Liming Luo is a high school senior who is both a math prodigy and received a perfect 2,400 score on her SATs. New York Magazine asked Katherine Cohen, CEO and founder of IvyWise, a school-admissions consulting company, about her [and other students'] prospects for admission to MIT, the college of her choice. The answer:
Her perfect SAT score is truly outstanding but not a free ticket. She is applying to many technical colleges, so she will be competing against a lot of other high-achieving math/science kids (and a lot of other Asian students in particular). While she may be admitted to MIT early, I am not convinced she's a shoo-in—I'd want to see more evidence that she's giving back to the community.
Why should Ms. Luo be competing with "other Asian students in particular" as opposed to just "other students?" What does the fact that she's "Asian" have to do with anything? [I understand that this is just Ms. Cohen's opinion, but given that she's paid to read the minds of admissions officers, I think it's same to assume her view reflects their views.] Is there any other industry in the United States, other than higher education, where it would not be scandalous to suggest that one's opportunities will be limited because of one's "Asian" background?
Even for "diversity" fans, why is the category "Asian" relevant? What do Fillipinos, Hmong, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Pakistanis [note: coincidentally, I recently picked up a magazine for Indian-Americans, which had an article expressing concern that Indians and other South Asians were being denied admission to prestigious universities for fear the universities would be "too Asian"] and so on have in common? Not religion, not culture, not even "race." There is incredible diversity within the "Asian" population, and the idea that the various subgroups are fungible would be considered the height of Eurocentric arrogance, but for the fact that it's the folks who are most likely to accuse others of Eurocentric arrogance who are behind such ideas.
Beyond the Asian issues, what sense does it make to require Ms. Luo to show that she's "giving back to the community?" She's a math genius, and has a perfect score on her SATs. Her name suggests that she is likely the child of immigrants, maybe an immigrant herself. She has a fair number of extracurriculars, but likely is focusing on developing her academic skills. She'll be giving back by creating wealth and knowledge when she invents the next Google, works on a cure for cancer, wins the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, or becomes a prominent investment banker. And some of those careers will allow her, if she chooses, to donate substantial sums to charity. But what's she supposed to be doing now, neglecting her intellectual pursuits and instead volunteering at a soup kitchen every Sunday? That's a very nice and praiseworthy thing to do, of course, but it would hardly be the most efficient use of her time and talents, and should have nothing to do with whether she's admitted to the school of her choice. The idea that Ms. Luo may not be worthy of admission because she hasn't proven herself sufficiently altruistic is the kind of thing that makes Objectivism look almost reasonable.
UPDATE: Some commenters seem to think that this post suggests that Ms. Luo is "entitled" to admission at MIT because of her test scores. I said no such things. I rather suggested that she should be judged based on her achievements and potential and not (a) whether there are "too many" other "Asians" with a similar admissions profile in the pool; and (b) whether she "has given back to to the community"--the relevance of her test scores is that clearly someone with her abilities is likely to benefit the community more in the long-run by honing her academic and other abilities than by spending time on "community service" for which she has no particular aptitude or interest. Ms. Cohen is looking for evidence that Ms. Luo is demonstratively altruistic, which I don't think should be an admissions criterion (and even if it was a good criterion for admission, it's much too easy to fake, with the advice and aid of consultants such as Ms. Cohen, and for that matter gives an unfair advantage to rich kids, who could afford to be demonstratively altruistic because they don't need part-time jobs, to babysit their siblings, etc.).
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- California Universities "Fill[ing] Their Entire Freshman Classes With Nothing But Asian Americans":