kingbenny at 9:30 AM on January 9, 2009


I recently applied for a Phd program at the university where I work. I obsessed and struggled over the letter of intent, really striving to justify why I thought I would be an asset to the program. It's a good program, and at the MA level it's rather competitive. So I assumed I'd have to prove my worth and I wouldn't be getting in just because I know a large number of the faculty and have worked with them over the years.

Therefore, it was a little annoying but gratifying to find out from a faculty member on the admissions committee that I was "so in" and they only glanced at my application just long enough to make sure the I's were dotted and T's crossed.

Which is why I sometimes want to tell my younger family members and friends driving themselves mad about college admissions to just chill and understand it's like the weather...sometimes it rains, sometimes it's sunny, and there's very little you can do about it but cross your fingers and adapt.
posted by teleri025 at 9:30 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think the myth out there is that there admissions decisions are based on a 100% quantifiable metric that accurately measures a student's "worth," when that is just not how the world of people works. The admissions sorting mechanisms in place are not the end, they are the means to the end, with a fairly rational and professional person at the other end who is making decisions they believe are in the best interests of the institution. If you have an emotionally compelling narrative, or you write with charisma and purpose, you are going to get a second look that someone without those qualities will not.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:32 AM on January 9, 2009


I thought I wasn't going to get into Princeton, even though I am a legacy, because of my grades. But then I turned my parents' house into a brothel for one night, made eight thousand dollars, paid it to a pimp named Guido, and got my admissions officer a freebie with a prostitute.

At least, I think that was me. A lot of what happened in the 80s has sort of bled together in my memories.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:34 AM on January 9, 2009 [17 favorites]


We HAVE to except this fucking guy, right?

Only if you trade in the Carcass t-shirt for an Accept one.
posted by joe lisboa at 9:34 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


(sorry, dude. couldn't resist.)
posted by joe lisboa at 9:34 AM on January 9, 2009


Why NOT reject boring essays?

Hell, I'd reject all the essays that actually answered one of the essay questions. Do I want to read five hundred essays on why you want to have dinner with Martin Luther King, Jr., or about the time you walked on stage in your underpants? Of course not. You should know better.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:36 AM on January 9, 2009


I think the myth out there is that there admissions decisions are based on a 100% quantifiable metric that accurately measures a student's "worth,"

This "myth" is actually confirmed by the article. They aren't making their decisions arbitrarily. They are making the marginal ones arbitrarily.

One of the first people said something about being "less charitable". I.e. the benefit of the doubt is either given or not. This is something that applies only if there is doubt.

If you've got 10 slots and 100 students that meet the "100% quantifiable metric" what are you going to do? Rolling dice is probably more fair, but in reality those 100 students are going to vary. As long as your choice is based on the individual and not something like race/sex/handicap/etc....meh.
posted by DU at 9:38 AM on January 9, 2009


A small collection of anonymous anecdotes seems kind of weak. My main thought on reading this:

“There’s an expression in admissions circles: the thicker the file, the thicker the kid. Don’t send in every newspaper clipping of your son on the high school honor role.

Was wait a minute... there are people out there whose parents prepared their college applications for them?! In a way I have to admire my folks for keeping me so naive.
posted by nanojath at 9:41 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


So if you come off as just another Asian math genius with no personality, then it’s going to be tough for you.

Knowing this makes me want to found Eastern State Asian Math Geniuses With No Personality University, which will have a rigourous admission algorithim by which Asian math geniuses with no personality are guaranteed admission. I will justify my outrageous tuition charges to the social-climbing parents of all the Asian math geniuses with no personality by also guaranteeing full employment to every graduate; each alum will be put to work designing, building and staffing my secret artificial island hideaway somewhere in the South Pacific. I will henceforth be the sullen mastermind dressed all in black, absent-mindedly petting a white cat.

Offensive? Perhaps, but less so than my alternate plans for Regional Vo-Tech Typical White Girl from New Jersey College.
posted by yhbc at 9:42 AM on January 9, 2009 [25 favorites]


It's crazy that missing a single problem on a math test in your freshman year of high school could keep you out of Yale or Harvard, but there you go.

I'm pretty sure that's what happened to me. Brown University accepted me, but who wants to work for UPS?
posted by Floydd at 9:44 AM on January 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


if you come off as just another Asian math genius with no personality, then it’s going to be tough for you.

"Until the point where you're actually looking for a job. Then you'll be climbing a ladder of success made out of the bodies of thousands of quirky, personable, fun-to-talk-to unemployed humanities graduates," he forgot to say.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:44 AM on January 9, 2009 [46 favorites]


I can't even re-read my college essay*, it was so so bad. I was a terrible writer. But I was better than a lot of high school applicants (I'm guessing from what I saw of those in my intro classes), and a first-gen college-goer. As it turns out, I did not embarrass my alma mater, so they did well. Except that I'm still paying off my m-fin' loans.

But aside from the fun of going to a small private college, all that extra cash I paid out didn't really help me much in my later career. I could've done pretty well at a cheaper state institution, because unless you're going to grad school, most employers don't care where you got your diploma. My unpaid internship with a different college's press in my hometown one summer, however, has landed me at least three jobs.

So there you go, kids; unless you're headed for grad school, get your diploma cheap but get some interesting internships.

*Which I typed on a typewriter. Because I am old.
posted by emjaybee at 9:45 AM on January 9, 2009


Just shared this with my sister, a former admissions counselor at a small private university in Philadelphia, and she reacted the following way:

Her: "Lame article."
Me: "As in lies, damn lies and statistics?"
Her: "Badly sourced. Thank you for sourcing all the IVY LEAGUE and then passing it off as 'all admissions offices.' "

The article strikes me as overzealous scare tactics, and in need of a huge YMMV disclaimer both before and after the article.
posted by sjuhawk31 at 9:49 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess I never pictured the scene in my head of the admissions officers sitting around a table laughing their asses off, like, "holy shit, get a load of this kid. We HAVE to except this fucking guy, right?"

This was, apparently, what happened to me in my one grad school application. Apparently my essay stating why I wanted to go to that particular school was, and I quote: "Hilarious". Here I was a guy from Europe with no experience of US college culture thinking 'I'll give it a shot.' I had no idea that people take these things so seriously. I also only found out what a GRE was three days before the test. I got in. I later found out that two faculty members had a bet on whether I would ever defend my Ph.D or not. I did defend and only found out about the bet from the losing faculty member when it was clear that I was going to finish. So, I guess I stood out. In truth though, when people ask me how they should go about applying for grad school I tell them that they probably shouldn't do what I did, even if it was successful.
posted by ob at 9:49 AM on January 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


And if you read my username, you can probably figure out which school I'm talking about (we both still work there, in non-admissions roles now).
posted by sjuhawk31 at 9:51 AM on January 9, 2009


Which is why I sometimes want to tell my younger family members and friends driving themselves mad about college admissions to just chill and understand it's like the weather...sometimes it rains, sometimes it's sunny, and there's very little you can do about it but cross your fingers and adapt.

That's ridiculous. You didn't "cross your fingers and adapt." You work at the fucking university to which you applied. The fact that you even know a faculty member on the admissions committee speaks volumes to the work you've put in to getting into that program. It sucks that you put a lot of work into a statement of purpose that's barely going to get glanced at, but to pretend that your admission the the institution at which you're employed is "like the weather" is total bullshit.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:52 AM on January 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


most employers don't care where you got your diploma....but get some interesting internships

Yes, but don't shoot too high because when all you have at this point is your college name behind you, where you went to school really does matter in a lot of industries. I know that when I was hiring for interns at several jobs, Ivies and resumes from schools where co-workers went got an extra look. Schools with a reputation for a good program, even if they weren't top tier, got an extra look. Josephine Average state school applicant almost never got an interview. Unfair you say, well yes. But when your workplace is filled with graduates of top-10 schools, they tend to understand the culture and mind-sets that these interns are coming from and vice-versa. Don't kid yourself into thinking patronage doesn't exist.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:53 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


If you go to college with the idea that it's suppose to expand your mind and make you think, as opposed to job training, you'll probably be happier.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:54 AM on January 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


Gawd, Daily Beast. What a pile.
posted by bardic at 9:54 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


One night, I got food poisoning at a restaurant in Buffalo. The next day, I rejected all the Buffalo applications. I couldn’t stomach reading them.

*ba-CHING*

What are the chances that The Daily Beast writers wanted to put together a lot of often-assumed facts with some terrible puns? I'm going 50:50.

I filled out one of my applications in DOS, because that's what kind of electronic application system Cal Poly had set up back in 1998. It came on a 5¼-inch floppy disk. I listened to MOD files while filling out the application. It's no typewriter, but I still feel old when telling this to anyone who is in college now. Supposedly, Cal Poly's application system was more even-handed, as the process was based on simple numbers. But I guess someone in administration could just hit [DELETE] instead of all the effort of throwing a physical file away.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:01 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


A couple things. One is that all fun aside, Asians really do get the shaft, and it's interesting that it seems totally okay to say it. I remember a few years ago the head of Harvard admissions was quoted in an article saying something like "if we went by grades and test scores we'd have a whole class of Asian girls and no one wants that." It seems to be commonly accepted that admittance based on quantifiable merits = too many Asians = bad. In the early 20th century Harvard actually went from an exam based entry to something closer to what they have now in order to limit their Jewish population.

