Former Ivy League Admissions Officer Says Asian Americans At A Disadvantage

You do find that some Asians can be disadvantaged in the process, and not only because admissions committees think about Asians in a specific way, but because recommenders do too.

These are the words of a former Ivy League Admissions Officer from an interview from Business Insider. While I have talked about comments from other admissions officers, this interview reveals how one Ivy league admission process (that of Dartmouth) deals with Asian Americans, athletes, and minorities.  I found the above comments surprising because people blame admissions committees on apparent caps on Asian Americans, but this admissions officer says that there are other factors involved.

What factors are these?  He points out biases and cultural conflicts in the teachers making recommendations.

When reading recommendations you see these words—”diligent,” “hardworking”—because people tend to see East Asians in a certain way. You rarely see “creative” or “strong intellectual bent,” and they are less likely to be seen as “freethinking.” Same with issues of character. A lot of secondary teachers find it difficult to connect culturally with Asian Americans and the type of things they end up doing, so they won’t see as much talk about character.

Other notable comments involve athletes and legacy admissions (children of alumni) who have admissions advantages. Regarding athletes’ admissions:

I was constantly peeved by athletic admissions. Even though I didn’t look at them I thought they brought down the quality of the applicant pool. Athletic admissions drags down academic quality as one could argue does minority admissions.

Legacy admissions:

 “Legacies do get a bump. We’re taught to be sensitive of if their father or mother went to Dartmouth. Legacies are admitted at twice the rate of other students—though in part because they tend to be strong academically. Lots of people complain, but i found that people who were legacies were strong academically.”

Who is the most squeezed in the admissions process:

The demographic that gets squeezed is the white middle class, but then you don’t see as many applications from that demographic, period.

He also asserts that Early Admissions can in fact be easier than the regular process, contrary to many people’s expectations. He also says that many applicants don’t take enough chances in their essay and don’t distinguish themselves.

This article is an interesting read.  I was a little disappointed that they just published highlights from the conversation and not the whole conversation (so I could see if any of the highlights were missing context), but those highlights are revealing, if not occasionally disturbing.

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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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