Many Asian Students Denying Race To Gain College Entry

by Danielle Pointdujour

When it comes to college applications or simply applications in general, many African Americans and Hispanics are already up on the “I choose not to disclose” game when it comes to identifying race out of fear of being discriminated against, but now it seems many Asian students are having to go this route as well. Many students of Asian descent from one or both parents, whose last names don’t give away their heritage, have found that when it comes to gaining acceptance into America’s top schools like Harvard and Yale, there is only one boxed to be checked for race: white.

According to an article by the Associated Press:

For years, many Asian-Americans have been convinced that it’s harder for them to gain admission to the nation’s top colleges.

Studies show that Asian-Americans meet these colleges’ admissions standards far out of proportion to their 6 percent representation in the U.S. population, and that they often need test scores hundreds of points higher than applicants from other ethnic groups to have an equal chance of admission. Critics say these numbers, along with the fact that some top colleges with race-blind admissions have double the Asian percentage of Ivy League schools, prove the existence of discrimination.

The way it works, the critics believe, is that Asian-Americans are evaluated not as individuals, but against the thousands of other ultra-achieving Asians who are stereotyped as boring academic robots.

Now, an unknown number of students are responding to this concern by declining to identify themselves as Asian on their applications.

While many students say that they are comfortable with their choice to essentially deny a part or all of who they are, a choice supported by their parents, other students aren’t as comfortable with the decision. The AP spoke with Jodi Balfe, a Harvard freshman who was born in Korea and came here at age 3 with her Korean mother and white American father, and against the advice of her high school guidance counselor, teachers and friends declared herself Asian on her college application. For Balfe the choice was easy, “I felt very uncomfortable with the idea of trying to hide half of my ethnic background. It’s been a major influence on how I developed as a person. It felt like selling out, like selling too much of my soul. I thought admission wouldn’t be worth it. It would be like only half of me was accepted.”

Have you ever had to deny your race? What are your thoughts on denying your race when applying to schools or jobs?

  • whilome

    My kid is half-Asian and she already knows to put “black” or “multi-ethnic” on her apps. Discrimination against the “model minority” is well known in academic community.

  • http://www.blasianbytch.com N’jaila Rhee

    I’m part asian and I did not deny my heritage. For the applications that asked for my race I checked both the Black and Asian boxes or I checked other and put black and asian.

  • Perverted Alchemist

    A lot of Asians are going to great lengths to deny their heritage, and academia is just at the bottom of the list (See: plastic surgery).

  • whilome

    I think you are conflating two topics. Getting surgery to change the epicanthic fold is a misguided trend by a select few Asian women. Making sure that an Ivy league school doesn’t compare you to the other 4.0/36ontheACTs Asian person is more about self-advocacy.

    The only way the “hide that I’m Asian” trick even works is if the person has a Anglicized name. My blackanese child will still walk into a university with her “Lucy Liu with an afro” self.

  • Perverted Alchemist

    Sure, but does self- advocacy work for them in the long run when in the end, they are still going to be seen as “just another Asian” in the public’s eye?

  • Chica

    You know this whole “whoa is me I’m Asian and can’t get into college” thing really annoys me. The thing is, colleges just aren’t looking for the people with perfect SAT scores. They want people who are well rounded individuals. I can’t stand that people think because I’m black, I have a better chance of getting into Ivies. The Asian valedictorian may have a 2400 on the SAT, but I have a 2070 as WELL as playing tennis, being in Varsity Band, and heading a host of clubs. The ability to take a test shouldn’t be the only way of defining a student’s intelligence. I know intelligent kids of ALL races who only focused on high test scores but failed to participate in several extracurriculars, and subsequently didn’t get into the college of their choice. Truth is none of us know exactly what a college wants. The highest test score =/= the most qualified applicant.
    ~Salam

  • Nix

    As a minority currently in an Ivy League school, I am no stranger to these discussions. There are also many white students who also feel that self-identifying is a threat to their application *side eye*. What astonishes me is that a lot of these kids have a sense of entitlement when it comes to acceptances in top-ranked universities. “I went to private school XYZ and made a 2400 on my SAT so therefore I’m the most qualified applicant.” What these students fail to realize is that colleges want well rounded students and they want students who are passionate about the university. I didn’t have the “perfect” scores but I damn sure knew everything there was to know about my school and that showed on my application. Students need to realize that schools want well rounded and unique students and stop feeling entitled to an acceptance because of test scores (which are biased to begin with).