Second, in my twenties I did admissions interviews for my college. I would meet the interviewees at a local coffee shop. One season I interviewed a whole bunch of girls in quick succession. I bet I seemed really creepy to the coffee shop employees.
posted by snofoam at 10:02 AM on January 9, 2009 [15 favorites]


I once talked with a Dean at a very very competitive school who said "By the end of the admission process, everyone is so equally qualified and equally accomplished that you end up rejecting people cause we have too many Jennifers in this class or something."
posted by The Whelk at 10:02 AM on January 9, 2009 [7 favorites]


From the comments:

"As a recent high school grad ('07), this pisses me off. If I had known admissions were so arbitrary, I would've relaxed, and applied to more schools."

No duh Sherlock. This article seems obvious to us recent(ish) grads and people who've worked in academia, but to college bound HS kids and their freaking out parents it's probably like a revelation. "You mean if Jimmy might just randomly get rejected by XXXX and should just broaden his mind about where he wants to go? ANATHEMA."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:06 AM on January 9, 2009


I'm calling BS on the article..a lot of conclusions drawn from quotes from incompetent admissions officers or, perhaps, just plain fabricated... feels like sweeps week at the local TV station news room, or "you're going to die" journalism.

Bad FPP without more documentation and hard statistics.
posted by HuronBob at 10:08 AM on January 9, 2009


It seems to be commonly accepted that admittance based on quantifiable merits = too many Asians = bad.

I don't think that's the equation. It's that basing admittance entirely on quantifiable merits (ie SAT scores and grades) = bad.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:08 AM on January 9, 2009


I graduated from HS in 1990. In 2001, I applied to college at a Big Ten Univeristy. I got my rejection letter, and it had a phone number to call if I had any questions.

So, I called the guy. He made me wait on hold while he pulled up my file. We had a short conversation and at the end, he told me I should talk to my guidance counselor, and maybe join the military or something like that.

I asked him if he had my file in front of him, and he said yes. I told him my GC had died in 1996 from a heart attack, and I had already been into and out of the military. He kind of hemmed and hawed, and I told him that he should be better than that.

I understand he has to dash the dreams of thousands of people per year, and that's gotta be hard. I get it. But he could have at least spent the 10 seconds reading my application and saved me the "guidance counselor" speech.

Anyway, I got in a couple years later. Graduated with honors*.

All of the above said - nothing about the admissions process surprises me.

*(By honors, I mean only 14000 in the hole and in three years, and now I work for them.)
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:08 AM on January 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also, we'd have a whole class of Asian girls and no one wants that.

Depends on how high they can kick.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:08 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I worked in the admissions office one semester at a small, conservative college I loathed. I never approved applications but if you asked for more info on the college I was one of the people who sent you a packet of stuff. Including a letter "signed" by the college President thanking you for your interest.

On the rare occasion I did sign his name I used my left hand so it looked as if a two year old had signed it. More often than not I signed something else. Ragnor the Strong, Ivan Twatsky and Senor Stinkypants were just some of the many signatures that accompanied the packets.

They never caught on, and I graduated to entering mailing list data. I'd do everything right except the nickname field. If your name was Michael I was supposed to type in "Mike" but once again I'd type in something else. So kids got letters that said "Dear Booger, thanks for your interest in X college. Signed, Astaroth."
posted by Atom12 at 10:09 AM on January 9, 2009 [43 favorites]


"if we went by grades and test scores we'd have a whole class of Asian girls and no one wants that." It seems to be commonly accepted that admittance based on quantifiable merits = too many Asians = bad.

Or it might mean that they are committed to diversity.
posted by ob at 10:09 AM on January 9, 2009


I think it's hilarious people expect more objectivity, prudence, and diligence than they themselves exercise in their daily lives.
posted by teabag at 10:10 AM on January 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


It seems to be commonly accepted that admittance based on quantifiable merits = too many Asians = bad.

I don't think that's the equation. It's that basing admittance entirely on quantifiable merits (ie SAT scores and grades) = bad. The guy who admits that overall, Asian girls are the highest-achieving category of applicants is being forthright, and explaining why grades and test scores aren't the sole criteria used in the process. However, the guy who conflates Asian with "math genius sans personality" is an oaf and should not be in the position of admitting anyone to anywhere.

That said, this is a sloppy and lame article. Actually, it's not an article; it's a collection of unsourced quotes, which is even lamer. For alternate reading, I suggest taking a look at the thoughtful the comment by "Ocotillo." Full disclosure: I have no idea who "Ocotillo" is.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:16 AM on January 9, 2009


preference being given to first generation college applicants.

Um...how do they know, unless you whine about it? [/1st gen].

Among my high school friends, the theory was that certain schools would go to a long staircase, flag a couple of stairs, and then throw the apps down the stairs. Applications that landed on a flagged step would get in. Still sounds reasonable to me.
posted by dilettante at 10:17 AM on January 9, 2009


Oops! Just saw I posted part of my comment earlier. Sorry, guys. One day, man, one day...
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2009


> If I had known admissions were so arbitrary, I would've relaxed, and applied to more schools.

...and then your application would have been rejected for not being honed to the razor sharpness necessary to get into the pool that admissions handled so arbitrarily.
posted by ardgedee at 10:18 AM on January 9, 2009


This reminds me of a girl I know who decided to apply to Harvard Law last minute because a guy she was in love with was going there and so she studied and studied and did well on her LSAT and sent her application in but didn't include an essay but instead showed up at the school and did a whole song and dance with other members of her sorority and convinced Harvard to accept her. She didn't work very hard at first but then focused on schoolwork to try to impress the old boyfriend. Then she stood out when applying for an internship because she used pink paper, and scented it with perfume, only to get the internship and find out it was because the guy in charge wanted her for sexy sex! She got even though and took over and won the murder trial that they were working on. Showed him! And then she realized the guy who had helped straighten her out and get her to focus on school was her real one true love and they lived happily ever after. Also, her hairdresser friend shacked up with the UPS guy.

They eventually made a musical about her life. Good show.
posted by inigo2 at 10:22 AM on January 9, 2009 [9 favorites]


People like people that are like them. Kind of obvious.

I still don't know how I got into college. 4 years at a junior college, no SAT and a gpa of 2.6 and I got into journalism school. My wife had near perfect grades, community service and made it through a 2-yr junior college in 1.5 years and was rejected on her first application. She reapplied as a different major and was admitted but I still like to rub that one in.
posted by photoslob at 10:23 AM on January 9, 2009


The article is nothing but logical sense (be interesting!) and a few people recalling their worst moments in picking kids... not their usual moments in picking kids. And since all the source data is ivy leagues OF COURSE you will have nothing but a sea of overqualified kids with whom you will have to make some kinds of biased distinctions.

When you apply to college you are doing nothing more than trying to represent yourself the best you can and submitting yourself to the fates.

If one is bitter, than life must not be that fair either.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 10:23 AM on January 9, 2009


"if we went by grades and test scores we'd have a whole class of Asian girls and no one wants that." It seems to be commonly accepted that admittance based on quantifiable merits = too many Asians = bad.

Or it might mean that they are committed to diversity.
posted by ob at 1:09 PM on January 9 [+] [!]


Exactly. I used to run a journalism training program for minorities. Every single year, we could have filled the class with smart, talented young Asian-American women from Ivy League schools who aced our tests, stood out in interviews, etc., but since we were looking for diversity, we rejected some of them in favor of other qualified people. By the way, most of those Asian-American women didn't really intend to stay in our business--they were breaking away from the pressures from parents to go into law or medicine. Several who DID get into the program remained for a couple of years, and then went back home and did what their immigrant parents wanted them to do. Sounds like a stereotype but it's true.
posted by etaoin at 10:30 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I spent my last 3 years of high school at one of those Manhattan preps with cutthroat admissions that New York magazine loves to snark at. [I scraped in off the waiting list and that only with the help of the proverbial uncle in the business.] Those kids are raised for eventual acceptance into an elite college like battery chickens are raised for processing into McNuggets. It's not a sentimental enterprise.

One kid I knew at the time - near-genius level IQ, I think, but with an abrasive personality - never signed up for admission interviews, resenting any expectation that he should have to "suck up", as he saw it. His parents usually let him skip them, but when it came to the Harvard application they insisted. So the kid sullenly went to the office of some alumnus who volunteered to conduct these things as his service to the alma mater. The kid didn't change into a blazer and tie, of course. He went in the ratty Vietnam-era army jacket he'd bought at some secondhand store in the Village, emblazened with patches for Solidarnosc and The Clash.

From what the kid told it me later, it seems he was slouching in the guy's chair, giving terse, cross-examination like replies to his "beauty pageant" questions. Finally the guy said something like "Look, I'm having a hard time getting a sense of who you are. Which means that Harvard isn't going to have a sense of who you are." The kid snapped something like "If Harvard needs to have a sense of who I am, it's a fraternity - not a college. If that's the case, I'll get a better education somewhere else." The guy laughed and said, "I've done 100 of these and that's the first memorable thing any of you has ever said. With your kind of attitude, you'll fit right in."

Sure enough, he got accepted. But he went to Stanford anyway.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:30 AM on January 9, 2009 [22 favorites]


I can say right now that next to no one is being rejected. They are looking at got money? You are in! Can get loans? You are in! Can get a grant/scholarship of some kind? You are in! Schools cannot afford to be choosy in this economy.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:47 AM on January 9, 2009


Okay, I have a couple questions:

1. For anyone who commented above that says limiting Asian admittance is just ensuring diversity: are you Asian?

2. Is it really fair to say that it has nothing to do with race when admissions officials repeatedly specify Asian ethnicity as an admissions factor?

