Target Schools for Asian Male

My son is a junior in a private high school here in Northern Virginia. He is a smart, hardworking student with a few focused extracurriculars (music, community service). He is really good (and very advanced) at math & science but is also keenly interested and very good at history, econ, business, finance, and international relations. Hasn’t decided what he wants to major in and doesn’t want to narrow down too quickly.
SAT 1st attempt - 1480 (690 RW, 790 Math); retaking in the spring
Unweighted GPA - 3.95; Weighted GPA expected to be 4.1-4.2 by the end of junior year.

But in the past 1-2 months as we’ve been talking to college admissions consultants and his high school counselor, we keep hearing that the reality of being a (south) Asian male who is targeting STEM majors is that he will be at a disadvantage in all of the big name schools - and not just at Ivy Leagues and the elite private schools. Even large public schools like UT Austin, U of Michigan, U of Washington, and the UCs. We’ve been told to forget about Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, etc. as his scores and extracurriculars aren’t impressive enough and he’s an Asian male from a competitive region of the country.

My question: What kinds of schools should he target?
Is it true that liberal arts colleges might not have the same overrepresentation problem that the big name schools have with Asians and males? Since he isn’t sure yet what he wants to focus on, what colleges might be good to target?

I am not Asian. I work with many, many people who are. Some are Asian-American. Some are just Asian (they still work and live in Asia, and always have).

We see a lot of Asian-Americans who are strong students, attend their in-state public universities, and do very well. Then they graduate and we hire them. Then I work with some of them and am very glad to do so.

I do not think that any difficulty that your son might have getting into a famous school has much if any impact on whether or not we are going to hire him in five or six years. It does have an impact on whether we hire him out of MIT or we hire him out of UVA. UVA is a very good university.

You need to make sure that your son applies to safeties. Then see where he gets in and try not to worry about it. He is going to continue to be a strong student regardless of whether he attends UVA or somewhere else.

Somewhere around about 58% or 59% of all of the people in the world live in Asia. It should not surprise anyone if about the same percentage of the very smart people live in Asia or have parents who came from Asia (along with the same percentage of average people, who we mostly do not hire).

I might add: In addition to your in-state public universities, another place to look is the top universities in Canada. For admissions they care relatively more about GPA and test scores and relatively less about other factors including race.


So if you’re worried, don’t check the Asian box.

Your hs GC is most relevant here. With a 4.1 weighted and 1480 SAT you are not getting into top colleges for CS. Nor do you need to in the major. But perhaps the HS over performs and a 4.1 there is much better than a 4.1 at other schools. The GC helping with college will know. I’m using .5 for honors and 1 for AP when I weight.

Your OOS list is tough in STEM…less so non-STEM. These schools heavily lean in state per their governments. Doesn’t mean they are impossible but the weighted GPA shows a lack of rigor vs the unweighted which is why I’m suggesting talking to the counselor.

There’s tons of great schools out there.

Is money important ? If so Bama and Arizona will be dirt cheap with merit. Miami Ohio, South Carolina, Florida State, Mizzou, Arkansas , Ms state and others would be cheap. A Charleston with fellows program too.

UVA and W&M are of the best schools in the country.

Need more info on weighted gpa but assuming it’s the norm, a Rochester, BU, wake forest would be a stretch.

A Brandeis high reach. A Syracuse, Denver. American are a match

A Hofstra, Quinnipiac. Ithaca would be a safety

Bottom line a 4.1 weighted GPA and 1480 SAT are fine. But not near top tier….especially in STEM. Yes it’s crazy to say that, especially SAT wise which is awesome but many apply TO to STEM with that SAT.

But the counselor at school, not this board is best to advise since you are at a private.

Good luck

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UCs do not use race, gender, or SAT/ACT scores in admissions.

But they are relatively small compared to the state population, so the most desired ones (particularly UCB and UCLA) are highly competitive for admission. Some others (e.g. UCR and UCM) are significantly less competitive for admission.

Some of the apparent “Asian male disadvantage” may be due to the greater tendency of such applicants to apply for engineering or CS majors, which tend to be more competitive for admission at more selective universities. But not applying for such majors may reduce the level of competition some (although it may be difficult to change into such a major after enrolling).


