Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions


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Week 1: The power of news

Test Content and Sex Differences in Reading. The Reading Teacher , May Everson, H. Federal Trade Commission. Boston Regional Office, April Concludes that ETS and College Board materials for students did not accurately describe the real possibility of meaningful score gains from coaching.

Finds an approximately 50 point overall increase in SAT scores for students who were coached, and evidence of a socio-economic differential between those who were coached and those who were not. Raises questions about the implications of coaching effectiveness on the SAT, which supposedly measures abilities developed over years of learning, and about the fairness of such a test when coaching is only available to some students.

Freedle, R. When matched by overall verbal SAT scores, Whites are found to do better on easy items, which often occur early in the test, while Blacks do better on harder, later items. Geiser, S. The weakest predictor of college performance proved to be SAT I scores, which explained just Gross, S. Participation and Performance of Women and Minorities in Mathematics.

In a sample of SAT examinees matched by math classes taken, males outscored females by 33 to 52 points on the SAT-Math section, despite the fact that girls got higher grades in all math classes. Similarly, among Black and White students who took the same level of math classes, Whites outscored Blacks by 49 to 74 points. Hackett, R. Hembree, R. This meta-analysis of studies shows that test anxiety causes poor performance and that students with high test anxiety hold themselves in lower esteem than do those who are less test anxious.

Asserts that the aptitudes of individual test-anxious students are consistently mis-interpreted and undervalued. Females have higher test anxiety than males, Blacks in elementary school have higher test anxiety than Whites, and Hispanics have higher test anxiety than Whites at all ages. Hiss, W. Bates: The Alumni Magazine , September, Hoover, M. Addresses biases in language and reading tests for speakers of Black English and members of other socioeconomic, cultural and ethnic groups.

Horner, B. Johnson, S. Does It Make a Difference? SAT scores of low-income minority students who received coaching improved from pre-test, on post-test and actual SAT. Across three groups, pre-to-post-test improvement averaged 33 Verbal and 24 Math points; pre-test-to-SAT improvement averaged 25 Verbal and 24 Math. One group improved 87 points combined Verbal and Math. The findings suggest that performance on a broad range of item types of quantitative SAT items can be substantially improved, even with a rather modest coaching intervention. Kanarek, E. Women receive substantially higher grades in humanities classes, despite lower SAT-Verbal scores.

Katz, S. Performance was not significantly lower than that of students given passageless items in correct order i. Educational Assessment , V. Kessel, C. Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice , Vol. Summarizing more than a dozen studies of large student groups and specific institutions such as MIT, Rutgers and Princeton, Kessel and Linn concluded that young women typically earn the same or higher grades as their male counterparts in math and other college courses despite having SAT-Math scores points lower.

Among the causes documented in their literature review: the SAT's emphasis on speed; the multiple-choice format of the questions; the simplistic content; differences between males and females in self-confidence related to test taking; and stereotype vulnerability diminished performance when gender differences were expected.

Lang, E.

Are We All Unconscious Racists? Racial Preferences | Implicit Bias

Because SAT scores currently play a powerful role in college admissions and athletic eligibility, the effectiveness of these scores for their intended purpose may need to be examined more closely. Lavin, D. From through , the seventeen-campus, two hundred thousand student CUNY system guaranteed admission to all high school graduates with an 80 average or above, without consideration of test scores.

Other indicators of the success of the policy: college graduation rates in low-income and minority communities soared; the students who participated in the program earned much more than those who did not; and many of the negative impacts of cumulative disadvantage were overcome. The authors conclude that all these benefits came without sacrificing academic standards. Leonard, D. Research in Higher Education , Vol. Analyzing the impact of test score use on female admissions and enrollment at the elite University of California at Berkeley, researchers found reliance on gender-biased test scores in the late s cost between and otherwise qualified females admission to the Berkeley campus each year.

The paper projects that SAT under-prediction "arguably leads to the exclusion of 12, women from large, competitive, flagship' state universities" annually and shows that "significant under-prediction of women's college grades remains after one has taken out the effects of choice of program of study and that it exists across the range of scores in which highly competitive colleges and universities actually make their cut-off decisions.

Lemann, Nicholas. New York:Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, The most comprehensive history of the SAT to date, The Big Test characterizes development of the SAT as a well-motivated intention that produced unexpected negative consequences. Linn, M. Journal of Research in Science Teaching , V. Shows that girls are more reluctant to guess on multiple-choice questions than are boys, but that uncertainty is not consistently related to performance. Boys overestimate their likelihood of success and so take risks unknowingly, for which they are rewarded in the multiple-choice format.

Gender, Mathematics, and Science. Educational Researcher , V. Mazzeo, J. Male-female performance differences on three Advanced Placement AP tests were analyzed. Males consistently did better on multiple-choice sections while females did better on constructed response sections essays and word problems , even when gender-bias potential was controlled. Currently, a large amount of standardized testing occurs in a multiple-choice format McIntosh Commission.

The report argued against implementation of Proposition 16, whose higher test score cut-offs would exacerbate the problem of African American eligibility. The Commission cautioned against using test scores to determine eligibility and scholarship receipt since no test has been validated for this purpose. They also urged the NCAA to allow individuals institutions to determine their own academic standards. Miller, D. Education , V. Two SAT-type math exams were given to male and female high school students, one timed and one untimed.

Females raised their scores significantly in the untimed condition, while males did not. Morgan, R. Predictive Validity within Categorizations of College Students: , , Predictive validity has decreased for Blacks, Whites, Asian-Americans, males and females. The decrease is more pronounced -- and the test least predictive -- for the lower two-thirds of freshman classes than for the top third.

Nairn, A. The first full-scale report to expose the Educational Testing Service and its practices. Includes organizational history, test development information, and examples of testing abuses, documented with over footnotes. Also describes and reprints New York state's landmark Truth-in-Testing law which requires disclosure of test questions and answers along with test validity studies.