  • isolde

    “Sure, but does self- advocacy work for them in the long run when in the end, they are still going to be seen as “just another Asian” in the public’s eye?”

    @PA

    whilome is right. you’re conflating issues. It’s not that most of these HAPA’s with the non-Asian surnames, that can get away with this, are “ashamed” of being Asian. Most of these kids proudly fly the “I’m Asian” flag once they get into school. They’re doing this because they know that competition is fierce, and they’re using their privilege to game the system.

  • jamesfrmphilly

    build enough classrooms so that every student can have a seat.
    free public education for as far as you can do the course work.

    but what do i know, i’m a socialist.

  • Timcampi

    Wow, you both did NOT read the article did you?

  • Timcampi

    I don’t deny my race, I choose not to select it because I know the discrimination or ‘special treatment’ I may receive because of it. I never understood why applicants needed to mark their race anyway, shouldn’t admissions be tailored so that the most qualified gets in? Not to fill some quota.

    Anyway, I feel bad for these students. I remember my Asian friends lamenting during the application process: “S#!T I play the violin and piano, I’m really good at math, and my SAT scores are above par. I’m never getting into college!” And for the most part they tend to be right… colleges discriminate against them because they are the ‘Model Minority’. We expect them to all be exceptional and thus, believe they don’t need help… or the best education apparently. Given the chance, I’d also put multiethnic/multicultural. Unless you’re a white woman, college admissions really don’t average in your favor.

  • Kaydee-P

    I once thought this as well but I thought again. The key point in this article is that many Asian students are being judged not individually, but on the “Asian = Whiz Kid” scale. So if I were Korean and sent in my app, admissions sees my race before anything else- so even if I were a well rounded student, it doesn’t matter. Not to mention- at least within the stereotype- Asians aren’t only smart, but they’ve been playing the violin, piano, and clarinet while learning Russian and French since potty training. So well rounded-ness,
    arguably, isn’t a question either.

    However, when Asians as a whole are denied admission, that also excludes many students of Asian nationalities that are hardly recognized as it is. So for some, this type of scoring hurts twice as much.

  • Chica

    @Timcampi
    Um I most definitely DID read both clutch’s article and the one on huffingtonpost so yeah. It’s fine if you disagree with me. I was just stating my personal opinion and experience.

  • Chica

    @Timcampi
    Um I actually read both clutch’s article and the one on huffingtonpost so I’ll just ignore that misplaced comment. I’m perfectly find with you disaeeinggr with me. I was simply sharing my opinions and experiences.
    *Note* Asians have the highest college attendance rate in the US soooo I think they’ll be just fine.

  • OhMyEyes

    I don’t really understand why universities continue to put this on an application. If they want to find out demographics of their students, they should survey them after they’ve been admitted.

    I can’t think of one reason why knowing a person’s race (or the race they most identify with) is important on any application.

  • Chica

    @Timcampi
    I most definitely read both clutch’s article and the one on huffingtonpost so I’ll just ignore that misplaced comment. I’m perfectly fine with you disagreeing with me. I was simply sharing my personal experiences and opinions and I respect yours.
    *sidenote* Asian kids have the highest college attendance rate in the U.S. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/28/college-enrollment-rate-at-record-high/ sooooo I think they’ll be just fine.

