College consultant advises students to downplay their 'Asianness' on applications

CAMBRIDGE, MA - JUNE 5: A Harvard University graduate takes a picture at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. J.K. Rowling, who wrote the popular Harry Potter books, was the commencement speaker. (Photo by Robert Spencer/Getty Images)Robert Spencer/Getty ImagesSome college consulting companies have unique methods for helping Asian-American students apply to college.

These days, college consulting companies have no qualms about using controversial strategies for helping their Asian-American clients avoid the so called “bamboo ceiling” and land a spot at a top college, the Boston Globe reported on Monday.

James Chen founded Asian Advantage College Consulting, a California-based college consulting company, to help families navigate what he calls “the Asian penalty.”

Chen doesn’t find his advice to be controversial, but it still seems shocking by the standards of political-correctness. His advice includes de-emphasising the “Asianness” in a student’s resume to give them an advantage compared to other applicants.

To this end, Chen will instruct students to take up a more physical — meaning less Asian — sport, and will advise on the type of musical instrument to play. And as for college admission essays, “Don’t talk about your family coming from Vietnam with $US2 in a rickety boat and swimming away from sharks,” Chen told the Globe.

If his advice sounds ludicrous, it may not to the Asian-Americans who are loudly calling for less discriminatory admission practices and racial quotas.

One such student is Michael Wang. Wang was rejected from almost all of the Ivy League schools even though he had an excellent academic record that included a perfect ACT score, 13 Advanced Placement courses, and over a 4.0 weighted GPA. He filed a complaint with the US Department of Education alleging that Yale, Stanford, and Princeton discriminated against him because he was Asian-American.

A coalition of Asian-American groups filed a lawsuit against Harvard in May that echoes some of his complaints. The suit alleged Harvard and other Ivy League institutions use racial quotas to admit students to the detriment of more qualified Asian-American applicants.

In addition to last month’s complaint filed against Harvard, a nonprofit group called Students for Fair Admissions filed lawsuits in November accusing Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill of discriminating against Asian-American students in their undergraduate admissions policies.

A recent opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal called Asian-Americans “The New Jews of Harvard Admissions,” referring to the university’s well-documented policies to keep out Jewish students during the early 20th century.

But Harvard and other Ivy League schools refute these claims. And a public statement issued by Harvard says “the percentage of admitted Asian American students admitted to Harvard College has increased from 17.6 per cent to 21 per cent over the past decade.”

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