National Association for College Admissions Counseling. Statement of Principles of Good Practice. Alexandria, VA: Author, These guidelines for members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling include a series of statements regarding standardized college admissions tests. National Research Council. Washington, D. The history and validity of the SAT and ACT are detailed, along with a description of current trends in undergraduate admissions and an analysis of the benefits and detriments of considering test scores.

Institutions should look with a critical eye at how test scores are used, and ensure that they are not used to make fine distinctions between applicants. Orfield, Gary and Edward Miller, Eds. In the wake of Proposition in California and the Hopwood decision in Texas, both of which banned the use of affirmative action, institutions of higher education must struggle with ways to maintain campus diversity. The authors in this collection warn that minority enrollment will drop precipitously without a radical refiguring of admissions policies.

One chapter centers on the experiences of the University of California, Irvine, where admissions officials devised a new system of evaluating students which de-emphasizes standardized tests and instead takes into consideration both academic and personal criteria. Another chapter on race and testing warns of the dangers in relying on test scores given longstanding gaps in achievement between White and underrepresented minorities.

Owen, David with Marilyn Doerr. Pearson, B. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences , V. Compares SAT scores and college grades of Hispanic versus non-Hispanic students at a large university. Reynolds, A. Journal of Educational Research , V. Participation in a summer test preparation program resulted in mean PSAT-Math score improvement of 4. SAT-type tests measure a very limited set of abilities, and, if overemphasized, downplay the development of essential competency skills needed in society.

Rogers, J. For Black test-takers, finds the analogy item type on the SAT-Verbal section to be more difficult than other item types. Rooney, Charles with Bob Schaeffer. Summarizes the experiences of several hundred colleges and universities that do not use the SAT or ACT to make admissions decisions about some part or all of their incoming freshmen classes. Rosser, P. Analyzes data from two studies, one using College Board item data for , test-takers from a SAT administration and another of students in a Princeton Review test preparation course.

The gender gap widens as high school grades increase.

Dealing with Media

Both males and females estimate their abilities in English and math to be closer to their SAT scores than their GPA, so girls judge themselves less able than their grades would indicate, and less able than boys. Demonstrates content bias in SAT items: an analysis of 24 reading comprehension passages reveals that 34 famous men and eight other men are mentioned. Only one famous woman, Margaret Mead, is mentioned and her work is criticized.

Two other women are mentioned. Sacks, Peter. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books, Schaffner, P. Journal of Higher Education , V. Test score submitters and withholders often showed comparable potential and performance. Schmitt, A. Proposes that differential reasoning strategies account for differing answers. Even within matched groups, Black examinees less often reached the end of the test. ETS researchers find that when item content is of special interest to an ethnic group, members of that group score unexpectedly well on the item.

Items containing homographs -- words spelled like other words but having different meaning or pronunciation -- disadvantage Blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans. On the mathematical sections, females may omit more difficult items at a higher rate than comparable male candidates. Noncognitive variables are better predictors of grades for athletes than are SAT scores. It is suggested that athletes be considered nontraditional students rather than student-athletes. Standardized tests have lower correlation with freshman grades for non-White and nontraditional students than for White students.

Propositions 48 and 42 cannot be implemented fairly using SAT scores if these results are at all true at other institutions. The school studied would be doing a great disservice to its student-athletes if the SAT were used to deny the right of any student-athlete to compete in the first year. Shapiro, M. Valparaiso University Law Review , V. DIF matches groups by total test score, then flags those questions on which specific groups, such as women and men, score differently. Sharif v. Judge John H. Walker rules the use of the SAT alone in awarding New York state scholarships to be biased against women.

Silverman, L. Extensive legal analysis of issues surrounding the use of standardized tests for admission to higher education. Looks at difficulties of litigating claims of gender or racial bias and examines possible legislative options for reducing the impact of testing in admissions decisions. Slack, W. But there were also no requirements for who could call themselves a doctors, so students would sometimes stay until they got bored, then drop out and start practicing anyway. This situation continued until the Gilded Age, when medical schools started professionalizing themselves a little more.

Or suppose you wanted to be a lawyer. Honestly the part where you apprenticed with an practicing lawyer was more like a good idea than a requirement. Most lawyers did not have a college degree. Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer himself, advised a law student:. If you are absolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself the thing is more than half done already. It is a small matter whether you read with any one or not. I did not read with any one.

Get the books and read and study them in their every feature, and that is the main thing. It is no consequence to be in a large town while you are reading. I read at New Salem, which never had three hundred people in it. The books and your capacity for understanding them are just the same in all places. Levi Woodbury , the 30th US Supreme Court Justice appointed , was the first to attend any kind of formal law school.

James Byrnes , the 81st Supreme Court Justice appointed , was the last not to attend law school. The ease of entering these professions helps explain why there was no oversupply of Harvard applicants. We tend to imagine that of course you need strict medical school admissions, because some kind of unspecified catastrophe would happen if any qualified person who wanted could become a doctor. Did these open-door policies create a glut of professionals?

There were fewer doctors and lawyers per capita than there are now. This seems to match successful modern lawyers, and probably exceed average modern lawyers. This may because unskilled laborers now earn a minimum wage and teachers have unions, but in any case the 19th-century premium to a law degree seems to have been at least as high and probably higher. The same seems true of doctor salaries. I conclude that letting any qualified person become a doctor or a lawyer, without gatekeeping, did not result in a glut of doctors and lawyers, and did not drive down salaries for those professions beyond levels we would find reasonable today.

Since rural children were expected to work on the farm, there was no protracted period of educational unproductivity. That meant that paying to send your child to Boston or wherever, and to support him in a big-city lifestyle for four years, was actually a much bigger deal than the tuition itself. Another limiting factor may have been that there was ample opportunity outside of college and the professions, in almost every area. Twelve US presidents , including George Washington, did not go to college.

Of the ten richest people in American history mostly 19th-century industrialists , as far as I can tell only two of them went to college. Here is a graph of Harvard admission rates over time, based mostly on these data :. During the early part of the s, Harvard was still in the 19th-century equilibrium of admitting most qualified non-Jewish applicants.

Most sources I read attribute this to the GI Bill, a well-intentioned piece of legislation that encouraged returning WWII veterans to get a college education. So many vets took the government up on the offer that Harvard was overwhelmed for the first time in its history. The GI Bill is visible on this graph — around , there is a spike in attendance for men but not women, which is the pattern we would predict from GIs. And after the GI Bill, the college graduation rate starts dropping again — as we would expect of a one-time shock from a one-time war.

The big spike in college attendance rates — and a corresponding dip in Harvard admission percentage — takes place in the to birth cohort. Why are all these people suddenly going to college? A big part of the increase in college admissions was people taking advantage of the college loophole to escape getting sent to Vietnam. Again, this is a one-time shock, and mostly applies to men.

So how come we see a quadrupling of college graduation during this period affecting men and women alike? A standard narrative says that work has gotten more difficult over the past century, and so workers need more education. In other countries, students still go to medical school and law school without a separate college degree first.

And in many of the jobs that do require college education, the education is irrelevant to their work. Both of my adult jobs — as an English teacher and as a doctor — required me to have a college degree in order to apply. Once the number of people in college reached a certain level, it led to a well-known social expectation that intelligent and conscientious men would have college degrees, which made college a sign of intelligence and, conversely, not having been to college a sign of stupidity.

This cycle meant that after the shocks of the mids, there was a strong expectation of a degree in the knowledge professions, which forced women and later generations of men to continue going to college to keep up. Family businesses whose owners could hire based on hunches were giving way to large corporations where interviewers would have to justify their hiring decisions to higher-ups.

Increasing concern about racism was raising awareness that hunch-based hiring tended to discriminate against minorities, and the advent of the discrimination lawsuit encouraged hiring based on objective criteria so you could prove you rejected someone for reasons other than race. The Supreme Court decision Griggs v. Duke may or may not have played a role by making it legally risky for corporations to give prospective hires aptitude tests. The rise of the college degree as a signal for intelligence, and the increased sorting of people by college selectivity, fit into this space perfectly.

Once society established that knowledge-worker jobs needed college degrees, the simultaneous rises in automation , globalization, and inequality made knowledge-worker jobs increasingly necessary to earn a living, completed the process. College attendance in the UK supposedly remained very low until a act designed to encourage it, but it looks like part of that is just them reclassifying some other schools as colleges. Through the rest of the world, college attendance lagged North America by a long time, but the continent-wide categories probably combine countries at different levels of economic development.

Moving on: the graphs in the Introduction show that college attendance has been stable since about Why did the rise stop? These articles point out a few relevant trends. First, the economy is usually to blame for this kind of thing. There was a slight increase in attendance during the recession, and a slight decrease during the recent boom. Second, birth rates are decreasing, which means fewer college-aged kids.

Third, the price of college keeps going up. Fourth, for-profit colleges are falling apart. In some cases, the government has shut them down for being outright scams. In other cases, potential students have wised up, realized they are outright scams, and stopped being interested in attending them. These are all potentially relevant, but they seem kind of weak to me: the sort of thing that explains the year-to-year trend, but not why the great secular movement in favor of more college has stopped. Seventy percent of high school graduates are now going to college. To review: over the past ten years, the number of US students applying to college has gone down the number applying to four-year private colleges has stayed about the same.

Also, across all US colleges international student enrollments seem to be dropping , not increasing. Some of this may have to do with strict Trump administration visa policies, or with international perceptions of increasing US hostility to foreigners. Might top colleges be intensifying affirmative action and their preference for minorities and the poor, thus making things harder for the sort of upper-class white people who write news articles about the state of college admissions?

Conversely, might colleges by relaxing their restrictions on high-achieving Asians, with the same result? Harvard obsessively chronicles the race of its student body, and the class of and class of have the same racial composition. The New York Times finds that whites are actually better represented at colleges compared to their percent of the US population than they were 35 years ago, although Asians are the real winners.

It may be due to weakening affirmative action, including bans by several states. Or it may be because of a large influx of uneducated Mexican immigrants who will need a few more generations of assimilation before their families attend college at the same rate as whites or previous generations of Latinos. What about Asians?

There was a large increase in Asian admissions, but it was mostly before this period. The Ivy League probably has some kind of unofficial Asian quota which has been pretty stable over the past decade. Although the Asian population continues to grow, and their academic achievement continues to increase, this probably just increases intra-Asian competition rather than affecting people of other races.

How can this be? I am not Harvard material. But when I was looking at colleges, my mother pressured me to apply to Harvard. And who knows? They might accept you! Harvard did not accept me. Part of this might be genuine egalitarianism. Maybe something has gone very right, and the average American really does believe he or she has a shot at the Ivy League. But part of it may also be a cynical ploy by colleges to improve their rankings in US News and other similar college guides. But increased application volume is mostly driven by an increasingly streamlined college admissions process, including the Common Application.

It was like paying taxes, except with essay questions. From the Times again:. Six college applications once seemed like a lot. Submitting eight was a mark of great ambition. For a growing number of increasingly anxious high school seniors, figures like that now sound like just a starting point…. For members of the class of who are looking at more competitive colleges, their overtaxed counselors say, 10 applications is now commonplace; 20 is taking on a familiar ring; even 30 is not beyond imagining.

And why stop there? To find it, she applied to 56 colleges. Last year the record was 86, she said. Does this mean increasing competitiveness is entirely an illusion? Suppose in the old days, each top student would apply to either Harvard or Yale. Now each top student applies to both Harvard and Yale, meaning that both colleges get twice as many applicants. Since each of them can only admit the same number of students, it looks like their application rate has been cut in half.

But neither one has really become more competitive! If Harvard accepts these people, they will definitely go to Harvard, so there is no need for Harvard to increase its admission rate to compensate.