  • isolde

    “I can’t stand that people think because I’m black, I have a better chance of getting into Ivies.”
    ____________________________________________________________________

    @chica

    Statistically, you would face less competition, than an Asian student, if your standardized test scores were at a certain level.
    ___________________________________________________________________

    “The Asian valedictorian may have a 2400 on the SAT, but I have a 2070 as WELL as playing tennis, being in Varsity Band, and heading a host of clubs.”
    _________________________________________________________________

    And what makes you think that the Asian valedictorian doesn’t have a laundry list of extra-curriculars as well? The ones applying for admission to selective colleges usually have sky high test scores AND awards and extra-curriculars.

    Here, watch this.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cghj-myPGls

    It’s a documentary about a bunch of Asian kids applying to Ivies. Two of the students go to Hunter College High School in New York. Another of the students in the doc has high SAT II’s but low SAT I’s for an Asian female applicant. She also has a bunch of extra curricular activities on her transcript. Another of the students is an athlete. Only one fit your stereotypical description of an Asian student who did little else but study.

  • B

    @Chica, who said: “colleges just aren’t looking for the people with perfect SAT scores. They want people who are well rounded individuals.” Yeah, because all (hell, even half) the white kids I taught in my majority white classrooms at my university are “well-rounded individuals.” I respect your opinion, but you seem unwilling to acknowledge the plain reality: most universities’ (especially those like Harvard and Yale) have ridiculously racist admissions systems and administrators. Just more institutionalized racism at play. I’m just glad these Asian kids are not blind to it.

  • B

    I agree with you. Free public university education like the German system. But that’s too much like right in this country.

  • Grace

    From the admission’s committee’s perspective, it is a numbers game. I have a white co-worker who had a BA from Yale, the best scores, and was an athlete and could not, after two years of applying, get into a Ph.D program. I think what the
    “well-rounded” commenters are trying to state is that admissions have more than enough of the same. Plus, well-roundedness, for SOME programs, is not just GPA and extra-curriculars. If your program is in the social sciences, as mine is, and you have to work with certain populations, personality accounts for part of it too. Being a bookworm won’t necessarilty help you develop rapport with a depressed adolescent.

  • CaliDReaming86

    Whenever race/ethnicity is asked for on an application, I always choose not to disclose it. Same for when gender is asked for, even though my name is a unisex name, it has the spelling that would indicate I am a woman.

    As far as Asians deciding not to disclose their ethnicity in fear that THEY will be discriminated against, I don’t know what to say really.

  • Timcampi

    @Chica

    I’m not disagreeing with you because we’re not even discussing the same topic. The article discussed this one key point (which you either ignored or disagreed with): Students who fall under the ‘HAPA’ privilege’ are faced with two choices; either denying their model minority heritage, or become ‘just another azn’ in the college applicant pool. Along with high test scores, Asian students are unfairly expected to take on a flurry of extra curricular activities (hint, Asian students dominate in this field as well) in order to get into decent colleges because of the very perception you eagerly displayed.

    Your sidenote is useless because it plays into the same race-bashing above. Do those that quality not deserve that Harvard spot because their test grades/race matriculation is above average? What, are all Asians a group now?

    Sorry, someone with a 2040 playing tennis and some other thing will never ever ever be more qualified than a student with a solid 4.0 GPA, a 2400 SAT and a healthy interest in arts, science or maths regardless of race and background. I mean really, how does that supposed ‘well-roundedness’ help you in that maths course? Science?

    [Actually, if we're going to talk about the unfairness of it all we really should be complaining about how many under-qualified (but not at all ungifted) black students make it into these top schools. An estimated 7.9% of would-be black attorneys drop out because of their credentials do not meet or surpass the standards of the school. http://www2.law.ucla.edu/sander/Systemic/final/SanderFINAL.pdf ]

  • paloma

    I disagree with the conventional wisdom that says Asians are doing this in order to move away from the model minority pressure. I think their logic, a pervasive one, is rooted in the social of construction of whiteness — which gives them an advantage in the college admissions process. People are just too shy to say that.

