3 years ago
Admissions Advice

Do Colleges/Universities Become Biased When It Comes to Race/Ethnicity?

I heard some where that colleges tend to be biased towards specific races, is that true? If so, are there any studies? And also, do they choose specific races to look more diverse, rather than the skills the students have?


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2 answers

Accepted Answer
3 years ago

I don't think this a question that has a simple answer or something that can be explained in the limited space.

My recommendation is that you educate yourself on American history with regards to affirmative action and race relations in America and that will inform you better on systemic and structural challenges within higher education. While it's illegal to discriminate against any applicant on the basis of race, color, gender, orientation, disability, or religion, some universities adhere to their own guidelines of who they want and what the trade-offs are. It's very complicated.

For instance, Asians (then Whites), in general, have a very difficult time getting a spot in an Ivy League or elite college because in general, they are better prepared high school students than other demographics. They, as a group scores the highest on standardized tests, have the highest GPAs, and often excel and academic ECs. But Ivy's have to turn more of them down than other groups because otherwise 50% of the admits would be Asian. So they make an effort to make it a level playing field for BIPOC students who perhaps come from lower-income backgrounds where they didn't have access to the best schools, tutors, consultants, and other factors like technology and things as basic as diet. So at a school like Harvard or Princeton or Yale, on one end of the academic spectrum, you find Asians with 1600 SAT, 4.0 UWGPAs, who took 10 APs, and on the other end you there might be some BIPOC admits with 1370 SAT, 3.7 UWGPAs who took zero APs. One group has a family income of $350,000 and the other $50,000. So it's not a meritocracy but a way for top schools to provide a hand up to those that deserve a chance to be their best version to help their future and their community in the future. So perhaps you don't want to hear or are surprised that there exists a sort of the opposite discrimination at the best schools in the country but they have a right as a private college to make up their own rules to fit their goals and aspirations for the society they serve.

Somewhere in the middle of the stats, you find a mix of races, mostly Caucasians some who are legacy, some who are recruited athletes, some whose parents just donated a load of cash to buy their way in through the side door and some are the kids of employees like Professors or Administrators. Is this fair? Is this meritorious? Absolutely not because there are plenty of middle-class intelligent kids who meet the criteria but can't get in because their spots are already taken by some other group. At Harvard something like 1/3 of the Freshman class is legacies, so that's not fair to anyone. But what can you do? Harvard is rich and powerful and they decide what the rules are. It's not a big state-funded college system. So if you are applying to Ivys, your chances of getting in are dependant on not 10 factors but perhaps 100 or 200. I think the Harvard Scorecard had something like 235 criteria.

If you think of each Freshman class of cohorts like a private collection or menagerie of circus acts or museum artifacts, you'll better understand the college admissions process. Each school has a rather fixed amount of spots to give out. Each school has X number of colleges, departments, sports teams, bands, orchestras, clubs, student government, newspapers, journals, jobs, etc so when they look at an applicant, they are not looking for the smartest kid necessarily on paper, they are looking for someone that can fill the checkboxes. So if the college needs a goalie Water Polo player and a Bassoonist and someone that can run the LGBTQIA+ club, and you happen love Ancient/Dead languages, then you will be selected over someone that just wants to program and get a degree in CS. The more you have to offer regardless of race, religion, color, etc. you have the better chance to be picked. And White privilege doesn't always work in one's favor. If you are a White liberal and want to apply to a Historically Black college like Howard, well you might have a harder time than its mainstream BIPOC cohorts because what are you going to really add to their campus? No one really wants to get inside your head and see things through your lens of experience.

There are some generalizations I have observed through watching Youtube videos on different college experiences by all kinds of students. Sometimes getting accepted into a great college is easier than surviving and being happy there. I watched a video on a bunch of first-generation, low-income BIPOC students who were accepted into good Liberal arts colleges like Vassar, Trinity, Colgate, etc. Once they got there, even though everything was beautiful and the dorms and classes were excellent, they missed home because they didn't feel they had the same community 100 miles away from the city. The food was bland, they didn't have anyone to date or party with, the radio stations didn't play their music, they felt isolated and trapped in a Winterwonderland and felt lost. But the kids who went to boarding school felt like college was great. They had money and past experiences to use their weekends to go skiing or snowboarding, hang out at the sororities or frat houses and drink beer and play games and wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

I guess what I'm saying is that finding a college that is suitable for you and you suitable for college is a challenge. Implied bias or discrimination is not the big barrier in getting into a college. I think there are dozens of colleges that you can get into regardless of your uniqueness. You just have to pick one that fits your needs and goals and vice versa.





Sorry for the long answer that perhaps only scratched a teeny tiny tip of the iceberg, most of which is under the surface and open to interpretation and exploration for many applicants.

3 years ago

So affirmative action does not purposely lower admit rates for Asian and whites.

The huge thing to note is all people have inherent bias (this is found everywhere) so the same AO may just like one applicant better than the other but the reasons Asians have lower admit rates is very broadly institutional priorities.

These can be broken down to what a organization wants to focus on. This may be diversity in race, geographic residence, diversity in activities. I’ll focus on the first one it very broadly and kinda inaccurately boils down to Id want a POC (person of color) admitted over an Asian student or something like that.

Then there is the realitive fact that very broadly Asians as an ethnic group have higher stats so thus a higher bar to entry. That doesn’t affect others as you largely are weighed against those of a similar background. Collegevine chancing engine does this approach.

But you not have an applicant admitted due to race as the main factor. Academic capability is always the primary factor considered in admissions whether Harvard or a school that admits 95% of students.

As mentioned 2 paragraphs ago most demographics are evaluated individually so an African American applying to Harvard may not be on par with an Asian student they are likely the top of thier group. Also while this is an ugly way to say it if you have applicants who are identical institutional priorities may “tie-break” in favor of the more diverse applicant.

Really hope this helps and feel free to comment if you’s like clarification as I’d be more than happy to help!

(This is a copy n pasted answer to a question about affirmative action and its affects in Asians with some stuff specifically for this question.)

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