I Am Not Your Asian Stereotype - Canwen Xu - TEDxBoise

Here there really is an illusion of increasing competition. Finally, this process could increase sorting. In the past, Harvard might have been losing a lot of qualified applicants to unjustified pessimism; now all those people will apply and the competition will heat up. And in the past, I think a lot of people, including really smart people, just went to the nearest halfway-decent state college to their house.

Partly this was out of humility. Partly it was because people cared about family and community more. If all these people are now trying to get into Harvard, that will increase competition too. This is the best I can do. This is probably related to sorting — people working on sorting themselves efficiently will go to the best school they can get into rather than just the closest one in their state.

Imagine the exact same students applying to the exact same schools. But in , they take it easy and start studying for their SATs the night before, and in , they all have private tutors and are doing five extracurricular activities. College admissions will seem more competitive in Any attempt to measure this will be confounded by reverse causation — increased effort might or might not cause increased selectivity, but increased selectivity will definitely cause increased effort. If studying harder improves SAT scores, these could be a proxy for how much effort students putting in.

They changed the test in in a way that makes scores hard to compare, but we can at least compare scores from earlier years. Scores decline between and in both math and reading. This may be because more students are taking the SAT 1. In support of this theory, scores are declining most quickly among blacks, Hispanics, and other poorer minority groups who may not have taken the SAT in earlier years; they are stable among whites, and increasing among Asians increasing numbers of whom may be high-achieving Chinese immigrants. At least, this is the best guess I can come up with for why this pattern is happening.

Why might students be trying harder? In addition, the Internet is exposing new generations of neurotic parents to messages that unless their child is perfect they will never get into college and probably die alone in a ditch. Further, the decline of traditional criteria might be causing an increasing emphasis on extracurriculars, which take a harder toll on college students. This implies increased emphasis on extracurriculars — things like student government, clubs, internships, charitable work, and the like.

But getting the right set of extracurriculars absolutely rewards obsessively freaking out and throwing money at the problem. Maybe twenty years ago, you just played the IQ lottery and hoped for the best, whereas now you work yourself ragged trying to become Vice-President of the Junior Strivers Club. Some people argue that cuts in public education are reducing the number of positions available at public universities, meaning the same number of students are competing for fewer spots. This source confirms large cuts in public funding:. These universities have tried to compensate by increasing tuition or increasing the percent out-of-state students, who pay higher tuition.

Colleges just raised their prices by a lot. In , 2. In , the ratio was 2. If the problem were limited availability of public universities to absorb students, we might expect the percent of students at public universities to go down. The clearest reason for increasing academic competition in the past ten years is the increasing number of applications per person, enabled by the online Common Application. This has doubled the number of applications sent to top colleges like Harvard despite the applicant pool staying the same size.

Some of this apparent increased competition is a statistical illusion, but parts of it may be real due to increased sorting. Other reasons may include increased common knowledge of intense competition making everyone compete more intensely, and decreased use of hard-to-game metrics like the SAT in favor of easy-to-game metrics like extracurriculars. This is also the impression I have been getting from doctors I know who work in the medical school and residency admissions process.

I got to interview some aspiring residents a few years ago for a not-even-all-that-impressive program, and they were fricking terrifying. Law schools keep great data on this thanks, law schools! US News just tells us outright that law schools are less competitive than in , even at good programs. And despite it feeling like lawyers are everywhere these days, law school attendance has really only grown at the same rate as the population since or so, and dropped over the past decade.

This may be relating to word getting out that lawyer is no longer as lucrative a career as it used to be. Unlike law schools, graduate school basically fails to keep any statistics whatsoever, and anything that might be happening at the graduate level is a total mystery. We know the number of PhDs granted:. If anyone knows more about the history of postgraduate education and work in the sciences, please let me know. If more people were gunning for med school and grad school, it would be more important to get into a top college in order to have a good chance of making it in.

Since increasing inequality and returns to education have made advanced-degree jobs more valuable relative to bachelors-only jobs, this could explain another fraction of academic competitiveness. Dale and Krueger examine this question, using lifetime earnings as a dependent variable. In general, they find no advantage from attending more selective colleges. Although Harvard students earn much more than University of Podunk students, this is entirely explained by Harvard only accepting the highest-ability people.

Conditional on a given level of ability, people do not earn more money by going to more selective colleges. A subgroup analysis did find that people who started out disadvantaged did gain from going to a selective college, even adjusted for pre-existing ability. Blacks, Latinos, and people from uneducated families all gained from selective college admission. A second possibility might be that college degrees are a signal that help people overcome statistical discrimination. Dale and Krueger also find that the value of college did not increase during the period of their study from to Does this mean that at least whites and Asians can stop stressing out about what colleges they get into?

What if you want to go to medical or law school? The same seems true for aspiring lawyers. As usual, there is no good data for graduate schools. From here , the percent of members of Congress who went to Ivy League colleges over time, by party:. The trend is going up among Democrats but not Republicans. But overall this looks encouraging. On the other hand, presidents and Supreme Court Justices are overwhelmingly Ivy. Each of the last five presidents went to an Ivy League school Clinton went to Georgetown for undergrad, but did his law degree at Yale.

Week 2: Who lives here?

Every current Supreme Court justice except Clarence Thomas went to an Ivy for undergrad, and all of them including Thomas went to an Ivy for law school. Tech entrepreneurs generally went to excellent colleges. But here we do have a hint that this was just pre-existing ability: many of them dropped out, suggesting that neither the coursework nor the signaling value of a degree was very important to them. In many fields, a prestigious graduate school is almost an absolute requirement for becoming a professor. I mentioned at the beginning the universal perception in California that UCs are much harder to get into.

I know this is the perception everywhere, but it seems much worse in California. And these were not even the highest tier of UCs, not Berkeley. The whole family is devastated. The data seem to back this up. Dashed line is applications, dotted line is admissions, solid line is enrollments:. Why should UC schools be hit especially hard? The Atlantic points out that, because of budget cuts, UC schools are admitting more out-of-state students who have to pay higher tuition , lowering the number of spots available to Californians. But is this really that big an effect? On money. Since the college admissions crisis is concentrated at the top schools, California has been hit especially hard.