    If you cant tell your Asian heritage by your name and your not half-asian, why identify as white? Why not identify as black?

    “whiteness is the privilege of opportunity” –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8judTdktx0&feature=related

  • Chica

    @B and isolde
    Point taken..doesn’t necessarily change my frustration but it does give me better understanding about issues Asian kids face. I always have to remind myself that everyone struggles.

    @Timcampi
    I made a mistake in trying to prove my qualifications to an insignificant internet commentor who has no affect on my life. You know nothing about my math or science scores in school so don’t attack me on that front. And with that I’m finished.
    ~Salam

  • apple

    i deny my race on job applications or skip the question all together.. but with a made up name like mines i’m sure they already know.

  • Chica

    Actually I would like to say something else. I’ve been working my butt of for my whole life to prepare myself to compete in a top notch college. I guess when I see articles like these I feel as if my personal accomplishments are being attacked even though I know this is not the case. I respect and enjoy peple of all colors cultures and races. I am well aware that there are plenty of well rounded Asians who get overlooked in the admissions process. However as I stated before, I’ve seen people of all races who look like the perfect applicant, get passed over for someone else. So I can completely understand Asians who feel like they have to play the game. I guess hey mark white for the same reasons why on job applications I’ll have to put my European name instead of my Nigerian name.

  • rosie

    Congrats on your achievement and keep up the progress! If you were a H.S. drop out or attacked a McDonald’s employee from behind a register, some women here would imply that you were trifling and “good riddance” anyway. Personally, I think processes like this are rarely rational or “fair.” People, (black included) are careless when chiding black people for playing the race card yet are equally quick to do the same when the system is not in their favor.

    It’s late; hope this reads well.

  • Timcampi

    -__- I was not attacking you personally, I wasn’t even aware you were using your actually test scores. Your accomplishments are equally insignificant in the larger scheme of things… What exactly did I attack about you? Did I mention you were not smart or undeserving of anything? B and Isolde basically said the same thing I did btdubs.

    [Christ, it's really not about you. Even though I used the word you I wasn't talking about you. One and you are actually synonymous in the above.]

  • African Mami

    To deny my race, to be accepted by the majority would be denouncing my history. Never! When one door is closed, another one is flung open. Guess what, if both are closed, there is always a crack on the wall enough to let me through!

  • isolde

    @paloma

    That’s a good question. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that for the half white HAPAS, identifying as white isn’t lying, whereas identifying as black (if they aren’t) would be.

    A lot of half-black HAPAS do check black only on the application, and the ones who come to the table with higher test scores than the general, black candidate pool benefit. But then that opens up another can of worms, like how it’s becoming increasingly uncommon at selective universities (Ivies) to find black students with four grandparents who were descendents of the American slave trade.

  • isolde

    “Actually, if we’re going to talk about the unfairness of it all we really should be complaining about how many under-qualified (but not at all ungifted) black students make it into these top schools. An estimated 7.9% of would-be black attorneys drop out because of their credentials do not meet or surpass the standards of the school.”

    @Timcampi

    Oh, so you mean, 92% of would be black attorneys at selective law schools, don’t drop out?

    What is it with people who think that hundreds of years of systemic, institutional racism is going to automatically evaporate because a handful of blacks benefit from half a century of affirmative action policies?

  • Chica

    Christ, I already addressed that I was taking the article too personally in a comment further down the list. But thank you for reminding me that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I wasn’t aware of that.

  • Timcampi

    @Isolde

    “What is it with people who think that hundreds of years of systemic, institutional racism is going to automatically evaporate because a handful of blacks benefit from half a century of affirmative action policies?”

