The race for admission: Lying about racial identity just isn’t worth it


Elizabeth Han

Story by Amita Mahajan and Elizabeth Han

We’ve grown up in a world where we’re taught that “lying is bad.” But when the exact consequences are minimal and the benefits add on, the urge to lie heightens and ultimately, we go against what we’ve been taught our entire lives. And for students at MVHS, the line between morality and achievement is especially blurred in the case of college applications — after all, it often only takes a checkmark next to your race to influence admission decisions.

Illustration by Elizabeth Han

Why? Affirmative Action. The long-debated policy, put into place in 1961 by President Kennedy, aims to equalize the playing field for underrepresented races in colleges, including African Americans, Native Americans and Latinos. And it does its job pretty well — in 2013, the average ACT score for African Americans was 16.9 while the average score for Asian students was 23.5. This means that if a college uses Affirmative Action, an Asian student would have to perform an average of 6.6 points better than an African American one to get to the same place. Clearly, the standards for admission for Asians are considerably higher than those of other minorities.

With these statistics before us, we as predominantly Asian American MVHS students sometimes feel cheated out of opportunities to attend top-tier universities. Yet when we change our race for better chances at college admissions, we steal the seats from those who need Affirmative Action: the victims of the unrelenting institutionalized racism in America.

In fact, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union, of 46,000 New Yorkers stopped by the police in 2014, 55 percent were African Americans, 12 percent white and a combined total of 82 percent were innocent. As minorities like African Americans and Latinos face racism in nearly every aspect of their daily lives, it begins to impact their ability to focus on learning.

A study by the University of Pennsylvania Law School reports that when academically-matched pairs of young black and white men apply for entry-level job openings in Milwaukee, white applicants with criminal record were more likely to receive callbacksfrom employers than blacks with no criminal history. This is yet another form of the institutionalized racism that minorities face nearly every day.

According to the American Bar Association, the point of Affirmative Action is typically to increase diversity on college campuses. Although this is usually interpreted as racial diversity, socioeconomic diversity is another important aspect of varying demographics, especially since more diversity results in more backgrounds and experiences. For instance, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor was aided in acceptance to Princeton University by Affirmative Action and now brings a unique perspective to court as she grew up in the Bronx — one that most who grew up in well-off areas fail to understand.

Sure, we live in a capitalist society where greater accolades mean further advancement in said society. Yet as several studies conducted by the Huffington Post and Global Citizen report, low-income students do not have as many opportunities for academic excellence as well-off students from schools in the Silicon Valley do.
So what does Affirmative Action have to do with lying about your identity — specifically your race — on college apps?

MVHS students often forget that they will get into a college, regardless of whether it’s Harvard or UCLA or De Anza. Those who need Affirmative Action to equalize the playing field may not have the opportunity to go to college at all.

You’re also putting your own neck on the line by lying. Most seniors probably remember signing a contract on their college applications stating that their admission to a college will be revoked in case of dishonesty on their apps. So if a college does indeed manage to catch a lie on your app, chances are that they’ll revoke your acceptance immediately. Besides, what if you could have gotten in without lying in the first place?

Here at MVHS, some of us feel that college is the ultimate destination — as if our whole existence seems to lead up to this pivotal moment, utilizing every second of our lives to fill just one more line on our college applications. But once you take a step back, college is just another opportunity. As difficult as it may be to grasp at times, college is not the final hurdle in life — it’s simply a step in the right direction.

Ultimately, Affirmative Action won’t benefit Asian Americans. But it’s not just that – you’re stealing a person’s future. To them, you are the glass ceiling and the bamboo ceiling in one. You are the only one holding them back.