How relevant is ethnicity and country of citizenship for admissions?

I’ve heard of all these biases such as affirmative action etc which favour certain students due to their ethnicity than actual merit. Also I’ve heard citizenship plays a big part in admissions especially in MIT where the very top NZ citizenship students have been rejected and quite average American citizens studying in NZ schools are accepted.

Could you shed some light on this?

Universities tend to look at your situation, school etc. during admission. They want to see that you’ve excelled to the maximum given the situation that you’re in. For different ethnicities, this sometimes comes with different socioeconomic and educational opportunities generally speaking.

In theory, it should be just as ‘hard’ for any applicant to be accepted. The theory is that privileged applicants have more support (and research generally proves this to be true) so the statistics could be interpreted to mean that it is easy for minorities (with the exception of Asian/Indian) to be accepted. Universities clearly believe that it is equally difficult for a minority student to achieve to perhaps a slightly lower level than a European/Asian applicant, and hence as an Asian/European applicant, the statistical bar required is slightly higher.

I don’t think it’s fair to say that ethnicity is valued over ‘actual merit’. Actual merit, to me anyway, implies how the student has been able to take advantage of their situation. A student who’s had no academic support and scores 1480 on the SAT, may thrive more than a student who has always had support and scored 1550 for example - especially when opportunities are evened out at University.

Affirmative action isn’t perfect, but it does a good job of:

a) ensuring diversity at University
b) helping & rewarding those who have made the most of their sub-optimal situations

In regards to the MIT part of your question, I’m not an expert however my take on it is that MIT is first and foremost a US University. The purpose of having foreign students is money related, reputation related, but also to help their domestic students be in a more stimulating environment. For a domestic student, there may also be some degree of duty to educate the brightest Americans.

Hope this helps a bit.

Yes citizenship is very important because universities want diversity in their student bodies.

MIT has a strict international students quota and so usually only 1 or 2 Australasians are accepted every year. If a student has dual citizenship with US and NZ, then he or she has a much easier chance of getting in as he or she will not be in the Australasian quota, but after accepting them, MIT would be able to say they have a student coming from Australasia.

NZ citizenship tends to be a useful citizenship to have compared with those of China or South Korea when it comes to admissions. Citizenships such as Kuwait or Sudan or Samoa would of course be much better.

Good answer! How do you show that you’ve have no academic support, with doing SATs, doing everything on your own etc. I do agree with your idea behind this, and it’s important to stand out within your demographic too.

For any kind of qualitative stuff, the answer usually rests in your essays and supplements. Feel free to private message one of us for personalised advice on how you could best look to optimise this :slight_smile: