Excellent, albeit naive, Record article by Arrington Luck ’22 about Michael Wang‘s ’17 role in the debate over discrimination against Asian-Americans in elite college admissions. Day 2 of 3.

Luck described Wang’s high school record as “stellar, boasting a perfect ACT score, a 4.67 GPA . . . ” Business Insider went with:

Wang’s credentials are impressive. Academically, he was ranked second overall in his class and graduated with a 4.67 weighted grade point average. He scored a 2230 on his SAT, placing him in the 99th percentile of students who took the exam. . . . Wang still feels as if he was unfairly rejected from the Ivies.

“I think I deserve better than what I got,” he said.

No, you didn’t.

1) Perfect (i.e., 36) scores on the ACT are common. One of the big problems with the ACT is how “coarse” the grading system is. A 36 corresponds to anywhere from 1520 to 1600 on the SAT (math + verbal).

2) We do not know what the breakdown is on Wang’s SAT. The Writing score was, by far, the least important, which is why it has been discontinued. If we just divided the 2230 total by 3, we get an average score of 743, which equated to 1480 or 1490 on the math+ verbal. Although those scores are above average for Williams, they are nothing more than average at Harvard.

3) Wang went to James Logan, a not very good California school. He may have graduated as the #2 student in his class, but what matters is your ranking at the time of college applications. I believe he was ranked 4th or 5th then. Either way, this case highlights that resume items like GPA and class rank are meaningless without the context of school quality. Being the #4 student at Stuyvesant or Boston Latin or Andover is deeply impressive. Such a ranking, plus good test scores, gets you into Harvard. But being #4 at an average (below average?) high school is little to brag about. Places like Harvard (and Williams) regularly turn down the valedictorians from such schools.

Summary: I waited till after Wang graduated to write about him even though he has been in the news for years because I was embarrassed for him. His high school record would probably result in rejection from Harvard even if he were white.

There are rejected-from-Harvard Asian-Americans, many of them at Williams (several of them Michael’s friends and roommates!), who have a legitimate beef with the current system. They probably would have been accepted at Harvard were they white, and definitely if there were African-American or Hispanic. But Michael Wang ’17 is not one of them, which may help to explain why he is only an “informal” spokesperson for SFFA.

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