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"Race" in College Applications FAQ & Discussion 12

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Replies to: "Race" in College Applications FAQ & Discussion 12

  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 1055 replies7 threads Senior Member
    One would think HYPS would be in the best position to do away with legacy preferences considering their large endowments and name recognitions globally.
    What I think is missed here is that that's not how these institutions think, because they can never be big enough or rich enough. There is always more that they want to be doing and they're always in competition with each other. If someone donates a billion dollars, you can bet they'll find ways to spend it. To their mind, if they stop growing, they become less competitive, fall in rankings, are less able to keep faculty and get into a vicious circle. Why would they sign up for that? The issue they deal with is how to admit enough, but not too many (because that would limit the ability to meet other institutional objectives), of the best legacies.

    There is another aspect to this discussion that hasn't been emphasized yet, best expressed by, imo, one of the sharpest commenters on this site (@blossom), on another thread that dealt with some similar issues and had some of the same participants:
    I am falling down laughing at the idea of a couple of rich kids somehow diluting Harvard's brand Lady Meow. They don't dilute the brand- they ARE the brand. Not that everyone at Harvard is rich- but that the "je ne sais quoi" of Harvard (vs. Harvey Mudd, or Rice, or U Chicago, or any number of universities which have a fantastic collection of incredible faculty and wonderful students) includes the presence of rich kids. In some eras, they were dumb rich kids. In other eras, they were smart rich kids. Not as smart as the kids Harvard was trying to use quota's against (smart Asians, smart Jews, smart urban/ethnics) but "smart enough". In our current era, the rich kids need something besides squash and sailing, hence all those do-gooder trips to dig latrines and paint the walls of orphanages. And of course, starting your own NGO at the age of 16.

    Harvard with NO rich kids? Would legions of families in ordinary suburbs and towns and cities across America be shlepping their kids to music class and debate try-outs and traveling soccer and having their kid go without adequate sleep (ironic, since most of these well meaning attempts will fail to get the kid into Harvard) be motivated were it not for the presence of the rich kids?

    They would most certainly not! My kid can go to U Conn or SMU or Villanova if they want to hang out with the sons and daughters of lawyers and pediatricians and VP's of Community Lending at the local bank. But oligarchs and billionaires and the many children and grandchildren of a Saudi Prince with a sovereign wealth fund behind him?

    That's a different league. That's Harvard, baby.

    (or at least this is what people think as ludicrous as it seems when I put it in writing. Villanova attracts plenty of rich kids. But not Harvard-rich. That's a direct quote from someone I know pretty well who is neither stupid about college admissions, nor a vapid social climber).
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13100 replies244 threads Senior Member
    @DeepBlue86 If you really believe that there aren’t plenty, and I mean plenty, of cases of unprepared kids who got into these schools as a result of virtue-signaling by admissions and then couldn’t handle it

    Plenty? How many is that? I don't see "plenty" of dropouts in the high grad rates at HYPS.

    Any kid can struggle, low income/first gen/URM have more and different challenges, and perhaps less family cushion to fall back on, but they'd also be used to coping with those challenges - they got to HYPS after all.

    A little help in the form of college 101 (go talk to your professors they want to see you, you can appeal your FA, it's possible to ask to be added to a full class, etc) goes a long way. The best colleges have these programs.
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  • LadyMeowMeowLadyMeowMeow 257 replies17 threads Junior Member
    @ChangeTheGame @DeepBlue86 It looks like the current Yale students aren't that keen on preferences for legacies and the donor class:

    https://yaledailynews.com/blog/2019/02/12/students-split-on-admissions-plus-factors/

    Perhaps they understand that if you abolish the preference for legacies, you still get legacies -- just the best ones -- and that the students taking the places of the dead-weight McCashes will be amazing in myriad ways other than having wealthy, connected parents. They might not be born on third base but they'll have the personal qualities to hit triples and home runs.

    @DeepBlue, correct me if I'm getting you wrong, but it seems you're arguing that elite admissions is a nakedly transactional, amoral process intended to amass social capital and build brand. You're also saying my kid "better be grateful" and getting misty-eyed at the generosity and sacrifice of the alumni. These two things don't really go together. If the first is true, then the sentimental attachments are a predicted (manipulable) effect of capitalism, and the "sacrifice" of the alumni a form of investment.
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  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 1055 replies7 threads Senior Member
    edited February 12
    @OHMomof2 - HYPS' grad rates are boosted relative to many other schools by the very generous financial aid they offer, and in recent years, they have certainly been pouring money and resources into assuring that these kinds of students don't hit the wall (see for example here: https://admissions.yale.edu/advice-first-generation-college-applicants#transition). Undoubtedly the situation's improved over time - the difference in graduation rates between whites and blacks at HYPS had narrowed to an average of about 3% per this 2013 study from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education (https://www.jbhe.com/2013/11/black-student-graduation-rates-at-high-ranking-colleges-and-universities/). On the one hand, this represents a lot of progress; on the other, there's still a meaningful difference (for which undoubtedly there are many reasons). I wish more statistics were available from which one could draw clearer conclusions.
    edited February 12
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  • milee30milee30 2147 replies13 threads Senior Member
    "elite admissions is a nakedly transactional, amoral process intended to amass social capital and build brand"

    Yes, Yes. Yes. 1000 x yes.

