Getting into the Ivy League: Some Unpopular Opinions
Background: I am an “unhooked” (i.e., upper-middle class Asian-American) Princeton SCEA admit, and these are some of my thoughts on the college admissions process.
Disclaimer: Everything I write below is solely a high schooler’s opinion—I’m by no means in the know, so take everything with a grain of salt.
Overrated elements of a college application:
Leadership-Leadership is seen by many as a mark of success in extracurriculars. While it can be immensely valuable, having extensive leadership positions is not necessary: I’m President of exactly one club and one of many officers at my HS literary magazine—and not even Editor-in-Chief at that.
Well-roundedness-My extracurriculars are extremely narrow in scope. They can be divided into exactly two categories: Classics-related activities and writing-related activities. In my opinion, depth of accomplishment (pointiness) is more important than breadth (well-roundedness); above all, passion is more important than objective stats and awards.
Teacher recommendations-If you’re an introvert like me, don’t fret. I didn’t click with any of my teachers, and I honestly don’t think it hurt me. That said, there are some ways to get to know them even if you don’t participate/contribute actively in class. Approach them after class; show that you care. For example, I asked my English teacher to provide feedback on my submissions to various writing contests. Also, make sure to supply your recommenders with a “brag sheet” outlining not just your accomplishments but also your goals for the future.
Affirmative Action-Being an under-represented minority or first-generation student isn’t as much of a boost as you think it is. Conversely, being Asian or Caucasian isn’t a drawback unless you make it a drawback. I’m privileged to pretty much be the antithesis of a typical “hooked” applicant, and yet I got into some pretty decent schools. Just don’t be a test-taking robot. Set yourself apart. And I don’t mean cultivating uncommon extracurriculars: if you’ve played piano or violin your entire life, that’s great. Show your passion and—this is the important part—try to connect it to something bigger than yourself. Why does it matter in the greater scheme of things? Again, nothing deep. Be genuine, humanize yourself, and you’re good to go.
Underrated elements of a college application:
Packaging-Packaging yourself well is paramount. By packaging, I don’t mean planning out your extracurriculars in middle school and doing things that look good on a resume. I’m talking about communicating a cohesive narrative through your application—what do you care about? how will you make an impact to the college community and the world at large? Essays are really helpful vehicles to convey your passions and best qualities.
Scores-For most unhooked applicants, there’s a baseline—2100+ and 3.8 GPA—under which it’s very hard to get into a school with a sub-10% acceptance rate. That said, scores only prevent your app from being tossed out; they won’t get you through the door.
For decades, the right has criticized and caricatured affirmative action — the practice of using race, gender and other identity-based measures as factors in hiring or university admission decisions — asgiving an unfair leg-up to under-qualified minorities (or women) at the expense of more qualified whites (often men). This, the practice’s detractors argue, constitutes its own form of discrimination.
Trump’s approach to his Cabinet mirrors practically every myth conservatives have spread about affirmation action. Twenty-one of Trump’s 24 Cabinet appointees are white; 19 are white men, rounding out the least diverse presidential administration since the Ronald Reagan era. Considering that Trump’s picks are disproportionately unqualified white millionaires, it’s fair to say they’re getting an unfair boost despite a wealth of better-qualified alternatives.
By almost every conceivable metric, Trump’s Cabinet embodies the worst of what the right claims affirmative action is doing. The only substantive difference is that the beneficiaries this time are mostly white, rich and ideologically conservative — not to mention unqualified. As a result, Republicans will rush to have them confirmed in their Cabinet posts regardless of their obvious disqualifiers. The rest of us can only watch in horror. Read more
Some white girl is trying to say that white privilege isn’t a thing anymore. That there is some form or reverse affirmative action or something that is to bring down white people.
Sometimes i wonder if im just hallucinating every time i walk in here.
Race matters. Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities’ being denied access to the political process.
Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter what neighborhood he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, ‘No, where are you really from?’
The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.
Affirmative action, or positive action as it is also known, is not “reverse discrimination”. It’s a practical method to achieve equality. But it’s also a concept that is often misunderstood, mainly by those who have never suffered discrimination. Many people believe that it will force organisations to hire less qualified candidates and thus leave qualified people unemployed and begging on the streets, for no other reason than their gender and ethnicity.