3. Is it impossible to have diversity in a group that is largely Asian? Asians are not a homogeneous group.

I'm not trying to pick a fight or anything. I think the issues are really complicated, but I do find it surprising that limiting Asian enrollment in elite colleges seems to be so obviously acceptable to so many people. To Asians who work hard to get into good schools only to have the odds stacked against them because of race, I think it would legitimately seem unfair.
posted by snofoam at 10:51 AM on January 9, 2009 [13 favorites]


Are Asian math majors really any more boring than any other math major?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2009 [14 favorites]


When my wife was a grad student, she read entrance essays as a part-time job for the university. Apparently, when documenting personal triumphs, many, many kids choose to write about when they blew out their knee playing high school sports.
posted by camcgee at 10:56 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


As someone whose forebears were literally excluded from Ivy League schools due to the limitations placed on Jewish enrollments, please believe me when I say of the negative quotas on Asians: this is that.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


"There’s an expression in admissions circles: the thicker the file, the thicker the kid."

"No fatties, please."
posted by camcgee at 10:58 AM on January 9, 2009


I can say right now that next to no one is being rejected. They are looking at got money? You are in! Can get loans? You are in! Can get a grant/scholarship of some kind? You are in! Schools cannot afford to be choosy in this economy.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:47 PM on January 9 [+] [!]

This is not at all true. I can't speak for private universities, but public universities are being greatly affected by the current economy--I recently read an article on the University of California system and the fact that they will likely have to cut a certain percentage of applicants simply due to budget cuts.

Some relevant links I could find.
posted by nonmerci at 11:01 AM on January 9, 2009


So its negative points for being Asian and for being fat? Looks like state school for you Mr. Honda.
posted by ND¢ at 11:05 AM on January 9, 2009


My wife read for her elite MBA program. A safe answer to a question like "who's life would you want?/who would you trade places with?" ("Bono") has an additional problem where TOO MANY people give the same answer. By the end, not only is "Bono" a bad answer, it's so bad that it motivates readers to go back and reject people that had previously made it into the passed pile - not because their individual answer was bad, but that answer turned out to be bad, collectively.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:06 AM on January 9, 2009


Are we saying college admissions have nothing to do with race now? Last I recall we were pushing for diversity, and it was privileged white kids that were bitching about the unfairness of having the odds "stacked against them."

It sort of makes me proud of America, actually, that we can have Asians complaining about being discriminated against for being too successful. Hopefully one day it'll be blacks.
posted by rusty at 11:08 AM on January 9, 2009


When my wife was a grad student, she read entrance essays as a part-time job for the university. Apparently, when documenting personal triumphs, many, many kids choose to write about when they blew out their knee playing high school sports.

Hahaha, I helped a kid edit her med school statement of purpose last year, and it was about exactly this.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:12 AM on January 9, 2009


It seems to be commonly accepted that admittance based on quantifiable merits = too many Asians = bad.

In RPG circles there is a types of player known as the min-maxer:

"Someone who attempts to understand the nuances of a role-playing system in order to tweak their character to be highly optimized, usually for a single task such as combat."

This is what I see happening with a lot of Asian students (but it's not solely restricted to Asians and not all Asians do it - they're just the majority of the group) - or at least, back in the day when I was a student. They look at the top 2 or three criteria - test scores, some sort of extracurricular activity, being well-rounded by playing music - and they max these out. And do nothing else. They're not always very personally resilient and they not always very interesting. And per the admission officer's comments, if you started at the top of the list and went down until the class was full it would be totally comprised of these people. (Note that this is partly due to a whole lot of social pressures that are common to first-generation Asian immigrant parents, who value success in school and like their kids to play music regardless of the structure of the college application process. it's a natural fit)

It's hard to describe, but dealing with min-maxers is unpleasant. They stick to the rules, argue about them when necessary and have a single goal in mind. it may sound like the recipe for success but it's just boring. I'm sure they end up being successful people, but they're tedious to have to deal with on a personal level.
posted by GuyZero at 11:14 AM on January 9, 2009 [12 favorites]


1. For anyone who commented above that says limiting Asian admittance is just ensuring diversity: are you Asian?

No, why is this relevant?

2. Is it really fair to say that it has nothing to do with race when admissions officials repeatedly specify Asian ethnicity as an admissions factor?

I take it that Asian women have the best test scores. I have no idea if it's true but the quote:"if we went by grades and test scores we'd have a whole class of Asian girls and no one wants that" implies this. So there are other factors in acceptance, and these come into play.

3. Is it impossible to have diversity in a group that is largely Asian? Asians are not a homogeneous group.


Well you're picking and choosing now. The quote says wholly Asian and female. I would say that my default that would not be a diverse class, no males, no representation from other races.

Look, I can see what you're getting at, but I think you're taking this a little too personally. There are Ivy League schools didn't allow women until the sixties, and many univeristies have had of catching up to do. Diversity is a very important factor in university admissions nowadays and race and gender can work for you or against you.
posted by ob at 11:18 AM on January 9, 2009


by default, not my default!
posted by ob at 11:20 AM on January 9, 2009


I had a glimpse of the admissions process in the UK, where undergraduates typically read one subject. Interviews are conducted by faculty members; they saw the results of admissions decisions first hand, and they became very good at identifying which candidates were likely to do well. Some teenagers are awkward, and understandably nervous. They knew they made the first cut by getting an interview, but only a certain number of those interviewed would be offered places. Yet a shy, nervous student could receive a higher score than someone who was self-confident but obviously parroting what he or she had been coached to say. The department members were less interested in a polished interview than the candidate's ability to think on the spot and say something interesting: in short, someone you would want in a seminar.

Undergraduates in the States can change majors as easily as sneezing during the first couple of years, and I doubt if departments would want to interview the top whatever percentage of applicants with an interest in a given major. Maybe some US universities do this. In any case, I wonder what kind of follow-up exists after admissions decisions, apart from measuring the statistical offer / accept rate.
posted by woodway at 11:20 AM on January 9, 2009


It's too bad that this stuff isn't common knowledge for all high school seniors. As for me, when I mentioned I was applying to Brown, a friend of mine told me an anecdote that stuck with me.

Brown asks you to send in a picture of yourself with your application. My friend told me that he knew a bunch of people that applied to Brown and that the only one who got in had sent them a picture of herself picking her nose.

Gave me something to shoot for in my application - namely, being weird. Something must have worked, because I got in where others didn't.
posted by lunit at 11:23 AM on January 9, 2009


On a lighter note, Aasif Mandvi poked fun at the Asian overperformer sterotype on last night's Daily Show.
posted by djb at 11:31 AM on January 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


These dirty secrets are neither dirty nor secrets.
posted by ooga_booga at 11:33 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


2. Is it really fair to say that it has nothing to do with race when admissions officials repeatedly specify Asian ethnicity as an admissions factor?

I read the logic thus:

a) we take the top X number of students by SAT score
b) all X students are Asian females
c) so we have to basically throw a bunch of those away because we "can't" enroll an entire class of Asian women

3. Is it impossible to have diversity in a group that is largely Asian? Asians are not a homogeneous group.

True. I imagine that the group that all gets perfect SAT scores, play piano solos flawlessly and are at the top of the admissions list are pretty homogeneous though, the same way white male computer engineering students end up being pretty homogeneous (to pick an example I'm more familiar with). Do you think engineering schools should just go with the flow and let ever computer engineering classes be 100% pasty white guys? (For the record, my class was only about 2/3rds pasty white guys and a third "Asian", primarily from Hong Kong I seem to recall - I expect that Waterloo didn't try at all to impose any sort of ethnic diversity criteria on engineering admissions)

I'm not trying to pick a fight or anything. I think the issues are really complicated, but I do find it surprising that limiting Asian enrollment in elite colleges seems to be so obviously acceptable to so many people. To Asians who work hard to get into good schools only to have the odds stacked against them because of race, I think it would legitimately seem unfair.

Some schools want to maximize ethnic diversity in their student body for a variety of good and not-so-good reasons and if you're a member of an extremely high-achieving ethnic group the bar is higher. Alternatively, apply to schools that are happy to have a class of people with perfect SATs, regardless of race or gender. As others have pointed out, the admissions officers interviewed for this article are not very representative of US colleges as a whole and certainly not of universities worldwide.
posted by GuyZero at 11:40 AM on January 9, 2009


After RTFA, I'm still not cowering under my bed. They have a LOT of qualified applicants. Why NOT reject boring essays? Isn't that what the essays are for? The overachiever type applicants probably applied to N places anyway.

Y'know, I always had this suspicion in high school, and I got absolutely raked over the coals for even mentioning it--essays were to be focused and to clearly answer the question, if you try to crack wise you'll end up at community college, etc. So I did this, and submitted it to one school I thought was a total reach. They accepted me. Lots of other places didn't.

Now I'm friends with an admissions officer who likes to tell stories about the ridiculous tripe that high school seniors are pumping out, and how she once let in a kid because they'd both unknowingly been at the same Lemonheads concert. Oh, 2001-me, if only you knew the ugly truth.
posted by Mayor West at 11:41 AM on January 9, 2009


Aasif Mandvi pokes fun as the Asian overperformer stereotype at least once a month on the Daily Show. Stewart gets Bush, Mandvi gets ethnic stereotypes. I think it's in their contracts.
posted by GuyZero at 11:43 AM on January 9, 2009


Also, having watched that bit, Mandvi is totally channeling Russel Peters there.
posted by GuyZero at 11:48 AM on January 9, 2009


Previously: Malcolm Gladwell on the social logic of Ivy League admissions.
posted by Zed at 11:49 AM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some schools want to maximize ethnic diversity in their student body for a variety of good and not-so-good reasons and if you're a member of an extremely high-achieving ethnic group the bar is higher.