There is strong evidence for more competition for places at top colleges now than 10, 50, or years ago. There is medium evidence that this is also true for upper-to-medium-tier colleges. It is still easy to get into medium-to-lower-tier colleges. Until , there was no competition for top colleges, medical schools, or law schools. Changes up until ten years ago were because of a growing applicant pool, after which the applicant pool both domestic and international stopped growing and started shrinking.

Increased competition since ten years ago does not involve applicant pool size. Changes after ten years ago are less clear, but the most important factor is probably the ease of applying to more colleges. This causes an increase in applications-per-admission which is mostly illusory. However, part of it may be real if it means students are stratifying themselves by ability more effectively. There might also be increased competition just because students got themselves stuck in a high-competition equilibrium ie an arms race , but in the absence of data this is just speculation.

Medical schools are getting harder to get into, but law schools are getting easier to get into. There is no good data for graduate schools. All the hand-wringing about getting into good colleges is probably a waste of time, unless you are from a disadvantaged background. For most people, admission to a more selective college does not translate into a more lucrative career or a higher chance of admission to postgraduate education. There may be isolated exceptions at the very top, like for Supreme Court justices.

I previously investigated one facet of this — that necessities are getting more expensive — and found it to be true. Another facet is the idea that everything is more competitive and harder to get into. Millennials tell stories of an awful dog-eat-dog world where you can have perfect grades and SAT scores and hundreds of hours of extracurriculars and still get rejected from everywhere you dreamed of.

At least until ten years ago, colleges were harder to get into because more people were able to or felt pressured to go to college. The past ten years are more complicated, but might be because of increased stratification by ability. Is that good or bad? Its probably easiest to do that as an addendum to your UC aside because that data is probably on hand.

Other than increased international students, if UC SAT scores havent gotten much higher for in particular the 2nd and third tier schools would likely be related to people applying to more schools. I know even in when I applied vs. See: Leics. De Montfort, Sheffield Hallam etc. In , parliament made them all Officially Universities , thus causing a huge step change in the number of people at university. Here is an interesting contemporaneous news article about this. This article feels about right. My perception is that York and Warwick are vastly more prestigious than the other institutions founded in the 60s.

Am I wrong? If you include converted ones, Surrey, Cardiff and Bath are also comparable. Wolverhampton, having a decent polytechnic well, that general area was the heartland of the industrial revolution turning into the third lowest ranking university in the UK. I am not British but I lived there and near it a while.

The Act gave a lot more money and independence to the universities, and one thing they did with this was expand their student intake. There is the Polytechnic University of Valencia teaches arts, business, science, engineering and architecture , the Polytechnic University of Catalunya architecture, sciences, design, engineering, business. None of them teach law, or medicine, or the humanities.

Syllabus: Reporting race, gender and diversity in America

And there are humanities courses in every major mostly language and ethics are requirements. There is no consistency in the systems or the terminology over time or in different places. Evidently, Spain does things differently than England, which fits the overall pattern of no consistency. Just for fun, ETH Zurich Switzerland which is one of the top 10 universities in the world source: statistics from ETH Zurich is technically a polytechnic, unlike the next-door University of Zurich which is nowhere close in the rankings.

Congressional elections can be more meritocratic than people imagine. There are a lot of people in the House of Representatives that are basically just local elites from a district. Off the top of my head, I can think of a man who wins his seat basically off of his connections to powerful garbage unions D , another who owns a chain of very successful car dealerships and is well respected in his community D , another who built a series of hotels and real estate investments in his community R , and one who entrepreneurially organized a certain ethnic and religious group to dominate his district R.

The government, when it gets to appoint people, goes in deep for credentialism. But elections are basically meritocratic. If you can get enough votes, you win. Full stop. Neither is Kentucky an electoral powerhouse. Americas elites are still heavily regional. New York society vs Boston society vs the Great Lakes industrialists are still distinct groups with distinct patterns of norms and behaviors.

Even in a city like DC, the people who run large companies are a distinct set from the governmen types. If you are elite, attending an elite college can teach you the norms of the national, governing elite and give you the social currency to be universally identified as elite. How many people know what Danaher is?

Or Andreesen Horowitz? Otherwise, probably not. Having a Harvard degree wins you acknowledgement everywhere which greatly expands your options. Vance could go from New England to California to Ohio and, in all places, be recognized as elite because of his Yale degree. I doubt the rich people his parents despised, though undoubtedly local elites, could do the same.

How important is it to be generically recognized as elite, versus having specific elite contacts? And is it possible that even the Iviese and Oxbridge, over here are too large to really dramatically increase your chances of making friends who can seriously help your elite career? Specific contacts are very powerful on both sides of the pond but in Britain you can have almost universal bonds. The population and the elite is just smaller and more homogenous.

The geography is smaller too, making it easier to cross-pollinate through social events. In the US, in conrast, you will meet wealthy, powerful, influential people who you have no links to. The US has roughly the equivalent to six Londons and five Oxbridges. The landowners of southern Indiana have had their habits scrutinized lately because of Mike Pence. But even before that, they were a local elite that had relatively little relationship to the national. How important is that?

Well, it gets your foot in the door. Maybe not with the warm recommendation of someone they know which is better. That speaks to why an American would be more likely to have fellow elites to whom they had no connection, but not to the question of whether that matters very much compared to the positive existence of elites to whom they have strong connections.

It seems to me that most of the value of elite contacts might well lie in the absolute number and strength of those contacts, far more than the proportion of the elite to which one is somewhat connected. So you need something that commonly marks you out as elite. The excellent book Pre-Industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-Modern World describes this as the entire purpose of formal education in every pre-modern society.

