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"Race" in College Applications FAQ & Discussion 12


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

  • theloniusmonktheloniusmonk Registered User Posts: 2,059 Senior Member
    edited February 12
    "Literally everything conventionally regarded as a hook - being a URM, a faculty brat, a development case, from a square state, with unusual athletic ability or a legacy - is something you’re born with and did nothing to earn."

    Which is why most of them should be eliminated. In the Harvard case, the plantiff's lawyer asked in the deposition, to Fitzsimmons (dean of admissions), you're more interested in the applicant's family than the applicant aren't you? If that question comes up, the defense will object as they did in the deposition, let's see if the judge allows him to answer in the trial. In ladymeow's essay, it's McCash's wealth and connections that's far more interesting than him.
  • Data10Data10 Registered User Posts: 2,710 Senior Member
    edited February 12
    I don't know how they would figure out the cooperative/competitive nature of kids from their high school apps.
    MIT's website has a good summary of the "match" criteria they look for at https://mitadmissions.org/apply/process/what-we-look-for/ . This same list of criteria appears elsewhere on the site, such as on their facts page at https://web.mit.edu/facts/admission.html, so it may be part of evaluation rating categories. The 2nd criteria they mention looking for is quoted below.
    MIT wrote:
    Collaborative and cooperative spirit

    The core of the MIT spirit is collaboration and cooperation; you can see it all over the Institute. Many of the problem sets (our affectionate term for homework) at MIT are designed to be worked on in groups, and cross-department labs are very common. MIT is known for its interdisciplinary research. If you enjoy working alone all the time, that’s completely valid, but you might not be particularly happy at MIT.

    Admission readers get clues from the holistic evaluation of the file. This can include comments in the LORs or interview, choice of ECs and how they are described, essays, etc. For example, if they Glen Ridge kid mentioned how he enjoyed working in the team in accomplishing the impressive research, it might be viewed as a positive; while if he mentioned not liking working in a group on the research because the slackers were getting credit for his work, it might be viewed as a negative.

    Readers obviously don't have perfect accuracy in evaluation of these "match" criteria. Instead it's more when the application shows examples of collaborative/cooperative spirit it's a positive factor for admission, and when the application shows examples of academic competitiveness with classmates it can be a negative.

  • UndeservingURMUndeservingURM Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    Data10 wrote:

    t's not a simple either the paper counts or doesn't count. It's a good achievement and EC that contributes to the overall decision. It's more looking for a consistent pattern across the full application than looking for a single isolated achievement. As you noted, it can be difficult to draw conclusions from a single isolated event. However, I certainly would not assume he "tagged along" and "just put his name on the paper." I doubt Princeton admissions would make this assumption as well. Princeton admissions would likely be influenced by how he described the experience at Rutgers and related research in his essays, interview, and possibly LOR.

    Counts as in was it a significant achievement that had a high impact on the application as opposed to just another officer position in an academic EC. You're right in that we don't know his exact stats or application to figure it out. This is by design. College admissions are black boxes with purposely obfuscated admissions criteria.

    The other (two?) posters were making assumptions and raving about his involvement and this accomplishment. I am responding to those assumptions. If we are to make inferences with the information available, the highest probability inference is that he was NOT the main contributor and that he did not show high autonomy or initiative. This is the standard assumption for co-authors of papers with many co-authors. The chance that any one of the 7 co-authors was a main contributor is low. Basic statistics.

    We have the information that he got into Princeton to make inferences on the quality of his work on the paper. But the fact that he was black diminishes this signal because he already had a very high chance of getting into Princeton just having good ECs and academics. The quality of his work on the paper would have little effect on his admissions chances.