So, OK, yeah, question. Let's say minorities form, oh, 34% of the undergraduates at Harvard, or 28% of undergraduates at Yale or whatever. Why is it OK to have so many white people, but not OK to have so many Asians?
posted by Comrade_robot at 11:54 AM on January 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


The kid didn't change into a blazer and tie, of course. He went in the ratty Vietnam-era army jacket he'd bought at some secondhand store in the Village, emblazened with patches for Solidarnosc and The Clash.... Finally the guy said something like "Look, I'm having a hard time getting a sense of who you are. Which means that Harvard isn't going to have a sense of who you are." The kid snapped something like "If Harvard needs to have a sense of who I am, it's a fraternity - not a college. If that's the case, I'll get a better education somewhere else."

The kid sounds like a walking cliche, one who knew how to play the game masterfully.
posted by jayder at 11:58 AM on January 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


It's interesting to read all this about the preference for weird over boring. I applied to the University of Chicago when I was going to college, and their whole essay system at the time was set up to encourage weird - no "a moment of change in your life" essays - the prompt I chose was "what thing on Earth would you suggest was secretly invented by aliens?" or something like that. I tried desperately to write an interesting and funky and different essay, and failed (I was, and perhaps am, not very interesting). But it makes me wonder - it must be so much easier to pick out the interesting people when you have boring prompts, as opposed to picking the most interesting people out of a pile of attempts at interesting.

Also, I wish there was some more explicit recognition of the role of nonspectacular people in the world. We can't all be rockstars or cure cancer. Some of us have to be employees. I vaguely remember reading something about how doing admissions at Harvard meant you had to be able to pick people who would be totally happy and ultimately successful being in the bottom third of the class at Harvard. That's a lot harder than picking people who are ultimate achievers.
posted by marginaliana at 11:59 AM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Hey, explanations and justifications are two different things. According to Gladwell, it has to do with who is most likely to donate money.

And as whites form 75% of the US population overall (in 2006), having 34% minority undergrads seems like more than proportional representation versus the population as a whole.

But again, I'm not really defending it. Like I said, I went to a school that selected on the basis of marks and geography.
posted by GuyZero at 12:01 PM on January 9, 2009


By the way, most of those Asian-American women didn't really intend to stay in our business--they were breaking away from the pressures from parents to go into law or medicine.

Question: How do you know that?
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:04 PM on January 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just to clarify my personal position slightly, I'm half-Asian and I got into Harvard and the other schools I applied to, so I don't have a personal grudge about admissions and I don't identify culturally as Asian per se. I do find it pretty amazing that it is totally okay to discriminate against Asians in this way. I'm also kind of amazed at the stereotypes that are being tossed around here with absolutely no resistance. For example:

It sort of makes me proud of America, actually, that we can have Asians complaining about being discriminated against for being too successful.

WTF? First, the Asians in this sentence aren't being discriminated against, they're complaining about it. But discrimination is okay, even great, if it's because you are successful. Never heard that one before. Nope, no one has ever justified discriminating against a group of people because of their success. Or been proud of it.

This is what I see happening with a lot of Asian students (but it's not solely restricted to Asians and not all Asians do it - they're just the majority of the group) ... It's hard to describe, but dealing with min-maxers is unpleasant. They stick to the rules, argue about them when necessary and have a single goal in mind. it may sound like the recipe for success but it's just boring. I'm sure they end up being successful people, but they're tedious to have to deal with on a personal level.

WTF? This group of people, which in fairness is just mostly Asian, is unpleasant, argumentative, boring and tedious. (Which reminds me of South Park. Are Asians "people who annoy you?")

Plus, obviously, Asians are all piano or violin playing math and science students.

I really don't think it's okay to discriminate against an ethnic group because of their perceived success or for any reason. (I think affirmative action/diversity/etc. is a tough issue and I don't have the answer, but I am not okay with the attitude that discriminating against Asians is fine.)

I don't think it's cool to promote a stereotype of Asians as unlikeable people. (I shouldn't have to say this, but it simply isn't true. There are funny Asians, interesting Asians, etc.)

I don't think it makes sense to lump together a whole group of people just because of race and assume they have the same experience. (The experience of, say, a 3rd generation Japanese-american from a wealthy family is probably totally different than that of a 1st generation Cambodian refugee).

Can someone please tell me why it's okay to hate on/stereotype/justify the discrimination against Asians on Metafilter? Is there any other ethnic group that would get the same treatment here? I seriously am just kind of amazed and don't understand it.
posted by snofoam at 12:23 PM on January 9, 2009 [18 favorites]


Question: How do you know that?

For what it's worth, when I teach a class, I always ask the students why they are here (and continue to develop that narrative throughout a course). A very typical answer is "my parents want me to do this," or "my parents wanted me to do that so I'm doing this..."
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:23 PM on January 9, 2009


To Asians who work hard to get into good schools only to have the odds stacked against them because of race, I think it would legitimately seem unfair.

It would be unfair if admission to a highly selective university were a prize that should be doled out to the most deserving. It is not. It is the result of people who are trying to assemble an incoming class that furthers whatever the university thinks its long-term interests are. This frequently means doing things to increase the racial, ethnic, income, parent-occupational, and geographic diversity of the class.

It is not "who is the most qualified," it is "who is the most useful to our long-term interests."

"Badly sourced. Thank you for sourcing all the IVY LEAGUE and then passing it off as 'all admissions offices.' "

To be fair, it's not like the admissions process at Two-Directional State University or X Bible College or any other school with high admission rates is likely to be very interesting. In the data I have handy, which are admittedly from 1995, only 8% of colleges had admission rates under 50%.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:24 PM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


as a high school student, i would not have believed a word of this. i would have thought that MY accomplishments and letters and essays were enough to get me in and that NO WAY would i be rejected for some BS reason. that happened to losers who didn't DESERVE college.

as a jaded and cynical 28 year old college graduate with a master's to boot, all i have to say is "duh." of course this shit is arbitrary. and i WISH i would have realized it 12 years ago and not stressed about it so much.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 12:26 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mayor West

not a crazy idea as you think. After getting into college there was a very prestigious orientation program my mom was dead set on me applying for: I thought it sounded boring. A couple of days before the application deadline my mom stole the car keys and told me my friend and I could not leave until I'd written the essay. So in 30 minutes we wrote a one page rant humourously mocking their entire program and dropped it into the mailbox. I was accepted two weeks later. I found out later from one of the organizers I was picked solely on my essay, they found it hilarious.
posted by slapshot57 at 12:27 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Answer: he can obviously read minds.

Like Comrade_robot said, the high percentage of whites makes me suspicious, what's wrong with have a higher number of Asians instead?

And for the record, Asians are hardly a homogeneous group. The pale Pakistani Muslim wearing a headscarf is far different from a Hindu from South India, or from an Afghan, or from the child of Vietnamese refugees. There's a hella diversity in this label of "Asian" you folks have for us, and our higher grades don't justify these double-standards.
posted by exhilaration at 12:28 PM on January 9, 2009 [5 favorites]


For what it's worth, when I teach a class, I always ask the students why they are here (and continue to develop that narrative throughout a course). A very typical answer is "my parents want me to do this," or "my parents wanted me to do that so I'm doing this..."

But these students, apparently, are not usually accepted into this program because, uh, apparently Asian people don't really like journalism, it's one of those rebellion things.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:30 PM on January 9, 2009


Yes, but don't shoot too high because when all you have at this point is your college name behind you, where you went to school really does matter in a lot of industries.

Depends on the industry, or conversely, whether you want to work for yourself or run a large company. My immediate boss has a no-name degree. The CEO has one from a moderately good school, and as for everyone else here, no idea.

But again...CEOs tend to have grad school degrees, MBAs at least. So I still think the principle stands.
posted by emjaybee at 12:33 PM on January 9, 2009


This article dared to disappoint. Right under the self-link to this article in the sidebar on the Best's website is a link to "How Big is Obama's Package." What I'm saying, is that this seems to be a site worth avoiding.
posted by paisley henosis at 12:34 PM on January 9, 2009


Michele Hernandez (quoted in article) is one of the smartest people I know. She talks at twice the speed of normal humans.
posted by rjc3000 at 12:38 PM on January 9, 2009


This actually explains a lot to me, especially the part about unusual students standing out and some preference being given to first generation college applicants. I always suspected that I got into better schools than I should have considering that I didn't even think about going to college until after the start of my junior year in high school. But my grades weren't horrible, nor were my test scores, my parents didn't go to college and here I'm submitting a picture of myself with crazy gignatic hair, wearing a Carcass t-shirt, and telling them that my extracurricular activies are playing in thrash metal bands and working as a plumber's assistant. I guess I never pictured the scene in my head of the admissions officers sitting around a table laughing their asses off, like, "holy shit, get a load of this kid. We HAVE to except this fucking guy, right?"
posted by The Straightener at 9:29 AM on January 9 [12 favorites -] Favorite added! [!]


That was sublime. The year I started at Duke, people like The Straightener were fairly common around campus. Oddballs, but pretty smart ones. Then the NYTimes magazine ran their cover story on "Hot Colleges" and the applications went through the roof. Suddenly things were much more homogenous. I doubt I would have stood a chance, but prior to that year a kid like me raised on summer camps with a Jew-fro and a home business building mailboxes was a cinch.
posted by docpops at 12:41 PM on January 9, 2009


Plus, obviously, Asians are all piano or violin playing math and science students.

Clearly that's not the case.

But a person of Asian ethnicity with good test scores and grades whose admissions essays are about how they want to write a novel and here are some writing samples to back it up and has glowing letters about their creativity and talent and imagination and oh yeah I'm also a math genius probably stands at least as good a chance of admission as a white or black or whatever applicant doing the same thing.