The point of education is that 1 it makes you recognizable as a member of the elite; and 2 elite society is geographically widespread e. Point 2 actually makes education necessary in order to realize point 1. The accessibility of Latin to peasants in Massachusetts is an aspirational effort on the part of Massachusetts, an effect of the idea that people who deserve respect know Latin, not a cause of the entrance requirement.

Also, I was surprised how lopsided the entrance requirements were between Latin and Greek. Knowing all the noun and verb paradigms is material that will fit on a few pages. Composing fluent poetry in the native style is, let us say, a higher bar than that. If your children are going to move somewhere remote, like New York, and obtain jobs unrelated to you, then they need to be accepted into that remote culture, and college is how that is done. Definitely going to read that book. And that includes marking people out as elite or non-elite. It also includes inculcating ideas of what a citizen is, what knowledge society deems socially valuable, etc.

Additionally, at its best, education inculcates real and useful skills to the population. But this is by no means necessary. One thing that has been written on is how the Chinese exam system eventually shifted from examining people on practical skills to plain knowledge of classics and other such pure humanities in our terms.

And how this left the Chinese elite increasingly unable to interpret the law, understand science, or have any practical skills beyond occupying a privileged position in government. As for McArdle, that may be true to some extent. But I think the primary motivator is a little more cultural: elites have started to jockey with each other for supremacy of late.


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My impression is it just used to be accepted that people like Lincoln who was from a frontier farming region and loved to tell stories and had a local accent could be local elites and then make it to the national stage from that platform. Trump… is not, to say the least. And this in turn leads to competition. Would a person who inherits thirty million dollars and has a giant social media following and gets handed acting roles be elite regardless of whether she went to Harvard? Yes, absolutely. Which makes lecturing him about how Hollywood values are superior awkward.

Also, one reason Harvard was so open originally: it trained clergy. Likewise, when exiting Harvard, your connections to the clergy were important for what job you got. But it was effectively declaring they wanted to be a priest rather than a generalized access to elite professions. One interesting question is why Continental European colleges have declined so much in global prestige.

In , a list of the most famous colleges in the world would include Heidelberg, Gottingen, Sorbonne, Padua, etc. My best guess is because the graduates of Oxbridge and Haryale won the Big Ones, while the graduates of the Continental schools were humiliated in by defeat.

After , Continental universities mostly switched to an anti-elitist open admissions, low tuition model with huge class sizes. Waugh was convinced in that the future was dismally proletarian due to the sacrifices made to win the war. It was also the burden of reconstruction. Non-Jewish German scientists were more productive before the Nazi era, and saw a major drop under the Nazis despite the Nazis providing considerable increases in funding in many cases and showed relatively little recovery after.

The prestige of elite colleges has a surprising amount to do with who produces the elites who win World Wars. The graduates of Oxbridge and Harvyale won the Big One, and in the world of that still matters. Hilariously, from my perspective, in The Education of Henry Adams , Adams hates his educational experience in Germany, though he faults the system :.

He [i. The experiment was hazardous. In Berlin was a poor, keen-witted, provincial town, simple, dirty, uncivilized, and in most respects disgusting. Life was primitive beyond what an American boy could have imagined. Overridden by military methods and bureaucratic pettiness, Prussia was only beginning to free her hands from internal bonds. Apart from discipline, activity scarcely existed. The future Kaiser Wilhelm I, regent for his insane brother King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, seemed to pass his time looking at the passers-by from the window of his modest palace on the Linden.

German manners, even at Court, were sometimes brutal, and German thoroughness at school was apt to be routine. Bismarck himself was then struggling to begin a career against the inertia of the German system. The condition of Germany was a scandal and nuisance to every earnest German, all whose energies were turned to reforming it from top to bottom; and Adams walked into a great public school to get educated, at precisely the time when the Germans wanted most to get rid of the education they were forced to follow. As an episode in the search for education, this adventure smacked of Heine.

The school system has doubtless changed, and at all events the schoolmasters are probably long ago dead; the story has no longer a practical value, and had very little even at the time; one could at least say in defence of the German school that it was neither very brutal nor very immoral. The head-master was excellent in his Prussian way, and the other instructors were not worse than in other schools; it was their system that struck the systemless American with horror. The arbitrary training given to the memory was stupefying; the strain that the memory endured was a form of torture; and the feats that the boys performed, without complaint, were pitiable.

No other faculty than the memory seemed to be recognized. Least of all was any use made of reason, either analytic, synthetic, or dogmatic. The German government did not encourage reasoning. The German system is designed to avoid elite schools. Students go to the local school. I think professors are discouraged from congregating, too. Were people in enthusiastic about the Sorbonne or the University of Paris?

Their status was up in the air since Napoleon. The University of Paris was modified in at the behest of protestors. CCNY was one of the few American colleges that took seriously. It switched over to open admissions, and instantly plummeted in prestige. CCNY post was pretty similar to most Continental colleges post fairly open admissions, huge class sizes, very low tuition, low prestige. Latin noun and verb paradigms will fit on a few pages. Greek noun and verb paradigms will also fit on a few pages, though more pages than Latin will take.

The appendix is inclusive, which works out to 60 pages. Nouns are 4 pages, pronouns are 5, adjectives are 5, numerals are 2, adverbs are 1. That works out to 61 pages because I counted 1 page for both pronouns and adjectives. I picked an intro Latin textbook off my shelf and it has a 15 page grammatical appendix, It covers all the same topics as I listed from the Greek appendix.

Even considering verb and noun paradigms alone, the Greek appendix has 48 pages and the Latin has only 10; since those pages are especially compact, we could say the Latin has 15 equivalent, but still. Bush discovered when he lost a bid for the House from Midland, TX. His opponent busted his chops repeatedly for having both Yale and Harvard degrees. Here in the San Fernando Valley, my congressman Brad Sherman D-CA constantly reminds voters he is a certified public accountant, but seldom mentions that he is also a Harvard law school graduate.

There are also advantages to local college connections. I met Berman in when I was 16 and he was my state legislator. I prepared a snotty question to outwit him. He instantly saw where I was going and swatted it away. But his loyalty to the local public flagship university paid off for him in politics. These do somewhat overlap: local elites tend to be more populist because they can muster more genuine support from their local bases.

But not always. But if you want to be prominent among a local elite, ties to the national elite are less valuable. They still have some value: but not infinite value. In particular, certain colleges already specialize in catering to other elites. Notre Dame and U of Chicago are both somewhat national but also have a huge impact on the Great Lakes region. And so on. I actually know of politicians in Central America who turned down Harvard and the like to go to more Latino universities in the US.

Back then Oxbridge split in England: Cambridge was Country, Oxford was Court with some individual colleges as exceptions. But the United States is instead creating colleges enmeshed with local networks instead of directly challenging national ones for national dominance. South Florida is pretty cut off from the rest of the country in terms of colleges. It makes sense for South Florida to concentrate on providing college to rich Latins. My impression is that Latin America has peculiar traditions that make it hard to compete in colleges.

Fidel Castro got his start robbing banks and then roaring back to sanctuary at the U. But you can imagine why wealthy dads in Latin America might prefer to send their daughters to the U. Two additional data points to consider for potential explanatory value in your analysis: 1.

Related changes may play into the transformation from accepting everyone who can qualify to competing for admission. Moving lesser qualified applicants to lower tier schools and no longer restricting the number of higher qualified applicants might contribute to an increase in the overall competitiveness level.

This change also increased graduation rates with better accepted applicant to school matching. The first version of the GI Bill only specified that aid would go to veterans at degree-granting institutions authorized under state law. Problem was, at the time many states would give degree-granting authority to just about anyone who asked for it, and ongoing monitoring was minimal.

Before then the accreditation boards were as I understand it mainly about cross-recognition of course credits, but with federal student aid becoming so essential to the system, now the accreditor is the primary regulator of universities, and losing accreditation is practically the death penalty. This has since been reversed by the Trump administration, but most ACICS schools have left for other accreditors in the meantime.

No endorsement was meant. In addition to your points, I think over time accreditation has turned more and more into standardization and control of how Universities operate. One very powerful contributor that Scott did not mention is that in many cases schools are directly or indically intentivized to have a low admission rate. These rankings and metrics also heavily incentivize having high yield a large fraction of students that are admitted end up attending which for a fixed size applicant pool also encourages accepting as few people as possible.

This has led to the death of safety schools, because they would rather reject a high performing student than admit them and have them not attend. These factors might also be a driving force behind the rise of common app, since schools are trying to get as many applicants as possible, even if it hurts the quality of their pool.

There were a number of data points for this on Naviance. Specifically, entrepreneurship is risky so why should Harvard bear that risk? If she was successful they would point out they rejected as a sign of how high their standards were. The fact she was able to get access to admissions officers who told her this shows something about how well connected she was too. And below some threshold, you have basically no chance. There was no safety school punishment factor.

I am curious if this table still exists. But I strongly approved of it then and now. Public schools are supposed to serve the people rather than their own power as institutions, so why not provide some transparency in service to the people? That said, I did have a sense that you wanted to communicate to your safety schools that you took them seriously and might attend. It might not hurt to visit your favorite safety school in person, have some recorded correspondence with them, and make sure your essay indicates that you see some unique charm with their school, or you want to stay close to home for college, or whatever.

Related, the key to getting into a safety school is to write a very personalized essay that stresses why that school specifically is a good fit for you. In the days of a common app, personalized essays are a good costly signal that you will attend. I spoke to an admissions official at a low rank law school, and whether you mention the name of their school was the first thing they look at in an essay.

This incentivization is quite strong. When my a. Confirmation bias? In any case, schools have worked hard to raise their rankings, including by methods that could be considered gaming the rankings. Nor are the students and parents. Trustees at colleges know that the rankings are garbage, and do what they must in order to stay high in the rankings. How can employers matter, when the arrow of time denies them any useful input? The opinions of students, parents, and guidance counselors matter, because those drive decisions about what schools students will apply to and attend.

Which would be depressing if true. Many of the parents looking to get their kids into the prestigious schools are going to be working at the employers that hire undergraduates based on school prestige. Human memory in general is unreliable when looking so far a distance back, and anyone talking about events several decades ago had best show some real humility. I handed in precisely four pieces of written work in my entire upper sixth senior-equivalent year. I got into Merton, which at the time was the most academically competitive college in Oxford.

This was possible because no ongoing measure of my performance mattered: I just had to perform well in exams and interviews. Has there been any procedural change in admissions which might favour conscientiousness over raw ability? To clarify, I do believe that things have gotten more competitive.

I graduated from an East Bay Catholic school in A GPA a little above 3. Yes, to be clear I imagine the college regrets not having a better way to detect the slacking. I did well in my first year exams, but then spent four and a half years doing essentially no work at all before finally dropping out. Selecting for conscientiousness or general functionality is not necessarily a bad thing…. I mean, this would still show up as some amount of increased selectivity in the overall admissions numbers, right? We are in the home of Gordon Caplan and his wife, Amy.

Amy is the heiress daughter of the late telecommunications magnate Richard Treibick. They can get an excellent education at a good Midwestern flagship state school— I certainly did—and when they get out they will have an eight-figure trust fund carefully set up to yield them a six-figure-a-year income from the interest from the rest of their lives. But in reality it is precisely the rentier class, who are not anywhere near having to worry about putting food on the table or even having to work, who are most paranoid about getting their kids into Harvard at all costs.

Anecdotally, I can bring two stories of my own to reinforce this. I went to a very good prep school in the Lexus-infested suburbs of a middlingly large American city that usually sent a couple of kids to Harvard or Yale every year. I ended up at a large Midwestern state school and received an excellent education with nearly no debt. My college counselor stood by me through all of this, and was a consistently great guy to work with. A couple years after I graduated, however, the graduating class sent nobody to Harvard or Yale. So he was kicked downstairs back to the English department. My mother did her MBA at Northeastern, and recently had lunch with an old classmate who ended up at a top consulting firm.

