College admissions counsellors are coaching prospective students to appear "less Asian" to trick what they regard as secret quotas set by American universities. The so-called "bamboo ceiling" at many universities limit their number of Asian students who would otherwise be accepted based on grades and test scores.
In response, groups of Asians have filed lawsuits against top schools, including one last month by a coalition accusing Harvard and other Ivy League institutions of using racial quotas to admit less qualified candidates over Asians, reports the Boston Globe.
At Princeton, 21% of the Class of 2018 is Asian American; Harvard's is 20%. But the lawsuits argue that even more qualified Asian students should be accepted based on their qualifications. Asians make up about 5% of the US population.
Many counsellors teach their Asian clients to dodge the quotas by not tipping off universities that they're Asian.
Don't mention your family
For the college essay, for example, don't write about your immigrant family, James Chen, owner of Asian Advantage College Consulting in California, tells his clients. "Don't talk about your family coming from Vietnam in a rickety boat and swimming away from sharks," he adds.
Many seeking Asian applications for admission to schools, he notes, "look alike: high test scores, high grades, many play musical instruments and tend not to engage in more physical sports like football." He often suggests early in high school that clients pick up a sport or switch to an more unusual instrument. Chen generally suggests playing down the "Asianess in a student resume." That means things like fewer racquet sports, less science focus and no Asian Club.
The advice can be pricey, though. The company Ivy Coach offers an "unlimited package" for students for $100,000 (£65,000), which includes helping them throughout high school with advice, testing, essays and letters of recommendation to get them into their dream school.