NEW (11/03/15): FAQs by AALDEF on AAPIs and the Fisher case before the U.S. Supreme Court


MYTH: There is firm statistical evidence that Asian Americans are discriminated against in the college admissions process.

FACT: This “evidence” is shaky and these statistics are taken out of context. Studies that claim that Asian Americans need higher test scores do not consider the other factors in the admissions process (essays, high school context, etc.) in the analysis. People are jumping to conclusions from an analysis that is limited and does not have all of the information that admissions officers use.

MYTH: The average SAT score for a White student at Harvard is lower than an Asian American student. This is proof of discrimination.

FACT: The score difference can be explained by the high percentage (one-third) of White Harvard students who are legacies or recruited athletes. This is a SEPARATE ISSUE from affirmative action.

MYTH: There are racial quotas at Harvard and other selective colleges because of affirmative action.

FACT: Such quotas are clearly illegal. Affirmative action allows universities to look at the WHOLE context of a student and their ability to enhance the student body.

MYTH: We need class-based affirmative action instead of race-conscious admissions.

FACT: Structural inequality exists because of both race AND class. Universities can take both race and class into account, and should.

MYTH: Harvard could use options like the University of Texas’ “Top 10 Percent” plan.

FACT: Harvard obviously would never admit students solely based on class ranking, like Texas. What works in one setting may not work in another setting.

MYTH: The fact that Asian American valedictorians with perfect SAT scores are rejected from Harvard is “smoking gun” evidence that Harvard is discriminating.

FACT: Harvard has to turn away 95% of applicants. 95%! Amazing students of ALL races are rejected, unfortunately. No SAT score guarantees admissions. Additionally, student excellence comes in more forms than SAT scores; SAT scores are just one part of an applicant. Universities need the flexibility to assess applicants as individuals, not just as test scores.

MYTH: About 27% of students who apply to Harvard are Asian American, but Harvard is only about 20% Asian American. This is clear statistical evidence that there is discrimination, because if the process were fair, Harvard would be 27% Asian American.

FACT: This assumption is faulty. Just because a certain group is represented at a certain rate in the applicant pool does not mean that they will be admitted at that same rate, it depends on the qualifications of the applicant and who’s in the broader applicant pool.

MYTH: When affirmative action is banned, Asian American percentages at schools shoot up. This shows that Asian Americans have the most to gain if affirmative action is banned.

FACT: When UCLA still had affirmative action, the entering freshmen class in 1995 was 38.5% Asian American. Affirmative action in California was banned in 1996. However, the percentage of Asian Americans at UCLA has actually gone DOWN since the ban. Only 30% of freshmen entering in 2013 were Asian American, and this is with race-conscious affirmative action being BANNED.

MYTH: Harvard discriminated against the Jews in the early 20th century, and it’s doing the same thing to Asian Americans. Holistic admissions (looking at more than test scores) was invented to keep Jews out, and it’s doing the same to Asian Americans.

FACT: The college admissions landscape is radically different today from the early 20th century. It no longer makes sense to evaluate only based on test scores when tests are only one part of who a student is. Admissions officers need to see the whole story and context of a student. Many Asian American students ARE accepted to Harvard–it’s just that when only 5% of applicants can be accepted, many strong students will be rejected.