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The Ivy Ceiling

Apr/05/2024 / by Team Seema

Recent research reveals alarming admission disparities for South Asian American students

While it’s never been easy to gain admission to the highly competitive Ivy League colleges—where acceptance rates range from just  3.9% to 5.1%—new research suggests South Asian students in particular may face additional barriers and structural hurdles. 

A recent study published in the science journal Nature found that South Asian applicants had a staggering 49% lower odds of attending compared to their white counterparts with similar academic and extracurricular merits. Conducted by researchers at Stanford University, the study compared the admissions odds of Asian American and white applicants with comparable grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities. While East and Southeast Asian applicants had a 17% lower chance of attending these elite schools than white applicants, the disparity was most pronounced for South Asian students.

One significant factor contributing to this gap could be legacy admissions, according to Josh Grossman, a Ph.D. candidate in computational science and co-author of the report. White students are six times more likely than South Asian students to have legacy status, giving them a considerable advantage in the admissions process. “We see these really absurd gaps between legacy students and non-legacy,” he said in an interview with NBC. “South Asian students, of the four groups we consider in the paper, are the least likely to have a parent who attended an Ivy-11 school.”

Additionally, geographic distribution may play a role, with applications from South Asian population centers like California potentially facing earlier caps due to how colleges aim for diverse geographic representation.

Research like this strongly suggests colleges and universities should reconsider the weight given to legacy status in their admissions processes to create a more even playing field. Parents and students can also play a role and apply to a wide range of colleges, especially those that place less emphasis on legacy admissions and have a history of  valuing diversity and have a track record of supporting underrepresented minorities.

South Asian Studies degree on the rise

Though long overdue, more colleges and universities are starting to offer minors and majors in the field of South Asian Studies. The following schools currently have the most graduates in the field:

  1. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  2. Harvard University
  3. Columbia University in the City of New York

Source: Data USA

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