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Could affirmative action actually be beneficial for me (Asian Filipino male) if I contrast the stereotypes?


I'm currently a junior at a below-average high school in New York. I scored a 1450 on the SAT, have a 4.0 unweighted GPA, with emphasis on the medical field, as I eventually want to go to PA school with a science related undergrad degree. I'm aiming for top schools like Boston College and Vassar College (top choices), but not Ivy Leagues.

My main question is that, as an Asian (Filipino) male, with affirmative action negatively affecting Asian-Americans, would I actually be benefited by doing activities which typical Asian-Americans don't do? Instead of playing tennis and playing the violin, I am a 3 varsity football athlete with sectional (just below state-level) awards, a 2 varsity wrestling athlete also with sectional awards, a varsity track captain for sprinting rather than long distance, and a power-lifter (weightlifting). Would these activities be significantly beneficial to me to stand out against other Asian-Americans that I compete against in college admissions?


1 answer

answered on

It depends on what you mean by affirmative action, because a lot of people don't really understand how that policy actually works. The short answer for you specifically is yes—sort of—but here's the long one with some additional detail.

"Affirmative action," in reality, manifests mainly in academic thresholds and cutoffs for different schools. In short, when schools decide where to set their cutoffs for things like GPA, SAT scores, and schedule rigor (i.e. the number below which they won't consider anyone for admission), they make those thresholds different for people of different backgrounds, *based on the average scores and stats people of those backgrounds have.* That results in Asian-American students having a higher set of academic cutoffs than white students, because their average test scores, grades, etc. are higher.

So no, this wouldn't help you with "affirmative action"—you're still going to have to contend with higher academic thresholds than non-Asian students for BC, Vassar, etc. That said, the stats you've mentioned should be enough for those schools.

On the flip-side, once students are *past* the academic threshold, colleges will start comparing them with their peers in the extracurricular and essay rounds to see who they want to choose for a particular number of spots. That's where being different from the other people you'll be compared against is beneficial—but that's not because of affirmative action. That's just how the process works for everyone after that point. The reason things like tennis and violin tend to be seen as negative stereotypes for Asian-American applicants in that part of the cycle is that, well, a lot of Asian-American students do them, and many of the ones that do aren't particularly accomplished in them, so those activities come off as careerist (whether that's fair or not is another question). Meanwhile, having significant accomplishments in an activity—like you seem to in your athletics—alleviates that concern. But an Asian-American student who's made State Orchestra for violin or competed in the Youth Olympics in tennis would have the same kind of success.

So yes, your accomplishments will help you stand out from other Asian-Americans, but it really has nothing to do with affirmative action. You'll be treated the same as any other student with particularly accomplished extracurriculars, and weighed against other people who have reached similar summits.