    Uh, wut.. Affirmative action actually helps black-Americans less than it helps white women. I’m pointing out that race-based placing isn’t always beneficial or fair to the candidate…

  • B

    @isolde: “Oh, so you mean, 92% of would be black attorneys at selective law schools, don’t drop out? What is it with people who think that hundreds of years of systemic, institutional racism is going to automatically evaporate because a handful of blacks benefit from half a century of affirmative action policies?” I agree. As a law student who is black at a selective law school, who has not yet seen any of my peers “drop out,” I’m actually offended (and yes, I know it’s not about me).

    @Timcampi: Do you actually think half of those white students that are there really have more credentials than the black students in law school? I can tell you simply: they don’t. (Maybe on paper they can show they’ve done this and that, but in reality, half of the white students are no better equipped – as far as credentials – than black students to handle law school. And anyway, I can guarantee you that if black students are dropping out of law schools at alarming rates, which I doubt, it’s not because they can’t do the work. It’s because they realize that such a mechanical, hierarchical Anglo system/culture – the American legal system – that abhors creativity, intellect, and imagination simply isn’t a fit for them. But my hunch is that most, like myself, hang in there because we are aware of how important our potential work will be).

  • Timcampi

    @B

    “Do you actually think half of those white students that are there really have more credentials than the black students in law school?”

    No. I don’t. But I don’t have time to elaborate on my views right now… btdubs I went to an elitist school as well. BUT I do believe that race-based placing hurts minorities more than it does white students. 7.9% is hardly an alarming rate… but it is a significant figure I was simply stating that it is UNFAIR– no matter what race– for students to be placed in an institution based on their race rather than credentials. Hence why I said further above we should get rid of race selection on applications.

    That is all.

  • Timcampi

    Also Kudos on the upcoming law degree. I wish you success.

  • B

    @Timcampi: Thanks! And, I see what you’re saying. To me, though, there are other indicators of one’s race – other than just the box where one checks race – such as where one grew up (i.e. Englewood, Chicago, a well-known impoverished black part of Chicago), name especially, one’s majors (like African-American studies, Latino Studies), etc. – that will still designate one as nonwhite in the admissions process. And I just think that until we have a nation where whites are not prejudiced against nonwhites, we will always need some sort of affirmative action in place. We cannot expect them to judge us on our merit. Anyway, thanks for clarifying!

  • B

    Lol. I meant for my comment to show up down here.

  • Timcampi

    @B

    Mm no problem! I also believe the SATs are racist as ish (well, it’s gotten better). There are several things in an admission process that can be used to ‘out’ your race. Sometimes it starts with your name, sometimes your diction (in the case of an interview), sometimes it’s the salary your parents make… whether they’re divorced, the jobs you’ve held, the area you lived in. My college counseling office made us read a few would-be applicants and it was VERY EASY figuring out which person belonged to which race. It’s really sad. That’s why I always put my mostly white hometown in Pennsylvania instead of Irvington, NJ.

    But yeah I agree with you… I just hate being told ‘you’re only in here because you’re a minority’ ugh. It’s discouraging.

  • secret ninja

    now i like that idea a lot better!

  • paloma

    Well yeah, I’m referring to Asian-Americans who are not half white or half black.

  • chanela

    i wouldnt be surprised if asian people had no problem denying their race on applications. most literally worship the ground caucasian people walk on.(and vice versa)

    i’m sure many brag to their friends about it and their friends reply with “wow how lucky you are that you can say you’re white on paper!”

  • chanela

    i hate when applications ask for your race. wtf is the point? what does that have to do with my academics or (for a job) my qualifications?

    i never put my race down.

Latest Stories

Cheers! 30 Not-As-Obvious Occasions That Call For Champagne

by

Maker of Infamous ‘Sizzurp’ Takes it Off the Market

by

How To Rock: Black Women In Orange Lipstick

by

Newsflash: Most People Aren’t Down With the ‘Swirl’

by
Read previous post:
Hide Yo’ Kids, Hide Yo’ Wife: Stars Switch Lives For Celebrity Wife Swap
Cain ‘Suspends’ Campaign: A Blow to Black Conservatism?
Close