    This is exactly how it works at the elite private colleges. There are small differences in the exact goals of the individual college (amass social capital and build brand sums up Harvard nicely but there are a few small differences between the colleges), but this is a good description of the reality of the situation.

    And applicants misunderstand this reality at their own peril. Unless they can convincingly show exactly how they will fit into that overarching long-term institutional desire to amass social capital and build brand (in the case of Harvard for example), they have little chance of admission.
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  • ChangeTheGameChangeTheGame 806 replies13 threads Member
    @DeepBlue86 I do agree that a 3% gap in graduation rates is still a meaningful difference, but @Data10 posted some 6 year graduation data between a group of schools and those gaps shrank. I found the old post so I wanted to repost it because it gave me a perspective that I had not considered. Thanks again for this post back from Sept 2018 @Data10.

    The 6-year graduation rate gap between races are often even larger at the few highly selective colleges that apply lesser racial preferences. Specific numbers from the most recent IPEDS year are below.

    Lesser Racial Preference
    Caltech -- 92% White, 80% Black
    Michigan -- 92% White, 80% Black
    Berkeley -- 91% White, 71% Black

    Average -- 92% White, 77% Black


    Greater Racial Preference
    Harvard -- 98% White, 94% Black
    Yale -- 98% White, 100% Black
    Princeton -- 98% White, 97% Black
    Duke -- 95% White, 95% Black
    Swarthmore -- 95% White, 95% Black
    Cornell -- 94% White, 92% Black
    Williams -- 94% White, 95% Black
    Amherst -- 94% White, 89% Black
    MIT -- 93% White, 88% Black
    Johns Hopkins -- 93% White, 88% Black
    Harvey Mudd -- 92% White, 100% Black

    Average -- 95% White, 94% Black
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited February 12
    Getting back to the the question of the academic qualifications of legacies and development applicants, we often hear that they are much stronger than the overall applicant pool, presumably because they had the double-whammy benefit of smart parents and high SES. Additionally, the implication is that these applicants are fairly self-selected, in that weaker candidates know enough not to apply.

    Well, in the case of Harvard (and presumably the rest of the elites), that does not appear to be the case. The distribution of academic qualifications of the white legacy and development group is roughly equivalent to that of white applicants generally. This might be surprising to some, as the general applicant pool contains low-income and low-SES candidates, but not to people who understand that SES advantage has basically little or no independent influence on intelligence, which of course is the single biggest driver of accomplishment. (Obviously, smarter parents tend to be higher SES and so pass that along together with their genes - the double whammy.)

    I looked only at white legacies and development, to eliminate (i) race effects (but there are frankly few that I can see), and (ii) small sample sizes for the other race groups, as legacy and development preference almost by definition reflects relevant demographics of 30+ years ago.*

    Harvard bins all its applicants into 10 deciles by academic index, constructed largely based on HSGPA and test scores. The Arcidiacono data include ~61K white applicants, of which ~4K are (i) legacy, (ii) development, (iii) faculty brat (very small), or (iv) some combination thereof (pure development w/o legacy appears small, roughly 1K though that is an estimate).

    Here are the respective shares of the white preference groups as a percentage of all white candidates in those deciles (note that recruited athletes are not included here). Decile 10 is the highest.

    Decile10 -- 6.4%
    Decile 9 -- 7.2%
    Decile 8 -- 6.7%
    Decile 7 -- 6.7%
    Decile 6 -- 7.7%
    Decile 5 -- 6.6%
    Decile 4 -- 6.9%
    Decile 3 -- 6.2%
    Decile 2 -- 6.1%
    Decile 1 -- 4.3%

    Overall, white legacies/development candidates are slightly stronger than white applicants generally. 55.1% are in the top half. But if you eliminate the bottom decile (presumably Harvard legacies know enough to know that they would be at the bottom), the distribution is roughly flat across remaining deciles, as can be seen.