    This is the curse of affirmative action. If URMs can already max out on their probability of admission at the best colleges in the country just having good ECs, grades and test scores like the 30,000 other competitive students applying to the Ivies, then the truly exceptional URMs can't be differentiated from the merely good. Talent is also bottom heavy for competitive applicants (most competitive applicants merely have good ECs, grades and test scores), so probability says that most URM admits would also be 'merely' competitive applicants since most 'merely' competitive applicants get into the top schools. Their non-URM peers are more proven because being merely competitive is not enough: their admission rates are low. If non-URMs get into top schools, chances are better than they have proven themselves in some way (otherwise they would have been rejected).
    Data10 wrote:
    There is no way to estimate that they had a 20% chance of admission from the available information. According to https://admission.princeton.edu/how-apply/admission-statistics , Princeton applicants with a perfect 4.0 GPA only have an 8% rate of admission. If the Glen Ridge kids instead had a 3.9x GPA, then the average admit rate drops to 6%. Do you think you have enough information to determine how much greater chance each Glen Ridge applicant has than the average 4.0 GPA Princeton applicant?
    I have no sources for that number. Just anecdotes and it's not for one college. I found that Asian and white students with similar profiles to the ones in the video ( top 5-10% with high test scores and good ECs but no hooks or exceptional achievements) had around a 20% chance of getting into one of HYPSM if they applied to all of them (and higher if it's a girl with STEM interest).

    ucbalumnus wrote:
    As usual, outsiders guessing at the admission qualifications of the applicants cannot see important (to super selective colleges) components like essays and recommendations of the specific applicants and the rest of the applicant pool. So it is hard to really know, as opposed to falling back on preset assumptions.
    This is an effect that is by design of the college administrators and holistic college admissions.
  • UndeservingURMUndeservingURM Registered User Posts: 75 Junior Member
    ucbalumnus wrote:
    ]What do legacy and donor-kid students (as opposed to perhaps their parents and their donations, for whose kids the college admission preferences are effectively like an aristocratic inheritance) add to the campus over other students?

    Indeed, strictly looking on the basis of personal academic merit, legacy and donor-kid students may have the least of all students of comparable academic achievement, since they are much more likely to have come from highly advantaged families (with attendant support and help in achieving to the top of one's potential) than "unhooked" students. For comparison, recruited athletes with comparable academic achievement had to achieve to a high level in a sport as well. URMs are somewhat more likely to have encountered barriers to climb over to reach a given level of achievement, compared to others of similar SES.

    - Social connections for other students
    - funding the school and scholarships for other students
    - 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). There actually aren't that many 0.01% people in the world or in the top schools either, so they would be considered diverse compared to the majority of Ivy league students who are merely upper middle/low upper class with household incomes of $100k-$600k
    - For legacy, in-group biases foster school/community involvement and a stronger feeling of community (school is not just a place where people get their degree but also a multi-generational brotherhood).
    - Athletes (for main sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer) add to the culture and school spirit
    Data10 wrote:
    For example, in the wake of the lawsuit, the majority of all races of entering freshman at Harvard said they had a favorable view of racially-conscious affirmative action programs. The specific numbers were 6% of Black students had an unfavorable view, and 26% of Asian students had an unfavorable view. Senior survey numbers were similar.

    IIRC, survey results completely change once the question is made concise. Surveys asking "do you support diversity efforts through affirmative action" have favorable results to affirmative action but surveys with more direct questions like "do you support using race as a factor in college admissions to increase diversity" has unfavorable results.
  • ChangeTheGameChangeTheGame Registered User Posts: 607 Member
    edited February 12
    I love this discussion. How is preference used in Elite college admissions? This has been debated from almost universally accepted preferences (women at STEM specific elites based on acceptance percentages but with equal stats), to much derided preferences (URM preferences) and all of those in-between (Athletes, legacy, and donor class). @UndeservingURM, you have just defended the in-between preferences but see no value in URM preferences. If there was some proof of intrinsic value in racial preferences, would that change your mind? I tend to lean towards throwing out all preferences (besides money generating athletics), but each preference has positives and negatives. Maybe it is the strength of the preference causing such a vigorous debate. From @Data10’s post on the odds of admission (page 255), the odds of an African American getting admitted are higher than any preference listed besides being an athlete. I personally believe there is value in racial diversity on elite campuses, but that value is brought down by the divisions and stereotypes that URM students have to deal with and the immense challenge for unhook applicants to reach elite level schools. Elite college admissions is definitely not an equal playing field for all applicants, (but it never has been).
  • SatchelSFSatchelSF Registered User Posts: 1,385 Senior Member
    edited February 12
    It looks like about 60-65 kids did the NJ Governor's School last summer in engineering and technology. The magic of the internet, here is a link to all the papers, as well as video presentations for each (fun to peruse):

    Here is Ryan Henry's group, beginning at the Q&A: https://youtu.be/pqg5XV0AH2k?t=878

    Overall, just perusing the papers and the videos, I think all the kids come off pretty well in everything I saw. Keep in mind that none of these kids likely knew each other (or the topic) prior to arriving at the summer program, so to my mind most of this is more a read on how collaborative and effective the kids can be, rather than a true statement of deep interest or ability.

    This program, though, is quite different from something like SAMS, MITES, SSP, RSI, etc. in that the program is not picking the "best" kids from an effectively unrestricted applicant pool. The pool for the NJ program is restricted to the group of nominees from individual high schools. In practice, that means that a school like Glen Ridge - with a 1210 average SAT and a single NMSF in a class of roughly 135, gets the same number of nominees, one, as a place like Bergen County Academies - 1474 SAT and ~40 NMSF (2018 number) in a class of roughly 275.

    A huge majority of the "best" science and math kids in NJ will be missed in this process, by definition. For instance, my estimate is that not more than 10-15% of the kids in Glen Ridge could even have gained admittance to Bergen County Academies, maybe a slightly larger percentage to HTHS (Ryan Henry certainly would have been in those percentages though). The lesson is pick your high school carefully! Good, suburban district, but not too competitive. No wonder house prices in Glen Ridge are so high!

    Here is a description of the selection process: https://soe.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/imce/pdfs/GSET Application 2019.pdf
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 845 Member
    $150k Income - $15k taxes, $250k savings, $250k in primary home
    Caltech -- $63k Cost to Parents
    MIT -- $37k Cost to Parents
    Harvard -- $17k Cost to Parents

    $65k Income - $5k taxes, $100k savings, Rent home
    Caltech -- $11k Cost to Parents
    MIT -- $8k Cost to Parents
    Harvard -- $0 Cost to Parents

    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... Secondarily, even in a head-to-head comparison, MIT (or Caltech) with Harvard, the no-legacy-preferences school will come out ahead in many cases, especially for truly low-income Americans. Harvard is more generous for higher income families precisely because the type of students it wants to attract.
  • hebegebehebegebe Registered User Posts: 2,480 Senior Member
    edited February 12
    Wow, 30 posts overnight!


    Well the costs that @Data10 pulled are selective, I don't think they are intentionally misleading. After all, the peer group is HYPSM, which doesn't include Brown, Penn, Northwestern, or Hopkins, even though the last few have better engineering programs than HY, and maybe P.

    Also remember that while H has the largest endowment, P has the largest endowment per student, Y has had the best endowment returns thanks to Swensen, and S gets a lot of research funds, just like M. Interestingly, the current endowment chair of M, Seth Alexander, is a Swensen protege, and has had the best recent record of returns. Perhaps M will be more generous in the future.
  • 1NJParent1NJParent Registered User Posts: 845 Member
    edited February 12
    Well the costs that @Data10 pulled are selective, I don't think they are intentionally misleading.
    I don't disagree. No one can judge someone else's intentions. The data, as presented by themselves, are misleading, however. The context in which we were discussing is whether schools can do away with legacy preferences and still attract sufficient donations to maintain a generous financial aid policy to benefit their equally-talented but lower-income students. The original contention was that MIT and Caltech manage to be as generous as those that consider legacy status, which include many other elites besides HYPS. One would think HYPS would be in the best position to do away with legacy preferences considering their large endowments and name recognitions globally.
  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 Registered User Posts: 962 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).
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 12,294 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.
  • LadyMeowMeowLadyMeowMeow Registered User Posts: 273 Junior Member
    @ChangeTheGame @DeepBlue86 It looks like the current Yale students aren't that keen on preferences for legacies and the donor class:


    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.
  • DeepBlue86DeepBlue86 Registered User Posts: 962 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.
  • milee30milee30 Registered User Posts: 1,800 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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