You say that your son is targeting STEM majors. Does that not include engineering? If it does, small LACs typically do not offer engineering. Some exceptions that do offer engineering are as follows (Asian % in parentheses):

Swarthmore (15.6%)
Bucknell (5.0%)
Lafayette (4.4%)
Union (5.6%)
Trinity (CT) [3.7%]
Washington & Lee (not ABET) [3.9%]
Wake Forest (3.3%)
Trinity (TX) [7.7%]

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Great list. I’d add Harvey Mudd (24% Asian-American), although you may have intentionally excluded it since it’s so selective.

Your S has a very good profile, and he should be proud of his achievements.

While it’s true Asian males are I overrepresented in STEM at some schools, there are still many excellent options. Certainly apply to some reaches, but make sure to have a handful of matches and at least one affordable safety.

I would start with asking your S what type of school he wants to attend. Major/academics are but one piece, what about size, geography, vibe, school spirit, etc. Don’t let him focus on rankings or prestige (which is the sense I get based on the list of schools mentioned in your post), encourage fit.

Some good schools have been suggested above.
There are some LACs specifically looking for Asian males, I know Bowdoin is one, I’m sure there are more, at all ranges of selectivity.

I know several Asian American kids who got diversity recruiting preference at LACS in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New England. These include several on @Bill_Marsh list above.

Whenever a student is interested in doing what others are not, it gives them a slight edge. On the flip side, most students are doing what most of their cohort are, and that plays out in stiffer competition in whatever demographic that is – geography, race, etc.

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First - take a deep breath. Not all is lost. Your son appears to be very smart and motivated. He will be fine.

Not getting into a ivy, or a top 20 college is the end of the world. For engineering majors, it doesn’t really matter where he graduates from. As long as he completes an engineering degree, he will be in strong demand.

I have to agree with the guidance counselor and consultants. Getting into JHU, or the top STEM colleges will be tough. It could happen, but its a long shot. Definitely have him apply, but have enough safeties and backups in place.

You didn’t mention financial aid. Since he is attending a private HS, its sounds like you can afford to pay in full for college. If this is the case, have you considered colleges outside the US? University of Waterloo (Canada), Univ of St Andrews and Imperial College London come to mind. Imperial is only a 3 year degree course. Applying as a foreigner who is full pay comes with added advantage. Waterloo has some of the best placements to top tech companies like Microsoft.

The other option is to attend a smaller liberal arts college (LAC). Especially if he is not sure what his major is. At some of the smaller LACs he might even be considered a minority. This is true of LACs with religious affiliation or less well known. But he can get a great education from these colleges.

Also take a look at 3-2 Engineering programs. Some of the well known ones are: Columbia, Case Western, WashU, Dartmouth, Georgia Tech and Caltech. He would spend the first 3 years at a LAC, and then transfer for the final 2 years at an engineering school, ultimately ending up with 2 degrees. This is more expensive, but another option to consider.

IMO, if your son get’s his English SAT score up, no school should be off the table in terms of the reach category.

That said, those aren’t the targets. Schools like RPI, Case, and Lehigh would be targets.

Makes sure there are safeties, sure bets for admissions, that he likes on the list just in case.

If he’s wanting big OOS with great school spirit, Purdue is great for engineering and CS. Just be sure to apply before the EA deadline because they fill most of their class in EA and honors and merit are only considered for EA applicants. UMD CP would be another solid choice.


Pitt has a relatively new School of Computing and information, and they also offer rolling admissions. It can provide a strong safety to know he is in Pitt before getting involved in the heavy application process. Also, based on a 790 math score the first time out, he could be looking at Pitt Honors and some possible good merit. I would be optimistic about your S chances of getting into a top CS program. As long as he has a safety he is happy with, go for it!

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If you are looking for schools that are strong in both engineering and humanities, I second those posters who have mentioned Lafayette, Lehigh, and Bucknell – whether your son goes into engineering or humanities, he can get a great education at these schools. The University of Michigan might merit a long look also.

As you are in NOVA, I also would be sure to investigate UVA – great humanities, and the engineering is good also (I know a Jefferson Scholar who was an engineering student there).

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Being in-state for VT and UVA is a luxury. Both are superb and affordable.


As is William & Mary for a kid who may want to double major in econ, history or international relations. My S22 will be a physics major and just turned down Georgia Tech for William & Mary. Obviously, UVA and VA Tech are better if OPs son wants engineering.


Agree… don’t ignore the excellent and highly respected public universities in your state.


We had UVA very high on our list (and we are OOS). Had is like 3 or 4 on our list (for CS). But DS’22 got into his ED school


First off , you are very lucky to have UVA and VT as your in-state universities! Make sure his applications to those are as early as possible and to take them seriously. We are acutely aware of the “Asian male” tax vis a vis college admissions. It boils down to too many people in the same demographic applying for too few slots.

