To be or not to be...Asian?

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Discus: Parents Forum: 2004 Archive - Part 2: To be or not to be...Asian?
By Lani05 (Lani05) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 03:55 pm: Edit

Bonjour. I am a rising (female) senior who also happens to be half Pakistani. With all the talk about affirmative action these days, I am wondering how being Asian can actually hurt me in the admissions process. My mother, a manager at IBM, has told me that Asians are no longer considered a minority and are no longer sought after when recruiting. Based on what I have read in these forums, the same is true for college admissions. However, I don't think I will be able to hide the fact that I am Asian: My name definitely gives it all away.

On the other hand, I have to wonder whether being a female Asian interested in the sciences might not hurt my applications. Many traditional Asian societies have long pushed their boys in school but have failed to do the same for the girls. I realize that this argument relies too much on generalizations, but could there be a grain of truth?

Any guidance on this subject would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

By Marite (Marite) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 04:03 pm: Edit

There are colleges which seek to increase their diversity by admitting more minorities. In many cases, this means admitting more Asians as well as more Latinos and African-Americans. Many colleges in the NE are in that category: Bowdoin, Bates, Middlebury, Colgate, etc...
Quite a few schools such as Brown, MIT, are also interested in increasing the number of female students in the sciences. This could give you an edge.
In short, unless you apply to schools where a very substantial proportion of the population is already Asian and the administration wants to diversity in different directions, being Asian should not hurt your chances and might help. Being a female interested in the sciences definitely will.

By Lani05 (Lani05) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 04:05 pm: Edit

Ahh, reassurance! Something my parents aren't particularly good at offering. Haha.

Thanks! Any other opinions?

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 04:19 pm: Edit

As other active threads point out, Asians represent a lot of the high achieving kids in this country. At public colleges like the UC's, many are majority Asian for this reason. Marite is correct in pointing out that there are still many schools where Asians are under represented and that will help you at those. But many top colleges would have more Asians if they did not seek to hold the levels of any one ethnicity (or group of in this case) down for the sake of diversity.

By Achat (Achat) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 04:20 pm: Edit

I know at some lacs such as Swarthmore, being Asian might (just might) help. At least, that's what I have been told. I don't know for a fact.

In any case, does it matter who you are? You can't change anything, can you? Can you say you are from Uzbekisthan when your name gives it away..

On the other hand, your being female might help you at places like MIT and Brown.

By Northstarmom (Northstarmom) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 04:24 pm: Edit

I agree with Marite.
I also would add colleges like Dartmouth, Harvey Mudd, Carnegie Mellon and CalTech to her list. Your gender would be a plus in colleges and departments that are predominantly male and want to attract more females. Your being Asian would be a plus at the many colleges that have a hard time attracting Asians.

I would imagine that while being Asian would not be a plus in California colleges, which have an easy time attracting Asians since so many live there and apply to those colleges, being Asian would be a plus in the South, where fewer Asians live, and in remoter areas of the country such as the places Marite mentioned.

By Simba (Simba) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 04:24 pm: Edit

I keep hearing the words 'rising' senior or junior. What is a rising senior?

By Achat (Achat) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 04:27 pm: Edit

Going to be a senior in the fall. That's what it means.

By Lani05 (Lani05) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 04:48 pm: Edit

Well thank you all. I, however, live in NY and am definitely not applying to any schools out in Cali, so I don't have to worry about competing there.

I do plan to apply to Cornell, NYU, and Rochester. I plan on majoring in either biochemistry or pure chemistry, and then going on to medical school. Not sure if this ethnicity thing would help or hurt, but I guess it doesn't matter in the long run.

"Uzbekisthan." Haha.

By Sybbie719 (Sybbie719) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 06:04 pm: Edit

The schools that you picked (Cornell and NYU) have a big asian population especially from NYC (lots of Asian kids from Stuy and Bronx sci kids at both schools)

I too think that you should cast your net a lttle wider, look at Williams.

By Lani05 (Lani05) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 06:50 pm: Edit

Sorry, I was unclear. I'm not from NYC- just NY State. My bad.

By That_Girl (That_Girl) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 07:52 pm: Edit

I think the "negative" effects of being Asian are more limited to Chinese, Japanese, and Korean kids... "Thai" and "Vietnamese" tend to carry a more "3rd world disadvantaged" connotation, and I don't think Indian and Pakistani kids are even thought to be in either category.