For that matter, an Asian with high test scores and grades and violin as their only extracurricular, who writes that they want to be a physician or engineer, and who has some good but nonstellar recommendations because they're always quiet in class probably has similar odds as an anglo kid with an identical application packet. The number of spaces in a general-purpose highly selective university set aside for "Premeds with high scores whose high school careers read like attempts to game our admissions process and who have little else to distinguish them" is not very high.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:46 PM on January 9, 2009


“After the letters came out, one father called me to complain his son hadn’t gotten in. He said he was an advisor on ... the show 90210. Well, that was my favorite show, so I asked him to give me some good gossip. Then the next day I got this huge package filled with stuff from the TV show: original scripts, autographs, etc. And I called him up and said, ‘Thanks for the cool package, but there’s still no way your kid is getting into this college.”

So Donna Martin doesn't graduate?
posted by armacy at 12:47 PM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can someone please tell me why it's okay to hate on/stereotype/justify the discrimination against Asians on Metafilter?

I can only speak for myself. So I will start by saying, with some level of irony that isn't for me to judge: some of my best friends are Asian. There. I said it. But it is true. It was from my best friend in the world, who is Asian, that I learned the term "FOB". He hated them with a passion after a high-school career in the suburbs of Toronto full of overachieving Asians when he was a slacker. He and I have also had long conversations about his experiences with discrimination, the dreaded "No, but where are you from originally?" and Canada's historical head tax on Chinese immigrants. He and I were born in the same town but thankfully no one has ever questioned that to my face.

And like I said, explanations and justification are two different things. I am not defending Harvard.

This group of people, which in fairness is just mostly Asian, is unpleasant, argumentative, boring and tedious.

Their tediousness derives from a variety of personal characteristics, none of which have anything to do with being Asian. I hate on Asians no more than I hate on piano players or people who study a lot although this also describes many of these same people. if it makes you feel any better, Asians are proportionally represented in the unpleasant, argumentative, boring and tedious people I have known.

Plus, obviously, Asians are all piano or violin playing math and science students.

Really? Did I say that? I must be a very sloppy writer.

I don't think it's cool to promote a stereotype of Asians as unlikeable people.

Do you really think that's what I'm saying? Because I think you're projecting a bit here. There's nothing inherently unlikeable about Asians. I find people who are narrowly focused on gaming the system somewhat unlikeable, whether it's college entrance criteria or salespeople who game their commission system at the expense of the company's overall health. if it makes you feel any better, salespeople I have worked with are mostly white males. So they must also suck as a group by your logic.

The asian-ness of people who game college entrance criteria is a descriptive, not a proscriptive factor. And it's not like I invented the association between Asian students and high/over-achievement. High grades, high stress for Asian-American students in Bay Area: if a college is trying to ensure their racial makeup reflect the same proportion as as the general population, you're going to have a tougher time as an Asian because there's more competition. I'm not saying colleges should do this or whether it's right or wrong, but that's how it is. I have nothing meaningful to say about affirmative action because Canadians are blind to race (ha! that was a joke! ho ho! oh I slay me)

I really don't think it's okay to discriminate against an ethnic group because of their perceived success or for any reason.

A lot of people have self-justified reasons for discriminating that seem rational to them. You ain't never going to change it unless you try to understand what they're thinking, as wrong as it may be.
posted by GuyZero at 12:48 PM on January 9, 2009


ROU_Xenophobe: In the data I have handy, which are admittedly from 1995, only 8% of colleges had admission rates under 50%.

It's closer to 14% of colleges now, but the point still stands.
posted by skynxnex at 12:52 PM on January 9, 2009


Oh, and...

But discrimination is okay, even great, if it's because you are successful.

Tall poppy syndrome. A lot of people actually do sincerely believe exactly that.
posted by GuyZero at 12:52 PM on January 9, 2009


GuyZero,

Clearly you don't mean to promote hateful stereotypes, but check out what you actually said here. You introduced the concept of the min-maxer, who you later described as argumentative, boring, tedious and unpleasant to deal with. And you say:

This is what I see happening with a lot of Asian students (but it's not solely restricted to Asians and not all Asians do it - they're just the majority of the group).

Now, you aren't generalizing about all Asians but you do say "a lot" and refer to them as the "majority of the group." In fact, you say it's not "solely restricted to Asians" as if the non-Asians are basically anomalous.

I find the things that you said about this group of min-maxers that you largely (though not entirely) correlate with Asians (or at least Asian students) offensive and hateful. From your subsequent comments, obviously this is not your intention, but I think it's interesting that having these attitudes is so ingrained as acceptable you didn't notice you were doing it. I'm sure you wouldn't say, there's this group of people we call "urban" who are mostly - but not entirely - black, and I find them loud, obnoxious and they litter all the time. Right?
posted by snofoam at 1:07 PM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some schools want to maximize ethnic diversity in their student body

{60% white 20% URM 10% asian} is not more diverse than {20% white 20% URM 60% asian}. Population proportionality != diversity; there is much much less justification for preserving population proportions than there is for protecting a share for URM.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:08 PM on January 9, 2009 [8 favorites]


A robot made out of meat makes a very good point that hadn't even occurred to me.
posted by snofoam at 1:19 PM on January 9, 2009


(Not that I am assuming every thought should have already occurred to me, but that particular one is simple and obvious, yet seems to be totally overlooked in these discussions.)
posted by snofoam at 1:21 PM on January 9, 2009


Also, already 5 people have favorited GuyZero's comment where he compares Asians to the annoying people he dislikes in RPGs.
posted by snofoam at 1:25 PM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's pretty sad to see the ready acceptance or even defense of discrimination against a minority group.
posted by gyc at 1:28 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


Unless you plop the missing 10% from the first case into Martians. (pretend 60-20-20)
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:30 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think the saddest thing in that article is the former Cornell admissions officer visiting his alma mater (a public school) and being shocked when he was asked if the counselor could contact him regarding a student. Which says so much about how money affects everything about the education experience.
posted by Weebot at 2:02 PM on January 9, 2009


I think the whole idea of college admissions is rotten to the core. I'd be happy to see it go and I think it will happen.

It's going to become impossible to prevent people from learning enough material to cover what is learned (at least in a Bachelors degree) once enough of that material gets freely (or nearly so) disseminated on the internet. Once people realize there is a cheaper, more democratic and fairer way of distributing credentials, Universities are going to unravel and simply become pure and industrial research incubators.

This is already happening to a certain extent.
posted by peppito at 2:23 PM on January 9, 2009


It's pretty sad to see the ready acceptance or even defense of discrimination against a minority group.

I expect that the number of people who are rejected from highly selective universities because they are Asian is smaller than you think, and the number of people who are rejected from highly selective universities because their applications are highly similar to many other people's in every way, except that some of those other people did better along some metric, is higher than you think.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:23 PM on January 9, 2009


It's going to become impossible to prevent people from learning enough material to cover what is learned (at least in a Bachelors degree) once enough of that material gets freely (or nearly so) disseminated on the internet.

This has been "impossible" since the invention of interlibrary loan.

I think the whole idea of college admissions is rotten to the core.

Most colleges and universities accept all their applicants who can be reasonably expected to do college-level work with some difficulty, and then some more too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:28 PM on January 9, 2009


I'm sure you wouldn't say, there's this group of people we call "urban" who are mostly - but not entirely - black, and I find them loud, obnoxious and they litter all the time. Right?

If you changed "black" to "listen to the Tragically Hip" and "urban" to "from Kingston", sure, absolutely I'd agree with you. I'm no saint - I harbour plenty of hateful, unfair stereotypes. I also dislike smokers and people who drive too slow in the left lane. And people from Bavaria don't speak real German. And don't get me started on people who use leaf blowers. They need to die painful deaths - EVEN THE ONES WITH FAMILIES TO SUPPORT.

as if the non-Asians are basically anomalous.

Well, I think that's stretching it. I'm doing my best to not say that it's Asians == min-maxers because that isn't what I believe. The only reason we're discussing them and not, say, Jewish people or Indians, is that the linked article brings up the example of having a class full of Asian females if they went by SAT scores or whatever. I think that at best I am merely agreeing with this estimation (in a roundabout way). If you don't think that Harvard would have an incoming class of next to 100% asian students if they selected by SAT score alone, please feel free to give your own explanation as to why this would not be the case.

I find the things that you said about this group of min-maxers that you largely (though not entirely) correlate with Asians (or at least Asian students) offensive and hateful.

Well if it does turn out that I'm a closet racist that's certainly not going to change in a day so I will think about this. Really. And while I doubt I'm going to be invited to give a speech on MLK Day for saying a lot of high-school academic min-maxers are Asian, I don't see it as racist per se because from my perspective it's simply true. And, again, I don't mean it proscriptively: they don't get this way because they are Asian (well, with the caveat that parents with traditional Confucian family values will tend to make their kids do stuff that most college admissions systems will rank favorably, like getting good marks). I simply think that it works out this way. If it makes you feel any better, most of the quasi-retarded alcoholics in university where white athletes (of both genders) and there were a few cases where specific ethnic groups smelled bad probably due to differing standards of hygiene, although I am assured that I stank of sour milk in university my some Asian people presumably because of my Anglo-Saxon fondness for the beverage that they did not share. (This does little to further my case that I'm not an offensive racist, but I hope it ameliorates your concern that it is somehow singularly directed against Asian people).

