College Access Counseling

My firm, College Access Counseling, Ltd., works with adults and organizations who counsel and support first-generation and minority students on the way to college. I teach the ins and outs of the college process, helping them build social and cultural capital for their students. Click here for more information. I also write for NACAC's blog, Admitted. You can read my entries as well as some of my colleagues', here. Click here to read one of my entries in the New York Times's blog, The Choice.

June 16, 2008

Successful Victimology

Two years ago, a student named Jian Li was rejected at Princeton, Harvard, and MIT despite stellar grades, scores, and so on. He was accepted at Yale and Cal Tech, and matriculated at Yale. But for what he says were "kind of arbitrary" reasons, he decided to sue Princeton for racial discrimination, claiming that it rejected him because he's Asian American.

Well, boo-hoo, Mr. Li. First of all, what harm have you suffered? In your own mind, perhaps you saw yourself as a Tiger and not an Eli, but that's not relevant. You claim to want to make the case for Asian Americans, but if you look at the Ivies' acceptance rates (7.2% this past year) you'll realize that everyone is "discriminated against" no matter what their makeup or grades and scores.

This is old news now, I guess, but it reminds me of the U of Michigan cases and others where students sue because they aren't accepted, basing their cases on anti-discrimination principles. But that's what college and graduate school admission is, isn't it? It's all about discrimination, if you remember to think of its basic meaning of making distinctions among many choices. And it's not the same thing as the nasty discrimination that has surrounded county clubs, board rooms and so on in ways that prevent certain groups, despite their demonstrated talents, from participating fully in society. If you don't get into Princeton and "have to" go to Yale, is that harmful?

Having been on the admission side of things at a highly competitive college, I know that admission committees bend over backwards to consider every aspect of students' lives when they apply. Unlike the bad old days of Ivy admission that Jerome Karabel describes in "The Chosen," no one sits around and worries that Jews, or balcks, or Asians are "taking over" from "decent" white kids. Just the opposite.

So Mr. Li, it seems to me, conducted a high-profile, high-gloss form of pouting, clothing it in the mantle of fighting against discrimination. By his own admission what he did was arbitrary, so what's the point? And since he wasn't really harmed in any way, he doesn't have a case. I hope by now he's accepted his fate at Yale and will be a faithful Eli in the coming years. Or will he visit Princeton occasionally to moon over the ivied walls of Nassau Hall and, Dickens-like, sit just outside the gates of the University wanting more?


Shelley said...

I believe that Mr. Li has transferred to Harvard. You can't make this stuff up.

Will said...

I knew I'd missed a step there.

Blog Archive

Books About College, Teens, and American Culture

  • A History of American Higher Education
  • A Hope in the Unseen
  • Admission
  • Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
  • African Americans and College Choice
  • Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture
  • Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men
  • Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers
  • Campus Life
  • Class
  • College Access & Opportunity Guide
  • College Admissions and the Public Interest
  • College Admissions Together: It Takes a Family
  • College Gold: The Step by Step Guide for Paying for College
  • College Knowledge: What It Really Takes for Students to Succeed and What We Can Do to Get Them Ready
  • College Unranked: Ending the College Admissions Frenzy
  • Colleges that Change Lives
  • Consumed
  • Contradictions of School Reform: Educational Costs of Standardized Testing
  • Doing School: How We are Creating a Generation of Stressed-out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students
  • First in the Family
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges
  • Going to College: How Social, Economic, and Educational Factors Influence the Decisions Students Make
  • Harvard, Schmarvard
  • Higher Learning, Greater Good: The Private & Social Benefits of Higher Education
  • Huck's Raft: A History of American Childhood
  • I Am Charlotte Simmons
  • Increasing Access to College:
  • Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admission and Beyond
  • Leveling the Playing Field: Justice, Politics, and College Admissions
  • Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered America
  • Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams
  • Looking Beyond the Ivy League
  • Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions
  • Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class
  • Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes
  • Race and Class Matters at an Elite College
  • Rescuing Your Teenager From Depression
  • Shakespeare, Einstein, and the Bottom Line: The Marketing of Higher Education
  • Sophomore Guide to College & Career: Preparing for life After High School
  • Standardized Minds: The High Price of America's Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It
  • Status Anxiety
  • Taking Time Off
  • Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education
  • The Big Test: The Secret History of the American Meritocracy
  • The Bond: Three Young Men Learn to Forgive & Reconnect with Their Fathers
  • The Case Against Standardized Testing: Raising the Scores, Ruining the Schools
  • The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton
  • The Culture of Narcissism
  • The Gatekeepers: Inside the Admissions Process of a Premier College
  • The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in American Life
  • The Little College Handbook: A First Generation's Guide to Getting in and Staying In
  • The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College
  • The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfull a Dream
  • The Pressured Child: Helping Your Child Find Success in School and Life
  • The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges--and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates
  • The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids
  • The Rise and Fall of the American Teenager
  • The Secret Lives of Overachievers
  • The Unintended Consequences of High Stakes Testing
  • Universities in the Marketplace: The Commercialization of Higher Education
  • What Color Is Your Parachute? for Teens