Race in MIT admissions.

<p>Or even gender/geography for that matter. So how exactly is it used? Do the application readers look at an applicant who has identified himself/herself as, for example, asian who have marked their parents as coming from an Asian country as somebody who has had more resources/opportunity because of stereotypes (the polite word is statistics) of Asians? Or simply because the Asian application pool is stronger on average? Being holistic admissions, I understand why MIT would be reluctant to give a specific example or even answer the question, and even if race could have a "detrimental" effect as said here, it would only be part of any admissions decision. Also, I do realize I am not entitled or privileged to a seat of any of MIT's classes. Nonetheless, it would be nice to get some clarification on such matters where the internet does not have any info on.</p>

<p>(I have read some posts by MIT adcoms on CC and the admissions blogs, but I am still somewhat unsatisfied with lack of coverage of the issue.)</p>

<p>The way I've always taken is that race is put into context. As in, just another fact that makes the applicant. I can say that my race has affected me in many ways, just as school and my ECs have and is therefore relevant to admissions. </p>

<p>Sent from my MB502 using CC App</p>

<p>The Asian pool is stronger (fact), therefore more Asians are accepted. I think that's straightforward, especially at a place without quotas, like MIT.</p>

<p>I sincerely hope race isn't used to establish context. There are plenty of Asians who live in poor neighborhoods who have parents who don't care about their education, so it's not fair to stereotype based on race. (Just like there are African Americans with wealthy parents who go to prestigious high schools.)</p>

<p>Consider two applicants, who both scored 2150 on their SATs: one attends one of the best private high schools with two neurosurgeon parents; the other works to support his family and is raised by a single mother in a poor neighborhood. Race is irrelevant; the latter is far more impressive. MIT surely realizes this.</p>

<p>Edit: I do have my suspicions that MIT practices affirmative action, though. Again, consider two applicants: one, an Asian, attends one of the best private high schools with two neurosurgeon parents, scored a 2370 on his SATs, and is president of four extracurriculars; the other, African American, works to support his family, is raised by a single mother in a poor neighborhood, scored a 2200 on his SATs, and still finds time for Math Team. Both made roughly equal use of their resources [at least, humor me and assume they did], but MIT may be more likely to accept the underrepresented minority for diversity's sake. So yes: race may have a detrimental effect on your admissions decision. Not because racial stereotypes are used to inappropriately establish context, but because every college is pressured into increasing diversity.</p>

<p>Not the only thing for context, just one of many. Oh course, this is just another high schooler with an opinion, so I really don't know</p>

<p>Sent from my MB502 using CC App</p>

<p>


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<p>In this case, we're more likely to admit the latter student because they have done more with their opportunities, not because of diversity's sake. I know the point you are trying to make by trying to hold them equal, but those two things aren't equal. For example, SAT scores are most highly predicted by parental income; the child of a single parent from an uneducated poor background (as you posited above) scoring a 2200 is much, much more unusual than a child from two wealthy educated parents at a private high school scoring 2370. </p>

<p>I tell you this because I think a lot of these discussions are somewhat confused by understandings of the educational pipeline. As an admissions officer, you get to see what the pipeline looks like. By "the pipeline" I mean "what does the overall applicant pool look like? What is rare and distinguishing, and what is common and nondistinguishing?" It is my job to know these things, and to be able to note where, when, and how an applicant is doing something beyond what we would expect, when they are making use of their resources to an exceptional degree. </p>

<p>A young woman emailed me about this last night asking how MIT uses race in college admissions. I feel like we've discussed this a thousand times, and I don't want to reopen it, so I will simply link the following blog posts: </p>

<p>Putting</a> Diversity into Context | MIT Admissions
Diversity</a> or Merit? | MIT Admissions
In</a> Praise Of Holistic Admissions | MIT Admissions
The</a> Difficulty With Data | MIT Admissions</p>

<p>And post what I emailed back to the student: </p>

<p>
[quote]

"Affirmative action" encompasses many different things and manifests as an admissions practice in many different ways. Some, such as Michigan's, operated on a point system, where applicants were awarded so many "points" for certain things, including but not limited to ethnicity. While some have defended this system by arguing that it levels the playing field (notably Tim Wise), it's not a system I particularly like, nor the one that we have at MIT. </p>

<p>Let me tell you how and why I think ethnicity is relevant in college admissions. When I see an applicant, I try to contextualize the following things about their background: </p>

<p>1) What, if any, advantage or disadvantage has this applicant experienced, overcome, or made use of? </p>

<p>2) What, if any, unique or different perspective will this student contribute to campus? </p>

<p>3) How, if at all, will this applicant's contributions viz. 2) educate or otherwise impact their classmates about a part of the world which they have not experienced themselves? </p>

