California College Counselor Advises Students to Be ‘Less Asian’

Asian schoolgirl (pain_amp1013 / Flickr / CC)
pain_amp1013 / Flickr / CC

In the midst of a heated lawsuit alleging Harvard holds Asian students to a much higher standard during its admissions process, some college admissions counselors in California and elsewhere are coaching Asian American students to appear “less Asian” in an attempt to help them be accepted into the nation’s most elite schools.

The Wall Street Journal recently dubbed Asians “The New Jews of Harvard Admissions,” referring to the antisemitism the school practiced in order to keep Jews out of the school during the early 2oth century.

“I try to do things [to] steer away from the stereotype of the piano-playing, tennis-playing Asian applicant,” James Chen, the founder of Alameda-based Asian Advantage College Consulting, said in an interview with Sacramento-area ABC News affiliate News10. His services cost parents of college-bound students close to $15,000 if they start during the child’s sophomore year of high school.

The story first surfaced in the Boston Globe when Chen said he offers his services to help Asian students stand out from the competition and avoid what he refers to as “the Asian penalty,” where Ivy League institutions use implicit racial quotas to admit lesser qualified candidates over Asians. Among the things Chen recommends to his Asian clients is that they take up musical instruments other than the violin or piano, and sports outside of tennis and other racquet sports.

Chen suggests that, in reality, these Asian students are competing against themselves because the vast majority of top score earners in high school are fellow Asians.

Last year, Asian-Americans in California rallied against legislative efforts to restore racial criteria to admissions at California universities.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz and on Facebook.


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