Is Harvard Fair in their admissions?

Harvard has been a prestigious university for many highly talented students for centuries. With a 5.6% admission rate, Harvard is among the most selective universities in the world. Few people know what criteria Harvard looks for in its students, but each year’s admitted student body raises the attention of critics. What kind of students does Harvard prefer? The question has not only troubled the applicants but the general public as well.

Graphic by Dana Dauletgalikyzy

According to CNN, about 95% of prospective applicants get rejected every year due to limited space. Many believe that Harvard applicants are rated in four categories: academics, athletics, extracurricular activities and personal factors. Students must have an outstanding SAT, ACT and GPA, outrageous list of extracurriculars and personal achievements, sports, and letters of recommendation.

Despite the fact that the standards are high, there are still more academically qualified applicants than needed. An issue was raised about Harvard’s admissions: whether the admission officers are required to take into account the race of applicants. Harvard is known for trying to make their student body as diverse as possible, so balancing the number of students of a specific race with the others has been a common thing for years. Below is a chart from WBUR, Boston’s National Public Radio Station, an article written by Carrie Jung, showing Harvard’s freshman class analysis, based on the race and the percentage admitted. The little to no change is shown in the admission trend from a year to year, which is the evidence to widely known “racial balancing”.

A group called Students for Fair admissions filed a lawsuit against Harvard dean, William R. Fitzsimmons, claiming that Asian-Americans are the victims of illegal discrimination based on race. They claim to always fall behind other races in what is known as a “personal score” from the personality test. Harvard created a “personality test” as a part of their holistic review. It helps to judge students not solely based on merit, but what kind of person you are, including race.

At the end, Harvard University’s dean of admissions testified for more than two hours about how Harvard considers race when evaluating applicants for undergraduate admission. The final decision will be made by U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs after the investigation is over.

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