<p>Race/ethnicity matter - substantively, or as proxies - to varying degrees for each of these things. They are not the only things that matter, but they may matter. For example, to take number 2, an applicant from an ethnic group underrepresented in colleges may be able to contribute insights, borne of their own personal experiences, that will enrich the educational experiences of those around them. I am a white man. I grew up in a small rural town surrounded by people like me. If it hadn't been for people from all sorts of wildly different backgrounds who I met in college, I would have an impoverished understanding of the makeup of the world. #2 is important because diversity is important. </p>

<p>However, I stress that these considerations are only one part of our process, nor are they limited to race or ethnicity. We take into account factors like whether or not one's parents went to college, rural vs urban vs suburban vs exurban, the makeup of the community around you, and other proxies to help give us answers to 1, 2, and 3. </p>

<p>This is why I say that, for us, what is commonly called "affirmative action" is somewhat different from how it is popularly understood or perhaps practiced elsewhere. And more to the point, I do think it is important, because it is part of the considerations of 1, 2, and 3 above, as are other socioeconomic characteristics. </p>

<p>As for your last question - I certainly think we take that into account. Not all Asian communities are the same, not all African-American communities are the same, not all white communities are the same, in terms of how they prepare their students for college, in terms of opportunities given, and so forth. Communities don't break down cleanly only racial or ethnic lines; race/ethnicity is only one of several factors through which we consider an applicant's context. Again, I can't speak for other schools, but those sorts of contextual considerations are things I try to introduce into the conversation about applicants whenever necessary.

[/quote]
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<p>Ultimate post ...!!! Thanks a lot Chris !!!</p>

<p>I'm just curious:
How do colleges distinguish two applicants who are from the same wealthy community but one is from a very supportive family and can afford all kinds of tutoring fee to boost its kid's SAT score or even grades (preview courses in summers) and has internship opportunity because of parental connections; and the other applicant's family does not provide the same resources or does not have any influential connections?
Both kids live in the same community, both with highly educated parents, so they look similar on application paper. How can you tell the second applicant has less opportunities than the first one?</p>

<p>^ So, I'm not offering a complete answer (or maybe even a correct one - I am not an Admissions officer), but I imagine this shows up in part where the student puts in time. </p>

<p>The kids are not going to be indistinguishable in activities. The first one, sure, might have better grades and SAT scores. The second one, though, who won't have been in summer preview classes might have time to build and tinker with radios, or volunteer to better nearby nature trails, or have spent lots of time on the computer learning how to code. I don't know what opportunities are there for the second kid, but I assume there are some, and he might be able to push things a little farther while he's not taking summer preview and SAT classes - he has a bit more time.</p>

<p>Remember that grades/SAT's are not an end-all be-all for MIT. Once you're past a certain mark, you have seriously diminishing returns and that effort can be redirected to something better.</p>

<p>
[quote]
I'm just curious:
How do colleges distinguish two applicants who are from the same wealthy community but one is from a very supportive family and can afford all kinds of tutoring fee to boost its kid's SAT score or even grades (preview courses in summers) and has internship opportunity because of parental connections; and the other applicant's family does not provide the same resources or does not have any influential connections?
Both kids live in the same community, both with highly educated parents, so they look similar on application paper. How can you tell the second applicant has less opportunities than the first one?

[/quote]
</p>

<p>The same question applies to all communities. What about middle to upper middle class? My household is indistinguishable on paper from most of my immediate neighbors (ethnicity/income/college educated parents). Yet the difference in 'advantages' between the kids in this area, in some cases, is indescribably large, especially between families that have not already gone through the college admissions process and thus haven't had their "wake-up call" yet. I am not referring to financial advantages, I am referring to parental knowledge advantages (or parental interest advantages). </p>

<p>I think the accomplishments that colleges attribute to wealth are often, more accurately, attributable to parental knowledge and involvement. There is a very strong correlation between parental knowledge/involvement and wealth, and wealth is a lot easier to measure, so wealth becomes the proxy. However, the direct cause and effect is between parental knowledge/involvement and accomplishment, not wealth and accomplishment (excepting the accomplishments that can be purchased directly, which aren't the ones that will get you admitted to MIT). </p>

<p>Therefore, if you have the right parents, but not the wealth, you are at an admissions advantage (your accomplishments will tend to be overly attributed to precocity rather than advantage). Conversely, if you have the wealth, but your parents have never lifted a finger to help you academically, you are at an admissions disadvantage (your accomplishments will tend to be overly attributed to an advantage that is not as big as its proxy, wealth, would suggest).</p>

<p>I just take this as the way it is. The colleges do their best I suppose, as cellardweller said on another thread, to measure context as accurately as they can. It seems to me that MIT does the best job it can within its ability and interest. When it comes to the high-income applicants though, I don't think the 'dopey parents' defense gets too much sympathy.</p>

