Asian Americans Advancing Justice - LA

Building upon the legacy of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center

Race-Conscious Admissions

There are far more qualified students than spots at selective universities, so factors other than academic aptitude must be used to make selection decisions. These factors are known as “merit.”

Merit depends on the institution.

Merit depends on what each school is looking for. Each university or college defines “merit” differently according to its mission and current campus needs. After applicants meet a threshold of academic qualifications (i.e. grades and SAT scores), each institution considers how well the applicant matches their institutional values and interests, how the applicant will contribute to campus diversity (geographic, socioeconomic, racial, academic interests, etc.), and how the applicant can meet current campus needs, such as the needs of athletic teams and space in each major.  Financial factors may also come into play, such as the number of legacy and faculty children applicants and the mix of full-pay versus financial aid-dependent students.  

Merit also depends on the context in which it was achieved.

Admissions officers also consider the context of achievement. The same outcome could mean different things depending on the resources available to the applicant, the other responsibilities they had to juggle, and other obstacles that they had to overcome to fall into the competitive category. For example, an applicant who has the same class rank and SAT score as another applicant but who had to work a part-time job to help support his or her family is arguably more meritorious than another applicant who did not have to work and received lots of private tutoring. This conclusion is uncontroversial because we accept that class is a meaningful contextual factor. Race is also a meaningful contextual factor because race impacts educational opportunity independent of class.  For example:

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For Legal Help

Advancing Justice - LA’s hotlines prioritize assistance to low-income persons in the following areas of law: family, immigration, consumer, public benefits, employment, housing, and civil rights.

English: 888.349.9695
需要協助嗎: 800.520.2356
हिंदी 855.971.2552


도움이 필요하십니까?: 800.867.3640
Tagalog: 855.300.2552
ต้องการความช่วยเหลือ: 800.914.9583
Cần sự giúp đỡ: 800.267.7395


Our mission is to advocate for civil rights, provide legal services and education, and build coalitions to positively influence and impact Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to create a more equitable and harmonious society.