Have you heard of “dockets,” “the lop list,” “tips,” “DE,” the “Z-list” and the “dean’s interest list”? The last term probably gave you a hint. It is about college. What does these mean and which college?
We are talking about Harvard, arguably the most elite and prestigious college in the world.
These terms are part of the secret language of the Harvard admissions team. Students who apply to Harvard work very hard and believe that if they have checked all the right boxes, they would be admitted. Nothing could be further from the truth.
A recent lawsuit has revealed the real deal of the Harvard's admissions committee. It is a Wizard of Oz experience! The lawsuit reveals that Harvard uses racial balancing to shape its admissions in a way that discriminates against Asian-Americans. According to the New York Times, the plaintiffs accuse Harvard of jiggering its selection process to create a stable racial profile from year to year: this year is was about 23 percent Asian-American, 16 percent African-American, and 12 percent Latino.
But if Harvard were race-blind, the plaintiffs say, its freshman class would be about 40 percent Asian-American, like the University of California, Berkeley, a public institution that has to abide by a state ban on racial preferences.
More than a dozen elite US institutions say it is essential to consider race and ethnicity as part of the admissions process – but supporters of the lawsuit say the treatment of Asians parallels the exclusion of Jews in the 1920s
The Trump administration has taken an interest in the issue, opening a parallel investigation based on a separate 2015 complaint to the Justice Department by a coalition of Asian-American organizations.
The stakes in the admissions have never been higher. About 40,000 students apply each year, and about 2,000 are admitted for some 1,600 seats in the freshman class. The chances of admission in 2018 were under 5 percent. Of the 26,000 domestic applicants for the Class of 2019 (the lawsuit is not concerned with international students), about 3,500 had perfect SAT math scores, 2,700 had perfect SAT verbal scores, and more than 8,000 had straight A’s.
Harvard divides the country into 20 geographic “dockets,” each of which is assigned to a subcommittee of admissions officers with intimate knowledge of that region and its high schools.
Generally two or three admissions officers, or readers, rate applications in five categories: academic, extracurricular, athletic, personal and “overall.” They also rate teachers’ and guidance counselors’ recommendations. And an alumni interviewer also rates the candidates.
The proverbial Picket Fence:
The plaintiffs say that the private score — which considers an applicant’s character and character — is essentially the most insidious of Harvard’s admissions metrics. They are saying that Asian-People are routinely described as industrious and clever, however unexceptional and indistinguishable — characterizations that recall painful stereotypes for many individuals of Asian descent. (The applicant who was the “proverbial picket fence” was Asian-American.)
DE stands for “distinguishing excellence.”
“Tips” are admissions advantages. The college gives tips to five groups: racial and ethnic minorities; legacies, or the children of Harvard or Radcliffe alumni; relatives of a Harvard donor; the children of staff or faculty members; and recruited athletes.
The 'Dean's Interest' List:
These lists are named for the dean and director of admissions, and include the names of candidates who are of interest to donors or have connections to Harvard, according to the court papers.
The final decisions are made by a committee of about 40 admissions officers over two or three weeks in March. Meeting in a conference room, they argue over candidates who are “on the bubble” between admission and rejection.
This is a sort of back door to admissions. The list consists of applicants who are borderline academically, the plaintiffs say, but whom Harvard wants to admit. They often have connections. They may be “Z-ed” (yes, a verb) off the wait-list, and are guaranteed admission on the condition that they defer for a year.
About 50 to 60 students a year were admitted through the Z-list for the Classes of 2014 to 2019.
You have to ask the question if merit is really important to Harvard and other schools? It does not seems to be. Well, in one way, you should not be surprised. You assume people and institutions are rational and make rational decisions, but even Harvard does not.
So, if you didn't get into Harvard, despite having perfect test scores, GPA and other requirements, don't blame yourself. Find another route towards your dream.