As the Mercury article I linked to earlier describes, the cause of this singular focused behaviour is, in some cases, peer pressure: kids still tend to congregate in peer groups that have race-related boundaries and there's a lot of pressure among Asian kids to get better marks, take more AP classes and in general aim higher - in some cases so high that they crack under the stress. I am not an educational administrator but the gist I get from reading the local newspaper is that there are serious issues that need to be addressed in Bay Area high school students with regards to race and academic performance on both ends of the spectrum. A lot of Asian kids really need to take it down a notch - they will still get into a perfectly good college even if they don't take 9 AP classes a term. Conversely, the academic underperformance of Hispanic kids as a group is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed somehow. My own Teutonic children are not far off from high school themselves and I stress as much as anyone that they will get peers that provide some motivation to succeed without simultaneously being stressed about achieving said success.

Finally, on defending university entrance based on race: I'm not defending it. I think it's unnecessary, but if Harvard wants to do it, so be it. That some fraction of a percent of all the university undergrad slots in America use a system that isn't solely merit based neither surprises nor upsets me. And it's not like they're somehow keeping out Asians; they're simply taking fewer than academic achievement alone would dictate.

Besides, are you equally upset about the comment about people from Buffalo being rejected based on that guy getting food poisoning? That's way, way more egregious than saying they'd have too many asian women if they went by test scores alone.

Also, already 5 people have favorited GuyZero's comment where he compares Asians to the annoying people he dislikes in RPGs.

The intention of a favouriter are mysterious and could also be interpreted as being impressed that I would make such an outrageous offensive statement and that they are marking me for future reference of who goes up against the wall first when the revolution comes. My honest guess is that people are mildly amused when you drop RPG references into unrelated conversations randomly.
posted by GuyZero at 2:29 PM on January 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


d in an article saying something like "if we went by grades and test scores we'd have a whole class of Asian girls and no one wants that." It seems to be commonly accepted that admittance based on quantifiable merits = too many Asians = bad.

Sounds like affermative action. Why does this upset you?

To Asians who work hard to get into good schools only to have the odds stacked against them because of race, I think it would legitimately seem unfair.

You sound like an angry white guy from the 90s.

I really don't think it's okay to discriminate against an ethnic group because of their perceived success or for any reason. (I think affirmative action/diversity/etc. is a tough issue and I don't have the answer, but I am not okay with the attitude that discriminating against Asians is fine.)

Whereas this sounds like, "discriminating against some over-represented ethnic groups is OK, but not mine."

It's pretty sad to see the ready acceptance or even defense of discrimination against a minority group.

Did you spend a lot of time in the eighties defending Afrikaners against all the horrible things people said about them?
posted by rodgerd at 2:33 PM on January 9, 2009


Also, denounce me as a bigot if you will, but please don't harsh on my favorite whoring. I forgot to mention that. Everyone, please favorite all my comments even as I ask a random Chinese person to go set the charges for the railway tunnel.
posted by GuyZero at 2:36 PM on January 9, 2009


They're not always very personally resilient and they not always very interesting. ... It's hard to describe, but dealing with min-maxers is unpleasant. They stick to the rules, argue about them when necessary and have a single goal in mind.

You see, I disagree with your assertion that they aren't interesting. They know who they are, know what they're about, and know what they like. The people who are uninteresting are the ones who are trying to be interesting but don't have the background and knowledge to back it up. Or maybe I am just drawn to people who are focused and have a goal in mind rather than those who try to win me over by being all things to all people.
posted by deanc at 2:46 PM on January 9, 2009


Hey GuyZero,

So you hate Asians, Jews and Indians?

Just kidding. Thanks for taking the time to explain where you're coming from. I'm sure you're a nice guy and don't hate Asian people. I'm not trying to antagonize you or call you out as a bad person, I think you and many, many other people simply don't realize that the stereotypes people have about Asians are just as bad as those held about any other group, they're no more correct, and Asians aren't excepted from being hurt by them because of their perceived success.
posted by snofoam at 2:50 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


rogerd, I think you don't have any understanding of what you are reading or writing.
posted by snofoam at 2:53 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


not going to happen peppito, without some sort of generic accredidation board. And then people will want to pay others to help them prepare for said accredidation.
posted by garlic at 3:11 PM on January 9, 2009


Are Asian math majors really any more boring than any other math major?

But if you put an Asian together with a non-Asian, both of whom are boring but have mathematical pedigrees, you get exciting 80s new-wave offspring.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:11 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


snofoam, reasonable people can certainly hold differing opinions on the dangerousness of my racial prejudices. I do want to ask you to read the Mercury article I liked to though (here). Do you think this article is proffering stereotypes or contributing harmful racial prejudice? To quote:

"In the 25-to-34 age group, Asian-Americans have the highest proportion of suicides as a cause of death — 16.8 percent — of any racial group, according to Eliza Noh, assistant professor of Asian-American studies at California State University-Fullerton, who has researched suicide. The alarming numbers are often related to high family and social expectations, she said."

Relatively speaking, more Asian students are being pressured to turn away from their own interests and min-max their way into careers like medicine and law. I don't believe for a second that this is a universal truth for all Asians, but would you honestly say that Asian students don't face more family pressure in areas like university enrollment and acceptance versus the population as a whole?

Although, perhaps, your thesis is more that I have fallen for the "Model Minority" myth per the NY Times article which, in truth, was published during my first year of university so is certainly a product of the times in which I formed these opinions (having only gone through the undergrad application procedure that one time).
posted by GuyZero at 3:13 PM on January 9, 2009


Once people realize there is a cheaper, more democratic and fairer way of distributing credentials

And that would be?? I think the key word here is credentials...
posted by ob at 3:24 PM on January 9, 2009


It's going to become impossible to prevent people from learning enough material to cover what is learned (at least in a Bachelors degree) once enough of that material gets freely (or nearly so) disseminated on the internet.

This has been "impossible" since the invention of interlibrary loan.


Access to the materials needed to obtain a degree has been around, sure. The only power a university coursework-based program wields, if you ignore the phony/supposed ability to inject "prestige" into their students, is its ability to say who successfully completed a program and who didn't. Removing that is now possible as the possibility of providing the same level of gatekeeping (testing, extra help, record keeping) is now possible en masse through technology.

I think the whole idea of college admissions is rotten to the core.

Most colleges and universities accept all their applicants who can be reasonably expected to do college-level work with some difficulty, and then some more too.


Right, except for the "TOP TIER" of universities and colleges that don't and never will accept certain people, you know, the universities and colleges that produce the "TOP TIER PEOPLE" in their fields who will go on to fill up ALL the academic positions at "most colleges and universities" who will take almost anybody in order to preserve their jobs. And then those "TOP TIER" graduates go out to most corporations that only consider "TOP TIER" graduates to be "serious applicants" or the "TOP TIER" graduates venture capitalists want placed into Start-Ups to make them more investment worthy.

The social system is loaded with social inequities that are perpetuated by admissions processes on many levels, and it's evident that these inequities are most beneficial for the "TOP TIER" universities that promote them, not for society at all.

It's obvious that the monopolistic process of ranking education by "prestigious institutions" will not survive the Internet Age; it's a house of cards held up by social connections and social networking - it's a fraud - and kind of my personal pet peeve since entering academia, and it's good to see it crumbling.
posted by peppito at 3:45 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]



Can someone please tell me why it's okay to hate on/stereotype/justify the discrimination against Asians on Metafilter?


says the guy who previously thought it was ok to use tanks against palestinian children.

im just back from a prestigous ne college - from what i observed there, asians dont integrate one iota with any other ethnic group in college - this leads me to believe that perhaps they might be racist themselves.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:51 PM on January 9, 2009


I'm sure you're a nice guy and don't hate Asian people. I'm not trying to antagonize you or call you out as a bad person, I think you and many, many other people simply don't realize that the stereotypes people have about Asians are just as bad as those held about any other group, they're no more correct, and Asians aren't excepted from being hurt by them because of their perceived success.
I think GuyZero is, like many parents, Asian or otherwise, just trying to do well by his own kids. He doesn't want them to stress out or have school and academics become an upsetting experience, so he's trying to inculcate a set of values in his kids that encourages taking things easy and knowing that things will work out academically for them if they do what they like and don't get caught up in a spiralling arms race of academic achievement for the purpose of college admissions. The flip side is that some people are going to look at this attitude and say, "From my experience, lots of kids from Teutonic families are very lazy and more concerned about having a good time than working hard and being successful." Is that fair or accurate? No, but it's a stereotype based on a warped parody of his value system.
posted by deanc at 4:07 PM on January 9, 2009


I can only speak from my experience from when I was an admissions counselor, but most of that didn't match up with what I remember.

I felt like some of them seemed made-up, and the rest of them seemed like they came from someone who didn't like their job and so did a lousy job of it. But I noticed too that most of them came from the "Northeast" or "Ivy League" so maybe my experience at a Big Ten school was different. It was rare for me to need to read an essay - I only read them for borderline people to see if they had a reason that they were borderline or that they should come to that school. Otherwise, it was pretty clear cut if you were qualified or not.

I did read essays over lunch sometimes just because I thought they were interesting. People chose weird things to write about - wanting to get married came up several times in essays and I thought that was a weird goal to mention to try to get into college, and always felt sorry for whomever they dated in college.
posted by ugf at 4:08 PM on January 9, 2009


from what i observed there, asians dont integrate one iota with any other ethnic group in college

Okay can we please stop with this stuff thanks.
posted by naju at 4:15 PM on January 9, 2009 [3 favorites]


sgt. serenity, i'm pretty sure you have me confused with someone else, I've never said anything remotely like that.