Just my two cents.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 10:44 pm: Edit

I say be true to yourself. If being "half" Pakistani has been significant for you then that should be part of what you tell schools about yourself. Over the past few years at least I would imagine that surely it has been a compelling issue on some occasions...make that work for you!

By Momrath (Momrath) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 11:17 pm: Edit

Cultural and religious diversity is still desirable especially at LACs which compete for qualified URMs. Islam is a hot button topic at college today. If you are Muslim or if you've been exposed to Islamic culture, you should capitalize on this part of your background. Colleges are looking for kids who will bring different outlooks and experiences to the table, both in and out of the classroom. Especially post 9/11, a young person who is a product of both the Pakistani/Muslim world and(upper?)middle class Americanism and can articulate the culture/religion conflict would be considered a positive addition to the campus community.

By Robyrm (Robyrm) on Friday, August 06, 2004 - 11:39 pm: Edit

Momrath, I think we are both residents (or have been) of the same predominantly Muslim country..I know that this has been a compelling issue for discussion in our home- and son#2 is planning to write about it in some of his essays as well. He just returned from a week at an International Relations program at a US university and was amazed by the comments he heard among his fellow program attendees...

I agree, Lani05 should make her background work for her, so long as she can do so in a genuine fashion.

By Mom2003 (Mom2003) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 04:42 am: Edit

You have a choice?

By Lani05 (Lani05) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 09:31 am: Edit

Hmm, well thanks to all of you. Perhaps it would be beneficial to me to write the major essay about my diversity, as that seems to be less detrimental than I thought it would be.

By Momrath (Momrath) on Saturday, August 07, 2004 - 11:47 pm: Edit

Robyrm, yes, we are. I can tell you that after a year in America my son is astonished at the total lack of understanding of Islam, although he was gratified by the intensive interest. As I said it's a hot topic now, like China was in the 70's. If you look at course books, every department has a class in the Muslim world, the architecture of the mosque, the literature of the Koran, Arab scientific tradition etc.

Lani05, diversity is not detrimental under any circumstances. If (as I imagine, I may be off base here) you have experienced "culture clash" due to your 50/50 heritage, you should concentrate on that aspect of your diversity.

By Lani05 (Lani05) on Sunday, August 08, 2004 - 10:29 am: Edit

Momrath, I agree with you that Islam is misunderstood and even feared by Americans, including most of my peers.

Culture clash is something I experience daily, and not just because of my mixed heritage. Certainly that plays a part, but I consider myself an American before I am anything else. Even so, sometimes it is impossible for me to agree entirely with my peers on "hot topics" like Islam. Call it what you like, but it has become more apparent in recent years that I am, in a very important way, fundamentally different from my classmates. I suppose it is this difference that leads me to feel isolated, in a sense. Like your son, I am glad when a friend expresses an interest in my culture, but sometimes I am uncomfortable in giving an honest description. It's an internal clash of sorts: I do not want to give any of my friends the wrong impression, and yet at the same time I want to remain true to my roots.

All that being said, I will certainly explore your suggestion regarding my diversity.

By Mattman (Mattman) on Sunday, August 08, 2004 - 02:05 pm: Edit

Just to comment on the first post, Asians are definitely a minority, just not an URM (under-represented minority) that are more sought-out in college admissions.

By Momrath (Momrath) on Sunday, August 08, 2004 - 09:02 pm: Edit

Lani05, I think you have articulated beautifully what could be the start of a wonderful essay. The fact that you feel conflicted makes your vantage point poignant and appealing.

Because colleges understand that it's important that Americans come to grips with the power of Islam they need students who either are Muslim or have been exposed firsthand to Islamic cultures to offer their personal experiences. By the way, my son isn't Muslim himself, but having lived in an Islamic country has given him an upclose and personal view of both moderate/good Islam and extremist/bad Islam.

By Lani05 (Lani05) on Monday, August 09, 2004 - 08:09 am: Edit

Well, if schools are looking for "students who either are Muslim or have been exposed firsthand to Islamic cultures to offer their personal experiences," then I can certainly benefit from that. Thanks very much for your insight.

By Hdotchar (Hdotchar) on Thursday, August 12, 2004 - 07:25 pm: Edit

MIT recruits females pretty hard. asian women tend to benefit from this admissions process because very few (caucasian) women are interested in attending. obviously this is a generalization, but its a true one. the student population at MIT is nearly 50-50; this is hard to find at many schools with strong engineering/math/science programs. most schools tend to have something like a 70-30 ratio (male/female) in science programs (especially ones that involve lots of math)

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