    Hope that helps to focus the discussion, and of course I would welcome additional eyes on this. I'd especially welcome any quantification of what the median academic qualification actually is. My assumption is that it represents something around 1450SAT and 3.7ish HSGPA (UW) in a moderately rigorous curriculum (keep in mind that all low-SES, URM, first gen, rural schools, inner city schools, etc. are included in the aggregate prior to binning).
    ________
    * All data are derived from comparing the numbers of applicants by decile for the baseline and expanded datasets in the Arcidiacono rebuttal report. See Tables 5.1R and B.5.1R on pp 108 and 147 here: http://samv91khoyt2i553a2t1s05i-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Doc-415-2-Arcidiacono-Rebuttal-Report.pdf
    edited February 12
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  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 1055 replies7 threads Senior Member
    @LadyMeowMeow - you are willfully misunderstanding me and attempting to put words in my mouth. As explained at length, here and elsewhere, universities are businesses, based around teaching and research. Their ability to fulfill that mission is based on their ability to grow, sustain themselves and obtain access/influence in many areas of society. They admit their classes with that in mind, responding to various constituencies that help them achieve those objectives and seeking students who will be beneficial in that regard, be they pure intellectuals, athletes, the most promising members of various ethnic racial groups, people with special talents, etc. I don't characterize that as "nakedly transactional" or "amoral", it's just the entirely logical and appropriate way these institutions pursue what is fundamentally a laudable purpose.

    I've never said that your kid "better be grateful", although I think if you're so convinced that she's attending an institution that's corrupt in a fundamental way, perhaps you and she should have made a different choice of college (maybe the honors program of your state flagship, where you might feel more secure in your virtue). I will speculate that you and she chose Yale because of the fantastic range of opportunities it offers, made possible by generous alumni, some of whom - I shudder to admit - may have been motivated in their support at least in part by the hope that their children might also have the opportunity to share the experience of attending there.

    Of course, many alumni donate to these places simply because they love them, and your daughter and her classmates are benefiting from that. One could argue that it's unfair that Yale students enjoy the privilege of this alumni group and the opportunities their involvement provides, but you seem to be OK with it. It may perhaps come to pass that your daughter will be looking for a job when she graduates and will contact an alumnus for an introduction; there's certainly a very extensive network of alumni who will be happy to be helpful just based on that shared tie - not because they view it as an "investment". I hope she'll take advantage of this - that is, if you and she don't view it as a corrupt perpetuation of status-quo elitism.

    Longer-term, I hope your daughter achieves success in her chosen field and thinks back fondly enough on her "bright college years" and the benefits that she's achieved from being part of the Yale family that she's motivated to give back by donating time and money (if she's able). If she has children, I'd forgive her for hoping that they might also attend Yale and that she'd have that shared bond with them, and also for hoping that her involvement could help make that possible. I hope you could also forgive her.
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13100 replies244 threads Senior Member
    @DeepBlue86 - On the one hand, this represents a lot of progress; on the other, there's still a meaningful difference (for which undoubtedly there are many reasons).

    That 3% is not far off the roughly 2% difference between men and women's grad rates at HYPS (women having the higher rate). What does that say about the difficulties men have in college, as a group?
    I wish more statistics were available from which one could draw clearer conclusions.

    Indeed.
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  • SatchelSFSatchelSF 1372 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited February 12
    LOL, I always get a laugh about how everyone tries to couch all this in "moral" terms. The system just... is.

    Remember, the exact same "amoral" system that grants the legacy and development preferences also grants the URM preference. Isn't that just as "amoral"? Do people really think that the same, amoral people doing the choosing suddenly get religion when it comes to URM?

    Someone above got it right: "amass social capital and build brand." That's applicable to both legacy/development preference (money and connections) as well as URM preference (virtue signaling points to build the brand). Both are consistent expressions of an amoral system designed to benefit the school.
    edited February 12
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  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 1055 replies7 threads Senior Member
    That 3% is not far off the roughly 2% difference between men and women's grad rates at HYPS (women having the higher rate). What does that say about the difficulties men have in college, as a group?
    I have no idea - sounds like it's meaningful enough to be worth looking into.
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  • hebegebehebegebe 2698 replies38 threads Senior Member
    Re the 2% rate male to female difference, it would be worthwhile determining how many of those men left to pursue startups in the hopes of being the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. My nephew, when he was at Yale, considered leaving for a startup as well. My brother ended that discussion quickly.
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  • 1NJParent1NJParent 1451 replies35 threads Senior Member
    I too see legacy preference and URM preference to be the two sides of the same coin. It's hard to justify being for one and against the other. I generally don't want to describe these preferences in moral terms, but it will be much harder for the colleges to justify, morally, the existence of their legacy preferences without their URM preferences.
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  • Data10Data10 3100 replies10 threads Senior Member
    edited February 12
    Your data presentation is highly selective and misleading. First of all, to compare MIT/Caltech, as schools that don't consider legacy status, with a single school, Harvard, that considers legacy status and that happens to have the single largest endowment, is just disingenuous. Most elite colleges, including the Ivies, have legacy preferences. For a fairer comparison, you at least need to include schools like Brown, or Penn, or Northwestern, or Hopkins
    The quote I replied to claimed MIT and Caltech were "just as generous when it comes to financial aid," The claim did not say MC were only more generous than Northwestern, Hopkins, or similar selectivity and not HYPS. Instead the previous post and vast majority of comments in this thread have focused on legacies at HYPSMC... in particular at H. I chose H over YPS because their NPC at https://college.harvard.edu/financial-aid/net-price-calculator is far faster to use than the others, getting results within seconds. However, YPS aren't exactly lacking in endowment compared to H. YP have a greater endowment per student than H. S is approaching quite close and may have surpassed H in 2018, due to H's relatively poor endowment performance in recent years.