This comment - asians dont integrate one iota - is totally ridiculous. Yes, all types of people from all over the world are racist, clearly you amongst them.
posted by snofoam at 4:18 PM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm still a little amazed my "only apply to the one (very selective) college that I'm excited about, and do it early admission" gambit actually worked out. That would've been the perfect place for the universe to remind me that it's a harsh place.
posted by flaterik at 4:27 PM on January 9, 2009


"From my experience, lots of kids from Teutonic families are very lazy and more concerned about having a good time than working hard and being successful." Is that fair or accurate?

Fair or not, it's actually pretty accurate in my experience. I may peg the min-maxers as predominantly Asian, but the alcoholics are nearly uniformly white. (With the exception of my good friend, who was a rare Asian alcoholic! Yay diversity!) I can find something that's both negative and accurate (IMO at least) to say about almost any group. Anyone can really - it's hardly a great accomplishment to stereotype people.
posted by GuyZero at 4:29 PM on January 9, 2009


Ya know, I would also point out that Asians make up over 60% of the world's population. I know we've often been using Asian as shorthand for Asian-american college student in this thread, but even in that case saying something like Asian alcoholics are rare is probably more an indication of limited experience or exposure to a wide variety of people. People of pretty much every culture in the world drink, some portion of them too much, whether Asian, college students or both.

My recommendation is to get out more and drink with a more diverse crew!
posted by snofoam at 4:40 PM on January 9, 2009


You know, I think we might also be at the beginning of a very nasty wave of anti-Asian racism. Back in the '80s, things were really heating up as the Japanese bought prominent real estate and Mr. Roboto stole our auto jobs, but then they had their economic meltdown in the late '80s and became less threatening. Now, with China and India making their way towards great power status and our economy failing, the pump is being primed. I really hope we can figure out a way to convince the rest of America that Asian-americans are just regular folks like you! Some are lazy, some are not smart, some can drive well, some are funny, blah blah blah. IT'S TRUE!!!
posted by snofoam at 4:47 PM on January 9, 2009


snofoam, you clearly know exactly what I mean because you describe it exactly: "Asian as shorthand for Asian-american college student" and yet you continue to choose to misinterpret what I'm saying. Yes, I mean Asian(-Canadian if you must) university students and yes, I know that there are plenty of Asian alcoholics in the wide world. Why you always chose to interpret any slight ambiguity in what I say in the worst possible way reflects more on your biases than on my lack of knowledge of how the world works.
posted by GuyZero at 5:09 PM on January 9, 2009


wow, sgt.serenity, that is not my experience at all. I have many Asian friends, as well as (mostly) white friends and black friends and hispanic friends, most of which are part of a very tight-knit single group (so much so that we have our own exclusive ning site a la facebook) and most of the group (though not me) came from Colgate, where it seems that at least these particular Asians assimilated perfectly well, if that's even a valid measure of anything positive or otherwise.

In my own experience at undergrad in NYC and now Law School in DC, I've seen that, yes, the Asian students will gravitate towards one another, but are quite sociable with other groups as well. And gravitation towards each other is just a natural sociological phenomenon. We socialize with those who are like us, as a general rule, and race - for better or worse - can be a strong immediate signifier of that, particularly if you are a member of a minority group.

Think about your NE college, and then imagine what it must have been like for these Asian students to have shown up there at the beginning of their freshman year. Growing up in an Asian-American household is notably different from not doing so, for all the reasons that have been discussed above, and college is one of the primary (kinda-sorta) ends to the whole Confucian hard-work regiment, as well as being the first time that the kids are on their own, naturally. Many or most of these students probably came from primary and high school education being in a stark minority in their schools, and now they find that they don't know anybody where they're going for college, but that there's a easy-to-find group of people like them for maybe the first time in their lives. That's not racism, that's just people dealing with being on their own and trying to make friends for the first time.

As to snofoam, I think a lot of the "problem," if that's what to call it, is that White America more or less views Asians as being assimilated, while Asian America views it quite differently. This puts Asians in the same boat with Jewish Americans, as successful demographic minorities which the majority doesn't often think of as minorities at all, because White America sees racism in terms of financial and political success - part of the reason that liberal White America (which certainly includes me) is so excited about Obama.

My girlfriend is first-generation Chinese, and a recent graduate of Harvard Law, FWIW. This means that I've recently begun to understand the ridiculousness of the "Where are you from originally" question, and I've started to cringe every time it starts to come up, from my parents or friends or anyone else just meeting her, people who mean no ill by it, but who would never ask the same question of someone of European dissent unless they had an accent of some type (my GF, incidentally, does not.) Part of this is likely to be due to cultural curiosity from those who are concerned and well-educated enough to know the differences between China, Japan, Vietnam, et al, and are looking for any easy conversation-starter, but it's squicky nonetheless.

Still, I'm cool with the way the top-tier schools are dealing with the "Asian Girl" issue, because aside from certain parts of the internet, a University of nothing but Asian women is not generally what anybody wants, not because of any problem with Asians, but because part of the culture of a good university is an exchange of different ideas, and an even somewhat homogenous culture can wreck that. Another reason is that the admissions boards know that there are cultural differences in the way that people tend to be brought up academically, and that much as Affirmative Action proponents assume that African-American students are likely to have come from less advantageous academic circumstances Asians are assumed likely to have come from a more advantageous setting. Not "right," necessarily, but it makes some degree of sense in a country trying to correct the racial wrongs of the past and make sure that all have the same opportunities.

Now - having asked my GF about the issue, she has the following things to add:

1. That the exclusive Asian kids at college tend to have come from exclusively Asian communities growing up, and don't know how to relate to non-Asians in most settings. Fair enough, but I didn't say it.

2. She was vehemently against Affirmative Action for this very reason in high school, when her parents warned her not to apply to any Ivy League schools for undergrad, despite her 4.0 GPA and 99th percentile SAT score. She applied to Cornell anyway, and was waitlisted. According to her, it's not an issue with Law Schools, though her parents were wary of her chances anyway, due to her being an Asian Girl.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:14 PM on January 9, 2009 [6 favorites]


GuyZero, the Asian people I knew in college drank as much as anyone else, as do the Asians I know now.
posted by snofoam at 5:25 PM on January 9, 2009


Navelgazer (and someone else mentioned it, too), my sister and I are half-white and half-asian and people ask us where we're from "originally" all the time. It bothers her a lot more than me, but it is kind of a silly question. Even worse, and it actually happens every once in a while, someone will ask, "What are you?" Aside from one philosophy student to another, who the hell asks this question of someone?
posted by snofoam at 5:30 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


We HAVE to except this fucking guy, right?

Yep.

Since he thinks "except" (i.e. leave him) is "accept" (i.e. take him), we need an "outta-the-box" thinker.
posted by ericb at 6:20 PM on January 9, 2009


Re: The difference between private and public school college counselors: Truth. I was on the bubble on for admission at the University of Chicago, and I got in because my college counselor basically browbeat the head of admissions there into taking me. She could do it because she'd built up years of credibility placing the right kids at the right schools (and she was not shy about letting you know which schools you had not a chance of getting in), so when she said to the U of C dude "take him, he's perfect for you," that admission was a done deal. Which was convenient for me, because it was where I wanted to go.

The idea that a public school college counselor didn't know he or she could call the admissions folks at a university appalls me and makes me sorry for the kids at that school trying to go to college.
posted by jscalzi at 6:40 PM on January 9, 2009


However, the guy who conflates Asian with "math genius sans personality" is an oaf and should not be in the position of admitting anyone to anywhere.

Oh, I know plenty of non-Asian math geniuses sans personality.

Or what Astro Zombie said.
posted by oaf at 6:59 PM on January 9, 2009


im just back from a prestigous ne college - from what i observed there, asians dont integrate one iota with any other ethnic group in college - this leads me to believe that perhaps they might be racist themselves.

yes, this is because of only what asians do. there is no possibility that white people may do things that alienate asian people and make asian people not want to mix with them.
posted by every_one_needs_a_hug_sometimes at 7:01 PM on January 9, 2009 [2 favorites]


Atom12 writes "On the rare occasion I did sign his name I used my left hand so it looked as if a two year old had signed it. More often than not I signed something else. Ragnor the Strong, Ivan Twatsky and Senor Stinkypants were just some of the many signatures that accompanied the packets. "

Never did get to college, though I made a few feeble attempts at it. I wish I had received one of your packets all those years ago, because I would have enthusiastically thrown myself at any school with a president cool enough to sign his name "Ragnor the Strong." Especially if his name really were something like Fred Wilkinson.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:28 PM on January 9, 2009


Relatively speaking, more Asian students are being pressured to turn away from their own interests and min-max their way into careers like medicine and law. I don't believe for a second that this is a universal truth for all Asians, but would you honestly say that Asian students don't face more family pressure in areas like university enrollment and acceptance versus the population as a whole?

I would agree with that. But, there are certainly non-Asian ethnic groups, such as Jews, that put similar pressure on their kids with regards to education and careers, and nowadays it certainly isn't socially acceptable for a college admissions officer to ask whether or not we would want a class made up of solely of Jews in justifying discrimination against Jews.
posted by gyc at 7:50 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think admissions officers have a disgusting job.

Every person has hidden parts to their personality. Things you wouldn't know from sharing only part of their life with them... things you wouldn't have an idea about just from being their teacher, or acquaintance, or co-worker. Things that you have no hope of detecting from a stupid admissions essay and a transcript, nor even an interview. Especially the parts that they're unwilling to let show - those parts are usually the most important... and beautiful. The parts that will make all the difference years down the road in a completely obscure way.