The end product will still be the tiny number who made it all the way to graduation, which will be the normal size graduating class they had all along. Then the employers will want the honours degrees versus the bare pass, or higher levels. It seems to me the top schools like Harvard turn down hefty numbers of students who would do just fine academically if admitted and who would do good work after college too. With ever larger classes, at some point the character of the students would change.

The question is how much they could scale out before it would become evident. I have a lot of experience with MIT admission. Harvard could pitch their classes at a level that would be fine for many more students than they admit. They could pitch them at a level that was suited for fewer applicants than they admit. The more academically selective they are, the higher the level at which they can pitch them. When I was there, and I think still, there were two math sequences. Math 11 followed by Math 55 was for students particularly good at math. A different sequence, I think three years starting with math 1, was for most students.

I believe a similar pattern existed in physics and chemistry. They could have admitted more students at the low end of the range and fewer at the high end, and the additional students would probably not have flunked out, but the average quality of the education would have been lower. I think that the networking effects of elite schools are overrated. I went to one, but my important networking comes from my career connections, not my school connections the degree helps in other, equally important ways.

I went to Harvard, a very long time ago. On the issue of multiple applications …. I applied to five schools—two top universities, two top liberal arts colleges, and one somewhat lower liberal arts college as a safety school. That was in Those schools get way more applicants who could graduate than they can admit. Getting in is much harder than getting out. That effect weakens as you admit more people.

I mean, UCSD? I believe UCs are more competitive because of cost. Personally, I got into a number of strong private schools, and chose a UC because it is significantly cheaper. In the past, this would not have been as much of a factor, because college was affordable. The UCs are the best public schools in the country and are able to compete with high level private schools. This is a really good idea for an explanation, that I had not thought of. Are there any comparably low-cost colleges besides the UCs that can compete with at least tier-2 private schools that we could use to test the hypothesis?

Michigan and Georgia Tech are two perennially top-ten public universities comparable in price and prestige to the best UCs, and both are on that list of top 20 biggest decrease in admission rate. Rice U. Note: my parents took care of the money for me, so these numbers are very hazy in my memory. In contrast, George Washington U. There are a fair number of low-cost colleges which have programs which can compete with tier-2 private schools, even if the school as a whole emphatically cannot.

The particular program rankings are for the graduate school but they seem to be used as proxies for undergraduate as well. Some are pretty expensive for out-of-state students. I think the scramble for competitive college spots is more intense partly because of the growing recognition that college admissions sorting may be the only truly objective overall assessment of your potential as a human being that Americans will undergo. For now there is no sign that a one-rung promotion actually helps you later in life, but that might be misleading.

College prestige may not make a difference now, but if we think it does, it soon will. If they judge their self-worth by their admissions letters, how could they not judge others by the same? A second reason why the outcome studies might mislead is because the only methodologically sound ones study differences between the narrowly accepted and the narrowly rejected. But if sorting is as efficient as the article suggests, maybe the narrowly rejected land only one rung lower, and the prestige difference between adjacent rungs is small enough to be statistically negligible without huge sample sizes.

It might cost you enough rungs to make a real difference to your life. So these are two arguments for why you actually might want to freak out about landing in a good college spot, despite the research. Has the Asian system of entrance examming even earlier in life been provably better, though? Theoretically, it allows people to not spend so much of their life in education, because the sorting occurs sooner, but practically, it means that people lose their childhoods to test prep. We live in a country with kindergartens that reject children based on an admissions test.

Then there are three different levels of the SSAT, the last of which is given to 8th graders applying to competitive high schools. These applications are basically age-adjusted versions of college apps. At a slightly less rigorous level of analysis, though, those who are accepted and choose not to attend do not tend to matriculate to schools only slightly lower in the prestige hierarchy.

Why would they? They tend to matriculate to schools that are cheap or close to family. The director specifically ordered that my position goes to the person with the best college degree. My hypothesis is that baby boomers and gen Xers were the driving force to telling millennials that if they went to the best college possible their life would be set, and still believe it.

I echo a lot of this. If your attitude is typical of millennials, then all the freaking out is really serving no point. I get that vibe from a lot of famous scientists talking about their career. My anecdata suggest that exceptions often get made for sufficiently brilliant people. Let that be a lesson for you kids.

Special relativity and quantum mechanics were successfully unified in the s ad 30s. Quantum Field Theory is the result. It could be the case that college admissions became more random as kids apply more often and the metrics become more vague. Of course individually the remedy is applying to even more colleges. Also those metrics are pretty useless these days. Such a story is entirely compatible with the idea of there being little increase in the objective increase in difficulty for people to be admitted, just a shift in the number of applications per student, and perhaps a slight shift in who applies.

Neither is all that high. Apparently they now think a kid in the 80th percentile is special and note that is the average at those schools, not the score to be in the bottom quintile. Lets say you got a on your SAT. You probably can go to school, but you are not really a gem to be coveted by the universities, so your application pool should be strongly favoring the cal state system over the UC system.

I agree with this. I studied for 8 hours! What does taking an AP Class even mean as a credential? AP classes are typically more rigorous than the non-AP equivalent class, covering more material, assigning more work, and grading to a higher standard. So a B in an AP History class might indicate at least as much diligence and mastery of the material as an A in a regular History class.

This may have changed over the past twenty years or so, though. A common implementations is to add 0. So if the 3. My weighted GPA was over 5. Class rank is a little better, but favors kids at schools with disadvantaged schools. I know plenty of students that took 5 AP classes and failed all of the tests. My school just let you take whatever classes your parents asked, and she ended up in the top ten students GPA. Anecdotes are also just unreliable.

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Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions
Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions
Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions
Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions
Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions
Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions
Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions Beating the Bias: Overcoming the Asian Stereotype in College Admissions

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