But we didn’t completely rule out applying to reach schools. Rather than apply to multiple reach schools, shotgun style, we focused on a handful .Concentrated on writing good essays and researching the school for fit. My son has varied interests and so he included that in his essays. I would encourage your son to show his range of interests as well in his essays. Also applied to Purdue, UMD . We are NJ in state , and so already have an excellent engineering program at Rutgers as a safety.

Since your son does not have a specific major in mind, it’s important to look at universities where he can change majors easily. In the large public universities, engineering , CS and business are often impacted majors, and may not be easy to switch into.

Regarding the LAC’s, you will need to visit and see how your son feels about the social and cultural fit. Since they are much smaller, fit - in terms of social and cultural - is more important .

My son’s SAT score breakdown was similar to your son’s at the beginning of junior year, but he retook in August before senior year for a verbal score in the high 700’s. He did focused tutoring that summer. Since this demographic is obsessed with test scores, our college counselor suggested the retake. It merely keeps him in the running and we don’t expect admission solely due to this increase.

I don’t know yet how our strategy will pan out. But my son did all he could do to put his best foot forward, and we know he will be fine wherever he lands. And your son will be as well! Best of luck in your search.

To the OP: please clarify whether the student’s interest in “STEM” is:

  • Science
    • Physical science (physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology or earth science)
    • Biological science (biology, biochemistry, or related majors, environmental science)
  • engineering Technology (a less common, less theoretical, more how-to hands-on relative of engineering)
  • Engineering
  • Math (or related areas like statistics, operations research, etc.)
  • Computer science
  • Pre-med or similar – not a major and can be done with any major, but does require some course work that overlaps with biology major course work

Admission selectivity can be significantly different for the different majors, even at the same school.


I think you are overestimating the degree of disadvantage from being an Asian male. In the Harvard lawsuit analyses, the influence of being an Asian male was near the border of statistical significance, so seemingly small differences in controls changed the conclusion. The different sides of the lawsuits disagreed on those controls and whether the influence was statistically significant, but they agreed that the possible influence of being an Asian male was quite small compared to other admission criteria that was analyzed.

Rather than Asian males with similar characteristics having a much lower admit rate than White students, the Asian disadvantage more appeared to be that the admission process was including certain admission criteria that Asian males did not excel at to the same degree as White students on average, particularly hooks (Asian applicants are far less likely to be ALDC hooked than White applicants) and a slightly lower average personal qualities rating. And the admission process was not emphasizing certain areas where Asian students often excelled over White students, particularly math/science scores.

As others have noted, if a penalty for being Asian really concerns you, you can skip the question about race on the application.

Asian students are often far less overrpresented at LACs, particularly ones that emphasize humanities majors and do not offer engineering, are not as selective, are in areas of the country with lower % Asian HS students, and/or are religious. Some LACs treat Asian students as a URM group. Males are also often underrpresented at LACs that emphasize humanities majors and do not offer engineering. Some example % Asian from the most recent IPEDS (2020) are below. Across all schools, ~6% of HS grads are Asian, and ~8% of 4-year college students are Asian.

(Relatively) Low % Asian
U Alabama – 1% Asian
Elon – 2% Asian
Denison – 3% Asian
Washington & Lee – 4% Asian
Bates – 5% Asian
Colgate – 5% Asian
Colorado College --5% Asian
Notre Dame – 5% Asian
Tulane – 5% Asian
Davidson – 6% Asian
Hamilton – 7% Asian
Grinell – 8% Asian
Middlebury – 8% Asian
Bowdoin – 9% Asian
Colby – 9% Asian

High % Asian
Caltech – 40% Asian
San Jose State - 37% Asian
UCI – 37% Asian
Carnegie Mellon – 35% Asian
UCB – 35% Asian
UCSD – 33% Asian
MIT – 32% Asian
UCLA – 29% Asian
Cooper Union – 28% Asian
Rice – 27% Asian
Georgia Tech – 26% Asian
Johns Hopkins – 26% Asian
Princeton – 25% Asian
Stanford – 25% Asian
Harvey Mudd – 24% Asian
Yale – 24% Asian


UCs do not use race, gender, or SAT/ACT scores in admissions

Washington and MIchigan both prohibit the use of affirmative action as well. Your son being an Asian Male won’t have an impact on his decision.

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