<p>Many moons ago while a student at MIT I had a discussion with some of my classmates about how the heck we were selected for admission. Most of the discussion centered around the usual test scores, GPAs, ECs and other activities, etc. But then, how does one take all that into consideration when you have so many well qualified applicants. What you bring to the college and the diversity idea concepts were discussed but something was still missing. </p>

<p>The discussion then spun off into one of who would benefit most from an MIT education and one’s potential after you got your degree. There seemed to be a consensus that the potential concept would make a good criteria for acceptance. But, as no one had a crystal ball that could peer into the future and tell us what was going to be, how does one go about predicting one’s potential. Here, as opposed to the mutual fund disclaimers, one’s past accomplishments are a good predictor of the future. </p>

<p>This thread reminded me of this old discussion. I wonder how much future potential is factor for admission. If it is a significant factor, it could make a difference on how one would want to present one’s self on their application and how race at that point, outside of the potential discussion, is not a significant factor.</p>

<p>^ Chris and other Admissions officers have talked about that before - they want to know who is going to go after opportunity and best use what they have been given.</p>

<p>Basically, Admissions into MIT isn't a merit prize - though obviously there's a lot of overlap with merit - it's a "You look like you use opportunity to do awesome things... so here, have an opportunity".</p>

<p>Hi mom with happy boys: </p>

<p>
[quote]

How do colleges distinguish two applicants who are from the same wealthy community but one is from a very supportive family and can afford all kinds of tutoring fee to boost its kid's SAT score or even grades (preview courses in summers) and has internship opportunity because of parental connections; and the other applicant's family does not provide the same resources or does not have any influential connections?
Both kids live in the same community, both with highly educated parents, so they look similar on application paper. How can you tell the second applicant has less opportunities than the first one?

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Usually it comes across in things like essays, interviews, and guidance counselor letters. Or say the first kid has summer research at a prestigious university. Is it in his dad's lab? Well, that means something different than for a kid without those connections who gets the research opportunity. It doesn't mean the research in dad's lab isn't important or good (it's great!), it just means something about comparative initiative. </p>

<p>You'd be surprised at how many thousands of data points like this can become apparent in an application once you've been trained to look for them (and read a couple thousand). </p>

<p>@HPuck35: </p>

<p>
[quote]

This thread reminded me of this old discussion. I wonder how much future potential is factor for admission.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>It's basically the biggest single factor. </p>

<p>cf: In</a> Praise Of Holistic Admissions | MIT Admissions</p>

<p>
[quote]

In fact, in a certain sense you could say that our job, as an admissions office, is emphatically not to admit the "best students" to MIT, but rather to admit those applicants who will become the best MIT students. We are selecting the right mix of ingredients from which MIT graduates will be produced. This is why, incidentally, David put so much emphasis on making the most of your opportunities. Because we don't care about what you've done so far as much as we care about what you're going to do at MIT. </p>

<p>As Booker T. Washington wrote: </p>

<p>"Success is to be measured not so much by the positions that one has reached in life, as by the obstacles one has overcome trying to succeed." </p>

<p>The idea is best understood with a metaphor drawn from my favorite sport of football:</p>

<p>MIT isn't the end zone.</p>

<p>It's where you get the ball when you start the next drive.

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<p>Yeah I came in first place in last week's race, how about you?</p>

<p>^^Thanks everyone for your input.</p>

<p>And Chris, it's a comfort to know that colleges indeed are trying very hard to tell those two applicants (examples in my post#7) apart. The majority of my son's classmates who landed summer internships were by parental connections, others tried very hard without much success.</p>

<p>Many families in my so-called "wealthy" community are actually not wealthy enough to provide extra money for SAT tuition, etc. They are either 1)move into the neighborhood long before the housing boom, or 2)save all the money to buy the house in this wealthy area in order to attend its excellent high school. So they are not as rich as shown on paper; can't provide "opportunities" like other true rich families. That's why I always wonder how do colleges measure each applicant's "utilizing opportunity" into its context.</p>

<p>@Chris, many of those labs do need some connection to get into, because a completely untrained personnel does drag the research process a little bit. When the personnel can do something, she or he leaves. It is quite difficult to tell whether a person working in a prestigious lab has connection or not. It is highly likely he or she has, in one way or the other. But this should not be an issue. The more a student works on a project, the more ready he or she is for college or graduate school, regardless of connection. I also disagree with the heavy discount on applicants with proven track record of achievement because of his parents having high income. There is no proof that lower income students with lower score achieve more later in life than students with higher score and also having high income parents. It is likely that the high achiever will outperform the not-so-high achiever again. Wealth is not a predictor of achievement. Family culture is. Many studies involving East Asian populations prove it. In England, free school meal Chinese pupils not only outperform the rich white counterpart, but also their slightly wealthier Chinese group. I really don’t see why family economy has such an impact on the success of a student if the parents are serious on their children’s education. The assumption that lower income family would have dramatic less of opportunity is quite bogus. If parents do not seek the opportunity for their children, they will never have them, regardless income. The SAT scores and grades are a reflection of commitment and dedication on the part of students and their parents, not of privilege. To choose the best candidate, RACE and family economy should have no place in consideration. This is clearly a case of discrimination.</p>

