University Admissions: How many Asian-Americans are too many?

Flickr Photo Credit: yellowtailshark

How many Asian-Americans are too many?  That’s one of the key questions that I see coming out of the Boston Globe‘s op-ed piece “Do Colleges Redline Asian-Americans?” I’ve talked before about the Princeton study cited in the article, which says that Asian-Americans applying to elite colleges have to work harder than whites to get in.  One part that piqued my interest was this section about diversity in California colleges:

Some Asian-American students feel that they lost something by going to school at a place where almost half of their classmates look like themselves – a campus like UCLA. The students said they didn’t feel as well prepared in intercultural skills for the real world.

The point about college as a place for learning intercultural skills has some validity.  I asked The Daughter how she felt that her K-8 school prepared her for high school.  She said that she felt that the school, which happens to be about 70-80% Asian-American, mostly Filipino and Vietnamese, prepared her well academically, but didn’t prepare her socially for her high school, which is about 50% Asian-American, with the rest being mostly white and Hispanic.

I think that admissions committees go wrong, as do some of the Asian-Americans students mentioned in the article (along with Daily Candy and producers of The Karate Kid remake), when they “see Asians as a unit.”  Asians-Americans are an incredibly diverse group.   I never interacted with Korean-Americans until I finally met some in college. Although The Daughter grew up around a lot of Asian-Americans, she had few interactions with Indian-Americans.  In high school, she ended up having a lot of Indian-American friends, going with them to Indian festivals, and dancing bhangra at their parties.    She also learned about Hispanic culture and went to her friends’ quinceaneras.  And yes, for the first time, she had really close friends who were white.  This was at a high school that was 50% Asian-American, so I don’t see how going to a school with a significant number of Asian-Americans like this necessarily limits your chances for intercultural learning.

The article says certain elite colleges seem to cap their percentages between 15-20%.  My daughter’s experience says that you can still have intercultural learning even at 50%.   If intercultural learning is the excuse for not accepting them, it looks like a large number of Asian-Americans are being rejected unnecessarily.

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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