An admissions officer's job, when deciding borderline cases, is to make a futile attempt at guessing those things, then pass them through a ludicrously subjective and uninformed filter of what they think is best. I know I would feel horrible if I was made to decide people's fates with so little information about who the person really is.
posted by azazello at 7:55 PM on January 9, 2009


it certainly isn't socially acceptable for a college admissions officer to ask whether or not we would want a class made up of solely of Jews in justifying discrimination against Jews.

Seeing as the actual quote was about Asian Women:
("if we went by grades and test scores we'd have a whole class of Asian girls and no one wants that.") that's not accurate. More accurate (but less shrill) would be to ask if "we would really want a class full of Jewish women" to which the answer would be no. That isn't diverse, there are no men and no representatives of other ethnicities. Indeed for the same reason as I gave above. Saying that no one wants a class full of Asian women isn't racist or prejudicial against Asians when the context is college admissions. Colleges are meant to be diverse places with representatives of all genders, sexualities, races and socio-economic backgrounds. If the point is that

Indeed I think we've been over this point a few times above.
posted by ob at 8:16 PM on January 9, 2009


I wish Astaroth was the president of my college.
posted by Kwine at 8:20 PM on January 9, 2009


If the point is that

I have no idea why that fragment was still in my post...
posted by ob at 8:23 PM on January 9, 2009


You know, a good friend and next door neighbor of mine was a Chinese immigrant. She was born in China, and her family left China when she was four. Doing the math, that puts them leaving around the time of Tiananmen. I understand her father was a professor of math before immigrating, but I don't think he spoke much English, and ran a restaurant in the states.

She was a bright young girl, and her family did pressure her into medicine. But I wouldn't say she was a "min-max"er. More just a "max." She was in band, on the school paper, Science Olympiad, and generally an over-achiever. Facebook says she's gone on to is working on a MD/PhD from Yale, and Linked-In reports some incredible dual major in molecular biochemistry and economics that I have to assume I'm misreading something.

Now maybe that's "boring," but really, peer-reviewed journal articles are pretty much required to be boring, and I thought the whole point of universities was to train the next generation of researchers.
posted by pwnguin at 10:14 PM on January 9, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the point of that story? Was she rejected by several universities when she applied out of high school? If so, could you tell the difference between "She was rejected because she's Chinese" and "She was rejected because her application was weaker in some way than the many other applicants with strong science and math backgrounds who admitted in their applications that they wanted to go to medical school"? If she got into the colleges she applied to, then what's the point at all?

I thought the whole point of universities was to train the next generation of researchers

You thought wrong. The point of the undergraduate section of universities is not to train the next generation of researchers, or to foster the particular kinds of brokenness that lead to being the next generation of researcher. The point of undergraduate education is primarily to educate people who will leave and never come back except for parties.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:25 AM on January 10, 2009


And for the record, Asians are hardly a homogeneous group. The pale Pakistani Muslim wearing a headscarf is far different from a Hindu from South India, or from an Afghan, or from the child of Vietnamese refugees. There's a hella diversity in this label of "Asian" you folks have for us, and our higher grades don't justify these double-standards.

I only have experience with the admissions office at one particular elite school (Stanford, where I had several good friends who were deans/associate deans) and I can assure you that private colleges and universities are well-aware of these distinctions. The "formula" is more nuanced than you imagine.

PS No one ever complains when the white kids all hang out together.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:10 AM on January 10, 2009 [2 favorites]


What's the point of that story?

The point was to demonstrate that the class of over-achievers that some people on this thread try to claim is "boring" is actually pretty darn interesting, and colleges actually (contrary to claims) like and nurture overachievers.

It's only in the movies where this sort of person finds his/her life of being a top-tier successful researcher unfulfilling and truly wishes to give it all up to pursue a life making paper maché art in New Mexico where she meets and falls for a hot, buff ceramics artist. Sorry, guys.
posted by deanc at 6:12 AM on January 10, 2009


The point was to demonstrate that the class of over-achievers that some people on this thread try to claim is "boring" is actually pretty darn interesting, and colleges actually (contrary to claims) like and nurture overachievers.

Of course they do. But elite universities don't want a whole class full of the same kind of overachiever, and they probably hit their quota of "obvious premeds" fairly quickly.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:38 AM on January 10, 2009


I thought long and hard about this thread through the course of the day. While I sympathize (and emphathize; been there, done that) with any Asian who feels discriminated against by all those racial quotas, a good deal of the whole discrimination-by-race thing exists only when you think there's a causal relationship between 'achievement' and 'going to Harvard'.

Here's what I figured: for the most part, at least in the limited respect of actually doing the shit that you really like without really caring for appearance-based programmes such as MBA's, it's possible to do get a good university experience in a not-so-Ivy League sort of a place. Harvard's and Yale's are the Ferraris and Lamborgini's of the university world; great to show off, massive brand-value, little value-for-money.

That is to say, you don't want to go to Harvard if you want to be the next Erdos. Harvard _does not_ want Erdos's or Ramanujan's; it wants to perpetuate its kind through all that nonsense about 'character' and 'personality', completely oblivious of course to just how soul-sucking this entire admissions process is.

Nope, you don't go to Harvard for the next big scientific discovery, you go to Harvard to get the "Harvard experience". That, apparently, is very exacting in nature, and is defined in precise racial percentages. When you shift your gaze from "getting that shiny degree" to "doing what you like the best", things become a lot simpler; in SUNY Buffalo's masters programme in computer science, I'm told that there's exactly one White student in a class of 30.

And oh, about them where-are-you-really-from questions, my American-born cousin, he who can't speak my mother tongue at all save for a few words to compliment my grandmom's cooking, yes you know him, he's the guy playing Mario Kart on N64, keeps complaining about it. Here's what I tell him: when someone asks that, you lower your voice conspiratorally, and whisper, you'll never guess; Tampa! (or wherever you think your home-town is)

For some reason, white Americans feel priviledged if a non-White starts whispering to them; me, I've successfully gotten away with claiming I was from the Canary Islands, Guam and Togo. (Wasn't successful with Burkina Faso; somehow many people refused to believe that there was an actual town called Ougadougou.)
posted by the cydonian at 9:53 AM on January 10, 2009


The point of my story was:
1) to share a personal perspective on the subject
2) to offer a rebuttal to the idea that Asian Girl Stereotypes are somehow 'gaming' the system, or are poorly rounded "high test scores and grades and violin as their only extracurricular" students
3) to affirm, for those who'd like to pretend otherwise, that the stereotypical family driven student exists
4) to point out that "boring" seems to be bringing a lot of results for society, and maybe isn't even boring at all.

But if I have to point this out, then either I've failed at writing or you failed at reading.
posted by pwnguin at 6:17 PM on January 10, 2009


I wonder whether or not a Harvard education gets you more respect in places where its value is, due to its rarity, unconditionally assumed. For example, I've worked with someone (here in Canada) who was fawned over as Harvard-educated. The funny thing is that the guy is brilliant, which people would learn fairly quickly, but there was this instant initial "ooh" factor that came from having been to this famous American school. Strange.

I don't doubt that it was a feather in his cap when it came to catching choice positions and promotions, but at that point the benefit seems to be about appearances, in the same we've seen former competitive athletes snapped up here for jobs having no relation to their athletic expertise -- purely a matter of employer's bragging rights. Again, very odd.

So I suppose there is some, bizarre, tangential benefit to be had in a Harvard education when it comes to job competition, if nothing more direct.

On the "Asian issue", I think it's pretty interesting that diversity is that valued, if that's the real motivation. I suppose for undergrad degrees, why not. The meritocracy only comes in during grad school when they want the top candidates to be doing the work that touches on grant dollars. But I do share the implied suspicion here about perhaps less savoury motivations cloaked in concerns about diversity. Personally, I think a classroom mixed with people from India, Iran, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, China, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia would be incredibly diverse. (and fascinating. That would kick ass.)
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:50 PM on January 10, 2009


Bronzefist, do you really think that when someone spoke about "it would only be Asian girls," they really meant "girls who are ethnically Japanese or Ainu or Han or Chinese minority ethnicities or Vietnamese or Lao or Hmong or Montagnard or Burmese or Singaporean or Indian or Persian or Kurdish or Turkmen or Malay or any of the many other ethnic groups that have been in Asia for a long time, including ethnic groups that do not have classically `Asian' features" and not just "Chinese girls or maybe Korean, their names all look the same to me LOL"?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:15 PM on January 10, 2009


ROU_Xenophobe, the term "Asian" is more broadly interpreted in places with stronger English heritage, to include former English colonies such as India. Clearly you and I recognize its meaning, but I can see how someone from Canada might make that mistake nonetheless.
posted by pwnguin at 2:05 AM on January 11, 2009


The funny thing is that the guy is brilliant, which people would learn fairly quickly, but there was this instant initial "ooh" factor that came from having been to this famous American school. Strange.

Dropping the H-Bomb (youtube)
posted by mecran01 at 7:53 AM on January 11, 2009


Dropping the H-Bomb (youtube)

Video obviously made by an Eli. Yale Sucks!
posted by ericb at 9:04 AM on January 11, 2009


Harvard's and Yale's are the Ferraris and Lamborgini's of the university world; great to show off, massive brand-value, little value-for-money.

USA Today: Getting the Most Bang for Your College Buck

The Princeton Review's 100 "Best Value Colleges" list for 2009:
Harvard's ranking -- #2 (private)

Yale's ranking -- #5 (private)
posted by ericb at 9:41 AM on January 11, 2009


For example, I've worked with someone (here in Canada) who was fawned over as Harvard-educated.

So, what's Iggy like in person?
posted by oaf at 9:35 PM on January 12, 2009


So, what's Iggy like in person?

Heh.
posted by GuyZero at 9:27 AM on January 13, 2009


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