    In any case, as listed in my post, there are often huge differences in the FA received by specific families at different highly selective private colleges, It's not just a matter of HYPSMC... all have the same FA, as I've seen suggested multiple times on this forum. Use of legacies in admission is one contributing factor to this difference, but far from the only one. It's easier to be generous with FA for middle and lower income families when a relatively small portion of the class come from middle and lower income families, and a large portion of the class come from wealthy families who will claim little aid. Legacies tend to be the latter.
    edited February 12
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  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 13100 replies244 threads Senior Member
    @hebegebe Re the 2% rate male to female difference, it would be worthwhile determining how many of those men left to pursue startups in the hopes of being the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

    Honestly I doubt that's much of a factor. But certainly it's not as simple as "men are less qualified". It's also not as simple as "URMs/First Gen/Low Income are less qualified".

    That's more or less the point I was making when I quoted @DeepBlue86 : "I wish more statistics were available from which one could draw clearer conclusions."
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  • roethlisburgerroethlisburger 2882 replies155 threads Senior Member
    edited February 12
    @1NJParent

    I too see legacy preference and URM preference to be the two sides of the same coin. It's hard to justify being for one and against the other.

    It’s not hard at all to justify, although I’m not a big fan of legacy preferences. The Constitution bans racial discrimination. It says nothing about legacies.
    edited February 12
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  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 1055 replies7 threads Senior Member
    edited February 12
    I wasn't suggesting that "URMs/First Gen/Low Income are less qualified", @OHMomof2 - just that many of them may be less-well-positioned to *succeed at college*, with all that that entails. I believe this is a different and much less controversial point.

    My argument several pages ago was that legacies are generally well-positioned to "succeed at college", in and out of the classroom, and transition successfully to the next stage of their lives. This isn't so much about relative "qualifications"; it's because of the advantages the legacies generally enjoy (including high-quality high school training, relative familiarity with the institution, less concern about financial circumstances and strong support networks). I believe the colleges consider this when they evaluate them for admission, because kids who succeed at college and transition well to the next stage of their careers are seen as success stories for the college.

    Without having enjoyed many of these advantages, and possibly coming from a background where much of the college environment is unfamiliar and potentially alienating, it's more of an uphill climb for members of the other groups, which is why the colleges are devoting such substantial resources to attempt to ensure that they too can succeed.
    edited February 12
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 78971 replies701 threads Senior Member
    - diversity (the average rich person is more diverse than the average non-rich person. rich people have the time and money to have diverse experiences, that's the hard truth).

    However, a large number of scions of wealth comparing prep schools, golf courses, and first class or private jet trips around the world does not add as much overall diversity in the class, compared to the aggregate of people from ordinary backgrounds (including blue collar ones) who attended neighborhood public schools.
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  • tpike12tpike12 502 replies9 threads Member
    @roethlisburger said:

    It’s not hard at all to justify, although I’m not a big fan of legacy preferences. The Constitution bans racial discrimination. It says nothing about legacies.

    —————-

    If most legacies are the same race, wouldn’t that be considered racial discrimination and legacy is just a clever way to hide it?
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  • ChangeTheGameChangeTheGame 806 replies13 threads Member
    @roethlisburger What Constitutional Amendment bans racial discrimination? Does it say that, because if it does, it has done a pretty bad job of banning it over the years. Some of the amendments (13-15) banned slavery, equal protection under the law (the amendment that is being used in Harvard lawsuit) and addressed certain civil rights (like the right to vote) but to ban racial discrimination? I wish that it banned racial discrimination like slavery was banned, but not quite. Those amendments were passed in the 1860's and there was a full 100 years of blatant racial discrimination under its watch. So it is hard for me to trust the interpretation of the Constitution when it comes to that topic. It is actually the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (good old regular old law passed by Congress) which has come closest to trying to ban types of discrimination (missed LGBTQ however), but it is also used as the reasoning used behind AA. I don't believe in using discrimination to help others overcome discrimination, but the fight (over maybe 300+ URM spots a year at Harvard from those 40,000+ applicants who were rejected) is going to end up with a lot of students still upset year after year.
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