Best Advice for Asians Applying to Elite Colleges: ‘Appear Less Asian’

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Asian-American students, generally known for their over-achievement and stellar academic records, are now being more often shunned by top universities all over the country because there are supposedly just too many of them — too many have perfect GPAs and ridiculously high SATs, too many play the piano or violin, and all of their immigrant parents came to the U.S. with nothing but the clothes on their backs and savagely worked so their children could have the best lives possible.

“Yawn,” say Ivy League admissions officers to themselves (presumably) when they go over an application of a golden student of Asian descent.

Why? Because Asian-American students are the new Jews of Ivy League admissions, and when schools like Harvard and Princeton meet their racial quotas for Asian-Americans, other Asian-Americans with perfect academic records are turned away even when there was literally nothing else they could have done better, other than not be Asian. That is what they call the “bamboo ceiling,” according to the Boston Globe.

That’s why there are now services that help rich Asian students with eyes set on an Ivy league education to “appear less Asian” and give them a one-up on every other perfect student.

Brian Taylor is the director at Ivy Coach, a Manhattan-based firm that advises families on how to get their kids into elite schools — and he has a special strategy for his Asian clients. He told the Globe:

“While it is controversial, this is what we do. We will make them appear less Asian when they apply.”

At Ivy Coach, $100,000 (a small price to pay to get into Harvard, no?) will buy students the “unlimited package,” which includes help for them throughout high school on their tests, essays, letters of recommendation, and extracurriculars to look like the kind of student elite schools will accept, which is not the Asian kind.

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James Chen is the founder of Asian Advantage College Counseling, a 20-year-old Alameda, California-based firm that helps Asian students avoid what he calls “the Asian penalty” in admissions. Chen, who also has clients on the East Coast, explained:

“The admissions officers are seeing a bunch of people who all look alike: high test scores, high grades, many play musical instruments and tend not to engage in more physical sports like football […] Schools don’t want students who care too much about their grades. They want kids who love learning.”

When Asian students come to him early enough, meaning either their freshman or sophomore year in high school, he usually directs them to “switch to another musical instrument” or “play a sport a little bit out of their element.”

On college essays, he’ll warn students to never “talk about your family coming from Vietnam with $2 in a rickety boat and swimming away from sharks.”

For one student, Chen advised her to “deemphasize the Asianness in her resume.”

This particular student attended a top high school in New York City where half the class was Asian. She had a perfect SAT, was class valedictorian, class president and captain of the badminton team.

She played the piano, but he encouraged her to go for musical theatre. She couldn’t put that she played badminton on her application because too many Asians play racquet sports. Obviously, she couldn’t put that she was in Asian Club on her application either. She also had to avoid saying she was interested in biology and wanted to become a doctor. “She put down social sciences,” Chen says.

That girl was accepted by early admission into Harvard.

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Basically, getting into an elite school is now impossibly difficult for Asian-American students unless they can somehow just stop being Asian. But hey, who needs Harvard if you have the brains to start your own company before college and become an entrepreneur, right?

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