<p>^ You make a lot of claims there. Care to back them?</p>

<p>
[quote]
Usually it comes across in things like essays, interviews, and guidance counselor letters. Or say the first kid has summer research at a prestigious university. Is it in his dad's lab? Well, that means something different than for a kid without those connections who gets the research opportunity. It doesn't mean the research in dad's lab isn't important or good (it's great!), it just means something about comparative initiative.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>If you do work in a lab, receive research grants, publish etc. would it be wise then to note in your application (through an essay maybe?) that you got the job entirely by cold-calling professors and asking if they needed research help, rather then through some type of connections? I have precisely 0 connections/resources, but I'm worried my application might suggest otherwise.</p>

<p>Piper: Here are some articles for you to digest. <a href="http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/cp/CASEpaper105.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://sticerd.lse.ac.uk/dps/case/cp/CASEpaper105.pdf&lt;/a>
Hidden</a> tigers: why do Chinese children do so well at school? | Education | The Guardian
<a href="http://www.bristol.ac.uk/sociology/leverhulme/cultural_trends_capitals.pdf%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.bristol.ac.uk/sociology/leverhulme/cultural_trends_capitals.pdf&lt;/a&gt;&lt;/p>

<p>@underachiever</p>

<p>
[quote]

I also disagree with the heavy discount on applicants with proven track record of achievement because of his parents having high income.

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<p>We don't discount those applicants or parents with high income. I have never said that we do (because we don't). </p>

<p>
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There is no proof that lower income students with lower score achieve more later in life than students with higher score and also having high income parents.

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</p>

<p>You're correct there is no proof! Which is also why we don't assume this dynamic exists. Instead, we look at what you have done with your opportunities. We are more interested in underresourced students who have gone out of their way to achieve stuff than in well-resourced students who have ignored their ample opportunity. We are also more interested in well-resourced students who have gone out of their way to make use of their ample opportunity than in well-resourced students who have ignored their ample opportunity.</p>

<p>Basically, we don't like to admit people who have done comparatively less with the opportunity given to them. </p>

<p>
[quote]

It is likely that the high achiever will outperform the not-so-high achiever again.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>This depends on how you measure achievement. For example, one interesting thing we have noticed is that most of the students who win exceptional accolades upon their graduation from MIT (Rhodes scholars etc) often did not have perfect scores and perfect grades. What they tended to have was a propensity to make use of their resources, great letters of recommendations, and a clear passion for a particular thing they really wanted to do. </p>

<p>Which is why we care about those factors more than we care about raw grades or scores. Because frankly we don't care as much about what you've done before MIT as what you are going to do at and after MIT. Being admitted to MIT is not a finish line. It is the next step. </p>

<p>
[quote]

I really don’t see why family economy has such an impact on the success of a student if the parents are serious on their children’s education.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>If you do not understand it than I am not going to be able to explain it to you. </p>

<p>
[quote]

The SAT scores and grades are a reflection of commitment and dedication on the part of students and their parents, not of privilege.

[/quote]
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<p>They are a reflection, yes. But only one of several reflections. Which is why they are only two of several things we consider in our application process. </p>

<p>
[quote]

This is clearly a case of discrimination.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>No it is not. It is an example of differentiation. There is no basis by which one can argue that SAT scores, beyond a point of demonstrating sufficient academic preparation for success, should be considered more "fair" or "undiscriminatory" than, say, a family's economic context, or the applicant's use of the resources available to them at a school, or letters of recommendation. Full stop. By your definition, any admissions criteria we choose are going to "discriminate" or "differentiate" against some people or some attributes. That's what it means to perform a selective process. The point is to produce a group of students who are the best, as a group, for MIT. </p>

<p>See also: It’s</a> not fair! | MIT Admissions</p>

<p>
[quote]
This depends on how you measure achievement. For example, one interesting thing we have noticed is that most of the students who win exceptional accolades upon their graduation from MIT (Rhodes scholars etc) often did not have perfect scores and perfect grades. What they tended to have was a propensity to make use of their resources, great letters of recommendations, and a clear passion for a particular thing they really wanted to do.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Could this tendency result from the fact that most major postgrad scholarship competitions weigh letters of recommendation heavily in their analysis? I remember reading somewhere that the Rhodes requires eight letters, and those letters form the primary basis for selection, with grades serving only as a basic filter. </p>

<p>Maybe some people are just naturally impressive? lol</p>