No, that’s not it. That’s what affirmative action is trying to change.
This is how it might work:
Imagine that there are 5 tech companies looking for a new member of staff.
A white man has the right qualifications and experience.
A woman of colour has the right qualifications and experience.
The white man is more likely to be hired by all of these companies, statistics, studies and history have proven it so. All of these companies will end up hiring white men with the right qualifications and experience. (Because he’s more similar to the interviewers, he looks, sounds and acts like the rest of the staff. This isn’t just the hiring of a new employee, this is the beginning of a great bromance.)
BUT! There’s a 6th company, and this company has an affirmative action policy. The white man and the woman of colour both send their applications and attend an interview. The company realises that they are both perfect for the job, but that they also have a majority of white male employees and the white male candidate has more of a chance finding a job with the 5 other companies, that all have a tradition of hiring white males.
So they choose the woman of colour, according to their policy which exists to help change the patterns of discrimination that are so ingrained in our culture that we hardly ever question them.
All during high school, people perceived me as Asian. Most everyone knew my mom was Chinese, and my friends in middle school and high school were mostly Asian. On multiple occasions people told me things like “I forget that you’re also black sometimes”, or “you’re basically just Asian”. I never hung out with the black kids that were at my school; I was the only black kid that was in my higher level AP classes. When I once said, jokingly, “there’s only half a black person in AP Calculus,” there was someone who actually said “really? who?” and I reminded them that it was me. People seemed to remove blackness from me–after all, I am, literally, ethnically Chinese, so this was different from being called “an oreo” or something like that because rather than declare that I wasn’t black because of how I acted, people would simply see me as Asian because of how I acted, and attribute all of my “smart” qualities to being Asian.
I literally would hear the same phrases other East Asian students at my high school, like “you’re good at math/science/in orchestra/etc. because you’re Asian”, or be lumped in with “the Asians”. As a Chinese American, I experienced being classified as a model minority all of middle school and high school.
And yet, suddenly, as soon as I got into college, I was black? Suddenly, the instant I got into MIT, people declared that the only reason I got into such a prestigious institution was because I was a black woman, despite declaring for so many years that “you’re [good at school, nerdy, etc] because you’re Asian”. In fact, people told me that I couldn’t and wouldn’t get into MIT my whole life, until I actually got in, at which point it switched to “well of course you got in, because ___”
Never mind that actually, under Federal Affirmative Action policy, I don’t “count” as a black person–I’m “2 or more races” or “other”. I now wonder if maybe what people said and how they perceived me had something to do with my hair–it was straightened from 7th grade until junior year of high school, and I definitely appeared more Asian because of it, while by senior year it was fully natural and curly again.
me with my aunt and cousins , just before sophomore year of high school
me on a summer camping trip, just before sophomore year
me doing a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, senior year
That’s right. You have no idea what I am or where I’m from (Race-bending in real life lol) I’ve passed both in China and Ethiopia as a native (until I open my mouth or draw attention to myself, of course).
I think this is in part why I find my experience as a mixed person such a heavy influence on my life, because I have been literally and fully categorized as both completely Chinese American or completely African American/African in various situations, dependent on the community around me, dependent on my hair, dependent on who I associated with. And this is also why sometimes, I find my experiences as a mixed person empowering. I was so elated after getting into MIT that I didn’t really even notice those whispered comments, which were never actually said to my face and just circulated back to me somehow through my friends. I’d even venture to say that the vast majority of people didn’t really question why I got into MIT, since I was still one of “the smart kids” at school, and I had been telling people that was where I wanted to go to college since middle school, and also, most people simply didn’t care that much. Comments about my qualifications in getting into MIT only came from people who considered themselves “smarter” or better qualified than I was, which was relatively speaking not that many people. And after I was actually at MIT, I had no reason to think about them, except in the context of reflecting on why society is broken, such as right now x) I actually completely forgot about it until my roommate brought it up one day because one of our classmates is working with her project partner over the summer, and we also had a speaker on the Model Minority Myth in my humanities class.
It actually feels good to have been successful in the face of all that. It makes me think, in concise internet terms: