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Who or what had the biggest influences on you when choosing your career?
Warning; Super Long Answer: About 3300 words. Read only if interested and if you have the time and patience.Question: What influenced and inspired your choice of career.Answer:I can’t put my finger on what exactly it was.I did not plan anything initially. My career was guided by fate/luck/circumstances and my own tendency to allow myself to drift and trust my luck to carry me to the best destination.Here is a mini autobiography:I passed my matriculation exam in 1966 from a good English medium school with Distinction. My favourite subject was English. I loved writing and my essays in school were hand-picked by my English teacher and read out to the entire class. I toyed with the idea of doing BA (journalism) and joining Times of India, my favourite newspaper at the time but my mother's shocked looks and my friends ridiculing me made me drop the idea like a hot potato."Arts? Yuck! Those courses are for girls whiling away their time before getting married! Do you want to end up teaching English in the same school! Be a man! Blah blah blah"Under peer pressure and also parental guidance, I chose to do science at a fancied college (Elphinstone College in Mumbai) and spent an entire year postponing my career decision. I had several options open and was glad to simply bide my time.IIT was the buzz word then.Everyone was busy preparing for it. Coaching classes were having a field day. I did not attend any, but went for a crash one month course at the end just for getting that extra confidence.I believe that I had done well in the entrance exam but it was not good enough. I did not make it.My mom was determined to make me an engineer. Middle class families those days, never looked beyond CA/Medicine/Engineering. They of course preferred an IAS but they realized that the number of selected candidates was very few and the competition was from all over the country from students of all disciplines and felt that CA/Medicine/Engineering was a safer option to try.Having missed IIT, I tried for the "next best" option. I applied to a few regional engineering colleges (now called NITs) and also BITS Pilani.At REC Trichy I was offered Electrical Engineering and at BITS Pilani, where I just made it, I was offered the least fancied branch that is Civil Engineering.Tamil nadu was ablaze at that time The anti-Hindi agitation was in full swing. Stations were being burnt. Hindi signboards were being defaced. Colleges were closed. So I chose Bits Pilani.My mom and dad would have none of that. They wanted a 'Chemical Engineer' Son not a Civil engineer messing around with Sand and cement!I consoled them and told them (just to placate them and allow me to go to Pilani) that the course was of five years and the first two years was common to all and that I would do well and seek a change to a better branch in the third year when we would start our actual studies in the allotted branch of engineering)Reluctantly they let me go. I joined BITS Pilani in July 1967 after hearing a lot about the reputation of BITS and once I arrived there, I fell in love with the campus, hostel life and the facilities for extra curricular activities and the curriculum. One humanities subject was compulsory for all engineers each year and I chose to do courses in English and Advanced English, Indian history and culture, Public administration, Economics, and Industrial Psychology as electives in addition to my engineering subjects. This was a bold innovation by BITS Pilani at that time. No other college had this system in place.It was supposed to produce a "well rounded" personality and not a human automaton.My parents kept asking about my progress in getting a branch change. I kept stalling. I loved my life there at Pilani so much that I was becoming indifferent to what my major was. I then told them in my third year that I could not get my branch changed and I was liking my subject and would continue. They were disappointed but they left me in peace after that.I passed with distinction in Civil Engineering as my major, and also enjoyed a cosmopolitan Campus life, made many friends, improved my spoken Hindi, and got exposure to life in North India after 17 years of childhood and boyhood in Mumbai.In 1972, I came back to Mumbai and was offered two jobs. One was a poorly paid job as a sub editor for a technical magazine (Indian Concrete Journal) and another was for a Road Construction company as a supervisor. I rejected both. While waiting for better opportunities, I thought seriously about post-graduation. I had not had my fill of campus life. There was no Gate exam then and I was selected by University of Roorkee (now called IIT Roorkee) for a two year master's programme in Structures.I proceeded to Roorkee and was soon armed with a Master's degree in Structural engineering after another happy two- year stay in the Roorkee University campus. This time my morale was better. My scholarship (Rs 250 per month) enabled me not to depend on any remittances from parents. It was enough to meet my needs.What next? Everyone was appearing for all sorts of competitive entrance exams. Upsc, Hindusthan Steel Ltd and others, Services Selection Board etc. I appeared for the entrance exam conducted by HSL and passed with flying colours. They selected me for a company called MECON which was the new name for HSL's Central Engineering and Design Bureau and later launched as an independent company called Mecon, head quartered at Ranchi and reporting to the ministry of Steel and Mines. It was perhaps the largest consultancy organization in the country with about 2600 engineers of all disciplines and specialized in consultancy services for the Steel plant projects which were valued at several hundred crores of rupees.This happened on its own. I had no hand except to apply, pass the exam and wait. I simply accepted what came to me. Those days, jobs were scarce unlike today.They posted me at Bokaro Steel plant and my posting lasted 2 months. It was supposed to be an exposure to the steel plant structures. Mecon had opened a new office at Bangalore and after the training period, I was asked to march to Bangalore and report at this new office. This was in Oct 1974.So my arrival at Bangalore was not planned but simply fated.At Bangalore, without offering me any choice I was posted in the Structural section which dealt with total consultancy services for steel structures for Heavy Industrial Buildings. I joined at the junior-most Executive level as a Graduate Engineer Trainee and worked my way up and was involved in Analysis, Design, Drawings, Technical Specifications, Tender Scrutiny, Project Reports, Software development, Inspection and site supervision of Steel structures for Industrial Buildings, Commercial buildings and also Defense Establishments.I served for 28 long years and the last 6 years were as head of the same department that I had joined as a trainee in 1974.Those were the best years of my professional life. There was high job satisfaction and the kind of projects I was involved in were the envy of my friends. The pay was moderate but not bad. Considering that my wife worked in a bank, we had enough to lead a decent life. I could save well, educate my children well and also invest in a house in Bangalore and own a two wheeler and later a car. Life was smooth and incident free, job security was ensured. I got to tour extensively in India and was also sent on short postings to some places abroad including places like Korea and Finland.My lack of any planning for my career had in no way affected me.God had taken care of me till then.But….Nothing is permanent. In the late nineties, the company was facing bad times.Our core competence was no longer in demand. The steel Industry was going through a recession. We started accepting jobs from other sectors which paid a lot less and for which we were not suitable at all because our overheads were heavy.We started doing distasteful jobs at fees that were less than our expenditure simply to cut losses. To save money, perquisites were cut. Facilities taken for granted earlier like LTC, hotel and travel accommodation entitlements, loans for house building, cars medical and hospitalisation expense reimbursements, etc were all held in abeyance or reduced. I was no longer enjoying any job satisfaction. I had outgrown technical design work after being promoted to the position of Deputy General Manager and was saddled with administrative and non technical responsibilities.I was unhappy. After all these years, going to the office in the morning was a torture.From out of the blue the government introduced VRS . (Voluntary Retirement Scheme). I was the first to apply along with several colleagues. The company accepted the applications of many of them but sat on my application for a whole year and finally refused to release me but they would not put it in writing.The details are tedious to relate here but it finally ended in my submitting my resignation at the age of 50. I had 8 more years of productive service still left and had to forgo a lot of retirement benefits.Okay, till now, God planned for me.Now I had to plan for myself!During my service I had been receiving several offers from Head Hunters and HR consultants to leave my company and join the private sector. I had been spurning them.I now decided there was nothing to lose and accepted an offer from a new Management and software consultancy company, as the GM of a newly created division that was being set up to capitalize on a new business opportunity that had opened up in India consequent to the advent of the internet.This was Knowledge process outsourcing/ Business process outsourcing.The internet made it possible for many US companies to get many kinds of work done in India at low man-hour costs and delivered over the net. Medical transcription was among the earliest of these new businesses.Soon American Steel fabricators, Architects, and contractors found it expedient to off load their drawing preparation work, and other time consuming and laborious works to India where man hour cost was 1/7th of what it was in USA. After a few initial hiccups, the parent company in USA and the back end center in India would soon establish an equilibrium and the business flourished.I was taken on as GM and posted at Electronics City in Bangalore and I set up a team of 8 engineers and 22 draftsmen and headed this department and worked on this new business for 2 and half years and got a thorough exposure to this business, and its pitfalls, loopholes, sources for bagging assignments, quoting correct prices for executing assignments etc. how to chase payments, identify poor paymasters, good companies that pay on time, the tools, resources and software needed and the optimum manpower needed to run the business for a particular turnover and how to word a contract agreement fairly and safely, what kind of projects to avoid, however tempting the price, and what kind of projects to accept even if it meant compromising on our price, what kind of time schedule was feasible and which to turn down because it was not feasible.The work was of course not creative. That part was retained by the US Client. They offloaded only the grunt work, which took 90 percent of the time, to us, to keep their costs down. They paid us just half the price they would have to pay in America to get the job done there. We charged at least twice the price that we would have charged Indian customers for equivalent assignments in India. This was win-win situation for both. The time difference, around 12 hours made it possible to keep the project going on round the clock. We contacted each other on Yahoo/Microsoft messenger and later Skype in the mornings and evenings and there was heavy traffic in Emails, uploading and downloading of drawings and documents.They paid me twice of what I was getting in Mecon. But the working hours were long. I was constantly required to be online and in emergencies I would be asked to be available even at unearthly hours like 2:30 am!As I said before nothing is permanent. In this case too, the business soured after some time. Other companies too jumped in and the competition was so intense that our prices had to be reduced. Overhead costs rose, since this was an ISO company. Cost cutting, salary delays, extended working hours for the same salary contributed to mass resignations and I was left to find solutions. My requests for additional software licenses, better hardware, and new software that could greatly improve productivity were all turned down. After two and half years I realized that this business could not operate much longer with so much of overheads and restrictive procedures due to our being an ISO certified company.The time had come to plan my own career move. I believed I still had about 10 years of ability to work in me. I was in reasonably good health.I offered my resignation and decided that I would get into this business for myself, and not work for any one.This two and half year stint had given me an excellent exposure and I was brimming with confidence and simply raring to go.What was re-assuring was that I was at an age when all my debts were cleared. The house and car had been paid for. My daughter was married and settled in Usa. My son was in college with his career plans all chalked out and any funds he might need were kept safe and secure and reserved for him. My wife had opted for VRS from her bank and she offered to help me.I took the plunge.After all these years of contacts with American customers, I had a few who trusted me implicitly and they gave me small jobs initially and later larger and more ambitious assignments after I had convinced them that I was equipped with staff and software resources for handling them.Two trusted senior staff from the previous company I worked for did not want to continue there, after I left and resigned to throw in their lot with me. We recruited 12 new hands, fresh from college at salaries 10 percent more than what the open market was paying to freshers at that time. I initially rented office space close to my house while I modified my 2000 square feet house and demolished internal walls, and built an additional small hall on what was previously my terrace and soon set up an office in my own house and shifted my staff to my house. I moved my family to my newly purchased apartment a short distance away.At last! I was an entrepreneur! I gave jobs to others. I did not apply for jobs anymore! I was my own boss something I had not dreamt about a few years ago.The business ran well till 2008. I cleared all the loans I had taken for setting up the business and for buying hardware(19 personal computers, and two laptops) Software (8 Autocad licenses and 6 Tekla licenses) and two MS office licences and all the standard office furniture and fittings.Income had stabilized. I bought one more apartment as an investment and rented it out. I paid myself a decent salary starting with the salary I resigned on and soon drawing twice the salary. I enjoyed the luxury of having a driver and a live in maid at home and got my wife on board as a Co Director and paid her a salary and got all my non technical work done by her (like HR, recruitment, accounts, administration, supervising cleaning , purchase of office requirements and acting as counsellor for the employees most of whom were girls in their twenties. She also handled all contacts with my auditors and took care of paying all the taxes and handling payroll, leaving me free to concentrate on project execution, quality control and delivery on schedule and also training the newly recruited staff.My plans seemed to be working.My venture had stabilized. I was free from liabilities. I was feeling like a pilot who had finished the pre-flight formalities and had slowly piloted the plane till the end of the runway and had turned around was preparing for a take off and then soaring over the skies!Then Fate came back to taunt me!The 2008 sub-prime crisis in USA struck suddenly!My one fundamental mistake in marketing policy which was always haunting me at the back of my mind and which I had been ignoring finally caught up with me. This mistake was putting all my eggs in the American basket. I never pursued Indian Clients, or Australian clients. Indian clients paid far less but work during difficult times was assured. I did not pursue Australian clients since they paid far less than the Americans and they asked for more work and my team was less familiar with their codes of practice and were completely at home with the American specs and codes.The sub-prime crises in USA brought several projects to a halt. The Construction Industry in USA was seriously affected. My clients frantically called to cancel contracts. Some paid a token amount for work already done as compensation. Others did not pay at all and said they would pay if they were paid by their customer who pleaded that he would pay when the bank released the funds for the project. I was left dangling at the bottom of the food chain. I could not tell my staff that I would pay their salaries only if I got paid. I kept the boat sailing somehow by putting in some of my own emergency funds but I realized it was a losing battle. The crisis, I knew would last at least two years, may be even more, and I did not have the capability to rough it out unless I was willing to pledge all my immovable property assets. My wife firmly vetoed that idea.Then another personal disaster struck me for which I was totally unprepared. A sudden heart attack followed by angioplasty, then severe internal bleeding due to drugs taken post angioplasty which caused me to fall unconscious, and be rushed back to the ICU, followed by a severe attack of some strange kind of arthritis which kept me in bed for six months, totally unable to walk, all hit me in quick succession between 2010 and 2011 and I knew I was licked!A good Samaritan turned up in the nick of time. He was a big entrepreneur running a bigger business with a greater turnover in Andhra Pradesh. He sold his business and moved to Bangalore and wanted to do something smaller. He sought me out through mutual contacts and bought out my company at Par. I was glad to offer it to him. This happened in 2011 and fate has been kind to me after that!I am now leading a quiet retired life. I help my old organization when they invite me to conduct campus interviews for recruitment and for conducting orientation training of the new recruits. I divide my time between living in USA and Bangalore.Regards and best wishes to all Quorans and thank you for your patience in reading this long story.GV
Harvard rated Asian American applicants lower on personality traits for admissions. What is the logic behind the decision for lower ratings?
I am one of those data points. One of the plaintiffs sounds exactly like me: an Asian-American valedictorian applying to the Class of 2014 with a 36 ACT and several extracurriculars.Emotional anecdotes and knee-jerk responses are tempting. I indulged earlier (unwisely?), because if there is anything I feel I can anecdote about, it’s being an Chinese-American applicant to the Harvard Class of 2014, and growing up in an immigrant subculture that that is intensely focused on education and top schools.But now I want graphs. Tables. Numbers. A news article, while nice, is not much better than emotional anecdotes or stereotypes.It took me some time, but I found them!Primarily from the plaintiffs’ Statement of Material Facts and other documents. Harvard has some too. These sources are obviously biased — there’s some fighting about what subsets and controls to use in the regressions — but they include a lot of actual admissions data, so let’s dig into the numbers, shall we?Warning: Long answer with tables and charts. I have largely avoided the contested regressions and stuck to the actual data, though the plaintiffs have excluded legacies, recruited athletes, and Dean’s List applicants from their tables of deciles and Personal scores.(This answer is subject to obsolescence if new information is released in the ongoing litigation.)Here’s how Asian-American and White applicants stack up in four “Profile” categories, which are intended to be race-neutral (that’s right, this isn’t even the “Affirmative Action” part of the lawsuit):As you can see, a higher percentage of Asian-Americans than white applicants excel in Academic and Extracurricular, while the opposite is true in Personal and Athletic. Slightly more white applicants are “well-rounded” in three or more categories.What do these categories mean? Here’s what we know:Academic: “grades, test scores, and other typical measures of academic achievement, such as nationally recognized competitions or awards”1: “has submitted academic work of some kind that is reviewed by a faculty member”Only ~100 applicants per year receive a rating of 1.Aside: enough applicants have academic publications there’s a separate category for them?! This must be quite rare for a high schooler if they haven’t been coached by their PhD parents. On the other hand, I know a first-gen college student who joined a scientific mailing list out of personal interest and drew the attention of a local researcher, leading to first-author publications, so it can be done. A well-earned 1 right there.2: has “perfect, or near-perfect, grades and testing, but no evidence of substantial scholarship or academic creativity.”Interesting choice of words, “academic creativity”.Plaintiff and I are probably 2s. I scored better on some tests than them and other plaintiffs, but at Harvard, perfect and near-perfect merit the same Academic score. Tragic.Extracurricular: “extracurricular activities, community employment, and family commitments”1: [redacted, but probably international and national-level accomplishments]2: “significant school, and possibly regional accomplishments” — for example, “student body president or captain of the debate team and the leader of multiple additional clubs.”Athletic: “athletic achievements” [scores redacted, but 1 is probably Olympic- and international-level athletes; recruited athletes can’t be far behind]Personal: “a variety of ‘subjective’ factors,” including… “character traits”, “positive personality,” … “humor, sensitivity, grit, leadership, integrity, helpfulness, courage, kindness and many other qualities”1: “outstanding” personal skills2: “very strong” skills3: “generally positive” skills4: “bland or somewhat negative or immature”5: “questionable personal qualities”6: “worrisome personal qualities”There are case studies used by the Admissions Office and interviewers as examples of “distinguishing excellences” and how to evaluate candidates in the context of their circumstances. The Casebook excerpts have been redacted, to protect the applicants and stymie zealous college preppers, but they reflect an obsession with using context and personal qualities “to distinguish among the many academically strong candidates in its pool”:Definitions out of the way, here’s the data.This a table of the percentages of applicants with “outstanding” and “very strong” Personal scores. You can see both the Personal scores assigned by the alumni interviewers, as well as those of the admissions office, which is based on the interview report (if available), personal essays, teacher recommendations, school background, and more. The data is arranged by race (columns) and academic index decile (top to bottom, worst to best). The academic index used here is not the Academic score, but calculated from only GPA and test scores, then used to separate the applicants into 10 deciles of about 13,000 students each.For reference, applicants of different races are not equally distributed across academic deciles, so the overall Personal scores are skewed accordingly:I also got really tired of squinting at these numbers, so I squinted at them one last time and made graphs:Takeaway points from this data:Academic index (used by the plaintiffs) is very different from Academic score (used by Harvard admissions).Comparing the first bar graph to last line graph, an Academic score of 2 (“perfect or near-perfect”) corresponds roughly to Academic index 6. That is, about half of all applicants have “perfect or near-perfect” GPA and test scores.You could almost fill the entering class (~1,600) by admitting only applicants with Academic index 10 (~4,000 applicants over 4 years). That group is a bit more than 50% Asian, 35% white, 3% Hispanic, less than 1% black, and the rest “other/decline to state”, presumably also white and Asian applicants.Harvard admissions does not officially distinguish between perfect and near-perfect GPA/SAT/ACT. Everyone over decile 6 is lumped into Academic score 2. (Academic score 1 is reserved for faculty-reviewed academic submissions.) Asian Americans are over-represented in deciles 8+, edging ever closer to “perfect”.Academic index and Personal scores are positively correlated for all races. Surprising — not what I expected from Harvard’s description. This suggests that Personal may actually mean something like “inspirational” and “talks/writes like an intellectual”. Personal != personality, unless you believe kindness somehow tracks with SAT score.Speculation: Is the bonus to black and Hispanic applicants in higher deciles in part due to “Wow, you’re so articulate”-style prejudice? Black and Hispanic applicants are less common in those deciles; they must really stand out to application readers.Speculation: Perhaps more whites and Asians “study to the test” to attain higher standardized test scores. This strategy can improve your SAT score but is unlikely to improve your ability to “talk/write like an intellectual”. Disproportionate hard work may put less-talented students in the upper academic deciles, where they drag down the Personal scores of everyone else. (Use of test prep services is not reported in application data, but in one of the voluntary freshman surveys, it was highest in Asians, then whites.)Oh alumni interviewers. I love you and your grade inflation. You basically gave half of all interviewees the highest possible scores on the Personal rating. The Admission Office was not nearly so kind.Most people are more personable in person. It probably takes a lot of writing skill to be personable in an essay.Different sources of data: The interviewer is evaluating their in-person experience, while the office is reading essays, recommendation letters, and the interview report. The office also has access to financial and high school quality information.Asian Americans have great Academic scores, better than whites — how can their average Personal score be lower?At almost every academic decile, alumni interviewers gave top scores to fewer Asian-American applicants than applicants of other races. (They come out slightly ahead overall because they have a high average academic index.)It was reported that the in-person interviewers gave Asian Americans better scores than the admissions office. While that is true, they also gave everyone better scores. They actually show the same trend as the admissions office.At almost every academic decile, the admissions office gave top scores to fewer Asian-American applicants than applicants of other races. The differences between races is more apparent in the admissions office.Taken together, there were ~4% more whites with high Personal scores from the Admissions Office than Asian Americans, while there are ~1% more among Asian Americans in the interviews. In the highest decile, the disparity is ~7% and 1%, respectively, in favor of whites.Racial disparities are larger in the higher academic deciles — the ones where Asian Americans dominate, and the ones where the serious culling of applicants will take place. The lower deciles are less important because almost no applicants (of any race) in those deciles had a chance at admission in the first place.I’d like to appreciate for a moment what an interesting strategy it was to publicly cast this as a battle between Asian-American and white applicants.When you look at those graphs, is it really the red and blue lines that seem the most different? This data is clearly far more damning to African American and Hispanic applicants.Edward Blum must have realized after the #BeckyWithTheBadGrades case that Asian Americans have great grades and white people are an acceptable target. Better to have a weakly supported narrative about rescuing Asians from elitist racist white people than a stronger case pitting Asians against black people. No one wants to be rejected in favor of some rich white private school kid.Whatever. That’s not the point.The point is, they’re biased against Asian Americans and in favor of African Americans (and Hispanics and finally whites, in that order).Well, I could think of other reasons than bias.We don’t know what “Personal” means. Harvard’s redacted all those juicy details and suggested vague but value-laden traits like “kindness” and “humor”, which are very odd traits to be positively correlated with SAT score. Of course, they have to be vague, or they’ll see a sudden influx of applicants remarkably like the ones in the documents, but it sure looks bad if all you can say to defend yourself is [redacted].In the absence of confirmation from internal Harvard documents, but in line with what everyone already knows about writing a college personal essay, Personal probably owes a lot to Interesting or Unusual.This means you’re screwed if your profile (and background) looks too much like anyone else’s. That’s not fair. It’s especially unfair to immigrants and children thereof, whose characteristics tend to cluster tightly around the requirements for US visas and the cultural values of their communities.I don’t think the admissions office could ever own up to that. At least Americans generally agree on what it looks like to be artistic, humorous, confident, etc. Those things are usually considered important positive traits. Virtuous, even.But Interesting? How is it fair to use something so arbitrary to determine who deserves entry into the Hallowed Halls of Our Greatest and Most August Institutions of Learning™?Can’t you just buy Interesting, like going on a backpacking trip through South America while creating a documentary about migrant farm workers’ orphaned children? Woe to the ordinary, who lack the connections for an internship with a leader in [Something Cool], the money to go gallivanting off in pursuit of adventure, or the poverty for a heartwarming tale of persevering against all odds!What even is Interesting?Maybe an unusual sport or extracurricular, something that causes the reader to think, “I’ve never met anyone who _____ before.”It could mean rural or from an underrepresented state:It could mean that you’re interested in doing something other than the Asian-American favorite, “Medicine or health”, perhaps even expressing interest in the whiter “Government or law” and “Arts, communications, design, or social service”:While we’re at it, being an Asian who is dismissive of liberal arts education is probably not a very good way to get into a liberal arts school. It may reflect a fundamental disconnect between what Harvard thinks a Harvard education should be and what the average Asian thinks (any) education should be. You’ll have an easier time getting in if your educational philosophy matches the school you want to get into. While laser-focused math/science types abound, they are much less common (and may have been subjected to more stringent selection) than well-lopsided students with a few different strengths.Or maybe they’re taking your family background into account, too, when trying to gauge your passion for medicine or science:But… Why are those things bad?Isn’t it crazy that the advantages our parents fought so hard for — getting STEM jobs to support us, buying a more expensive house in the right school district, making sure we did extracurriculars, cultivating our interest in STEM, paying for enrichment programs and all the activities we could fit in our schedules — that all those supposed advantages are counted against us, because they’re stereotypical, and we didn’t have as many barriers to overcome on our path to excellence? Is Asian American academic achievement less valuable because it doesn’t reflect innate intelligence, but parental involvement and hard work?Don’t you value parental involvement and hard work?It’s almost like Harvard favors people who excel despite their background more than people who excel because of it. Parental involvement and a good upbringing mask the underlying talent of the student. Meanwhile, the rest of the world usually cares about performance, regardless of the cause.Would the same characteristics be praised if they belonged to an African-American student? A white student?And after all that, then you have to prove that you’re unique and special, but if your application reader has already seen too many people like you, your specialness goes down.But surely there can’t be that many Asian Americans with similar profiles?These racial categories are so broad and artificial, they don’t even capture all the relevant stereotypes/archetypes.There is huge diversity in Asian Americans, though in conversational American English it tends to mean the plurality East Asian group, and in college admissions, tends to focus on Chinese Americans. (Thanks, Amy Chua.) So, are South Asians treated the same way as East Asians? Southeast Asians? (Data on Filipino-American representation suggests no: Filipinos are underrepresented at most selective of UC campuses, after the removal of race from admissions.)Almost 80% of Asian American adults are foreign-born, so their children will dominate aggregate statistics like these, but what about Asian Americans who have lived in the US for multiple generations? Are assimilated Asians scored similarly to white Americans?Are white applicants more diverse in life background and interests than Asian-American applicants?Don’t wealthy white kids have access to the same advantages Asians are often cited for using, like pricey prep schools and SAT tutors? Is the admissions office also docking their points on Personal?What about children of African immigrants, who have similar opinions about education and STEM careers as Asian immigrants? Do people just assume that every African-American applicant had to overcome larger life obstacles by default, and thus get a higher Personal score?The statistician for Harvard added those “life background” variables (rural/urban, type of extracurriculars, parental occupation, school quality, neighborhood income, intended career) to his analysis, and came away with the conclusion that once you take those into account, race doesn’t explain the difference between white and Asian-American admission rates. It does still strongly affect African Americans and Hispanics, but apparently we’re not talking about them.But… when does using those “life background” variables cross the line into discriminating against a specific group (racial or otherwise) disproportionately representing a particular “life background”?What else?Culture shapes your personality, either in conforming to or rejecting it, as anyone familiar with the long history of Asian-American angst literature can tell you.Pictured above: prelude to Chinese-Canadian angst. See also the extremely heavy-handed application of Chinese-American angst in Paper Menagerie.I don’t attribute these differences to genetics or “race”. We know very well how upbringing can shape academic outcomes and personality. Anyone can be a Tiger Parent. We just have more of them.We’re also aware that stereotype also includes low sociability/creativity, even as we know many friends who don’t fit that stereotype at all.We can point to charts and surveys about differences in values, personality, social anxiety , self-esteem, motivation, and so on. None of this Academic vs. Personal debate is new. I recall a lot of people being upset by Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, which I interpreted as “superior in some ways but not in others”.Those factors are also part of the ~4% difference in the average Admissions Office Personal score. At the same time, those factors might be an excuse.Here is what I sometimes suspect my face signifies to other Americans: an invisible person, barely distinguishable from a mass of faces that resemble it. A conspicuous person standing apart from the crowd and yet devoid of any individuality. An icon of so much that the culture pretends to honor but that it in fact patronizes and exploits. Not just people “who are good at math” and play the violin, but a mass of stifled, repressed, abused, conformist quasi-robots who simply do not matter, socially or culturally.I’ve always been of two minds about this sequence of stereotypes. On the one hand, it offends me greatly that anyone would think to apply them to me, or to anyone else, simply on the basis of facial characteristics. On the other hand, it also seems to me that there are a lot of Asian people to whom they apply…“There is this automatic assumption in any legal environment that Asians will have a particular talent for bitter labor,” he says, and then goes on to define the word coolie, a Chinese term for “bitter labor.” “There was this weird self-selection where the Asians would migrate toward the most brutal part of the labor.”By contrast, the white lawyers he encountered had a knack for portraying themselves as above all that. “White people have this instinct that is really important: to give off the impression that they’re only going to do the really important work. You’re a quarterback. It’s a kind of arrogance that Asians are trained not to have. Someone told me not long after I moved to New York that in order to succeed, you have to understand which rules you’re supposed to break. If you break the wrong rules, you’re finished. And so the easiest thing to do is follow all the rules. But then you consign yourself to a lower status. The real trick is understanding what rules are not meant for you.- Paper Tigers, one of the most prominent post-Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother thinkpieces of the Asian-American angst genre.Give off the impression that they’re only going to do the really important work. It occurs to me that it’s the kind of naive arrogance that could go over really well in a college essay. A shibboleth for the elite.Just because something is more common in one group [of surveyed college students] doesn’t mean you can make assumptions about individuals. If there are 4% more white applicants given the top Personal score, that doesn’t mean that all white people have 4% more “personality” than all Asian Americans. A statistical statement is not a categorical statement.We can’t make assumptions about people based on their race, gender, or any other adjective. We have to look at them as whole people, with their own backgrounds and unique circumstances. Unfortunately, that kind of thinking — those “unique” circumstances that overlap with other H1B visa holders — and all that space for subjective personal judgment and cultural preferences — is what got us in this mess in the first place. Even if you consider every person as an individual, without stereotyping, if there are average differences by race, the aggregate outcome will show average differences by race.Maybe we should just judge students based on the most meritocratic, objective, and unbiased measurements: grades and test scores [that my racial group is really good at, and correlate with income].But that just pushes the problem further down the road. Those subjective things like “leadership potential” and “communication skills” are important in real life. They will come back as a bamboo ceiling. We’ll have to deal with people giving us low Personal scores for the rest of our lives if we don’t have the cultural intelligence to improve those skills or advocate for our own cultural values.This reminds me of the gender wage gap, which can be explained by women’s job choices, personal values, childcare, work experience, flexible hours, maternity leave, and so on. We have a culture that shapes women’s personalities, leading to aggregate inequalities. Maybe the 20% gap isn’t entirely sexism. But biased attitudes are real, especially in institutions that feel no pressure to change.“Lean in” by understanding how your social behaviors will be perceived by others, and how to change them. But if you’re being judged by your stereotype, not your actual attributes, sue the hell out of them. (Bonus: This will demonstrate your assimilation to the ancient American tradition of litigation.)The two legal filings are basically in agreement that there are non-quantitative factors affecting Asian-American admission. The plaintiffs say the non-quantitative part is a racial quota enforced in part by artificially deflating Personal scores by race. The defendants come just shy of saying that the Personal score is a reflection of things like the above tables and that “uniqueness” is negatively correlated to the number of other applicants with the same background.It’s funny how they edge around it. Maybe they can’t explain themselves, because the explanation itself would sound racist. Or it’d mess up their legal strategy.This Personal score is just the tip of an iceberg. I don’t know how much can be attributed to bias rather than underlying differences in cultural values, or overvaluing unusual backgrounds. But if you’re worried about race in Personal, worry even more about race in the Overall score, where it’s explicitly allowed to be taken into consideration.I’ll be quite honest: my education would have been worse without intelligent classmates of all different perspectives. African Americans, South Asians, Europeans, and so on, but also people who were Republican, communist, atheist, poet, Buddhist, Jewish, evangelical, farmer, military, queer, Muslim, dancer, Kentuckian, Texan, homeless, sled dog caretaker, BDSM enthusiast*, whatever. (I met all of them and more.) *maybe not a good topic for your essay thoughAsian Americans have the rare opportunity to learn from the best of two cultures, if we manage to evade the worst of both. As a result, I believe that exposing students to different cultures is part of a world-class education. That means admissions will subjectively judge students on what their personalities and values might bring to the campus environment.But geez, Harvard, I wish you could do that without implying that our culture is the least special of all of them.Footnotes Whither the Liberal Arts at Harvard? | Opinion | The Harvard Crimson As Interest Fades in the Humanities, Colleges Worry https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/immigration/news/2015/05/21/113690/asian-immigrants-in-the-unites-states-today/ Career Development Attributes and Occupational Values of Asian American and White American College Students Culture and Personality Among European American and Asian American Men APA PsycNET Login ACCULTURATION, COMMUNICATION PATTERNS, AND SELF-ESTEEM AMONG ASIAN AND CAUCASIAN AMERICAN ADOLESCENTS PsycNET APA PsycNET Login Motivation and Mathematics Achievement: A Comparative Study of Asian‐American, Caucasian‐American, and East Asian High School Students Cracking the Bamboo Ceiling What is the gender pay gap and is it real?: The complete guide to how women are paid less than men and why it can’t be explained away
I am starting college next week. What should I do to get ready for medical school?
I am going to be a senior in college and I am premed. So I will tell you all I have wished I had done and what I have done.GENERAL THINGSMake sure your mental health is in check. If you have any issues, get help and meds to make your attitude and life easier.Have a happy, go-getter attitude. Be positive. It will change your energy and focus levels, and trust me, you need it. Look forward to your future and your day! NEVER give in to negative thoughts and self doubt. Self esteem is crucial.Wake up early, every single day, like 5am, and exercise. This will keep you health, and actually make you more awake and focused for doing work throughout the day. You will get more work done, be able to go to bed earlier than a lot of your peers, (thus more sleep), and you will look and feel good, boosting your confidence (and maybe you’ll get lucky with the opposite sex ;) )Get organized, and with your focus and energy, study some for each science class everyday. This will keep you from cramming for tests and you will retain the info better. I also suggest making detailed quizlets of notes. Also, take notes in class, even if it is a pain and no one else is. Just do it, you will feel more comfortable with the material and feel better. I cannot stress this enoguh: ROUTINE IS IMPORTANT. Routinely exercise and study everyday (not all the time), and you will thank me for it by the time you are an upperclassman.Make your friend group out of people who are also premed, in your science classes. When you have to study for tests instead of hanging out, they will understand, and maybe even study with you, which can help your productivity (also, that is a huge part of studying in med school I hear, studying in groups). By the time you are an upperclassman, everyone in your science classes kinda knows each other, and you may make lots of friends sand have awesome fun.Make sure to have fun in your first two years too, go to parties, experience the fun parts of college. Just don't slack off your responsibilities.Take an anatomy and physiology class at some point if you can, even if it is not required coursework, because the MCAT is HEAVY on it. You don’t want to end up studying all anatomy and phys from scratch just from MCAT books like I did.THINGS TO DO FRESHMAN YEARGet in touch with advisers and faculty to see if there are any openings for undergrads to work in research labs (science, psych, nursing, whatever INTERESTS you). Med schools love seeing research experience and it is basically a must. Setting it up as a freshman gives you at least 3 years of hardcore research experience, which sets you apart from others. You will be able to talk about this in personal statements, interviews, and your application. Just because you are a freshman, it is by no means too early to be setting things that you would think upperclassmen would do up.Join a 1 or 2 clubs that you really like to destress, and make a TON of friends in there. This will be an essential second friend group outside of premed stuff. This also shows you are human and there is more to you than studying. You want to be well-rounded. The second club should be related to community service so you have lots of opportunities, because med schools basically require you to want to serve the community. You can also ask advisers if there are any academic organizations that are good for premeds to be in. Again, you can talk about these in app, interview, personal statement.After freshman year, try to become an officer in one of your clubs or extracurrics, as it shows med schools you have leadership experience.Do a ton of community service in your first two years. Once you have it in the bag, you can list it on your application and talk about it.Apply to be an RA in the freshman dorms on campus after freshman year. Why do this you ask? Well, you often get free or discounted on campus housing (no gas to drive to school), and you get a job that is basically where you live, so you can balance studying and classes easily around this, and you GET PAID. A working premed with extracurrics, officer position, hobbies, research, and a good GPA? Wow. That is awesome. Plus, you have money for fun, healthy food (dining hall food is not always the best, and remember being healthy is IMPORTANT), and to take people on dates ;). You will also have boosted self esteem knowing you are making your own money and not relying on your parents for everything. Being independent is good. And it also counts as another leadership experience.ALWAYS do something productive during your summer breaks. A huge thing to do is find a physician in your college town or home town and shadow him/her for at least a month or two, or get a part time job around the hospital. Shadowing experience is A MUST for med school, because they want you to make sure you want to go into this profession, so they want you to see the profession for yourselves. This is also a huge topic you can talk about during interviews and in your personal statement. Another great thing is a large scale community service project that is a large commitment. Look up 4k for cancer, running or biking, and you’ll see what I mean. These are like month-long commits to a program where you travel and serve the community. (These apply to all of your summers after freshman and sophomore year).Speaking of traveling, try to (if you can afford it or get scholarships), study abroad one summer! You won’t get many chances to after undergrad going into med school, and it is a great experience to meet new people, see cool places, and talk about on your app and in your personal statement and in your interviews.This was a huge thing I regret not doing. Chose a minor your freshman year, but make it something fun that you enjoy as a hobby or passion that is not sciencey. It will give you credits for easy classes, de stress you, let you put that you have a minor on your app, and make you seem more well-rounded. Like, an art or music minor? I REALLY regret not pursuing an art minor before it was too late. I now have no more time or money to take all those classes before I apply. So, DEFINITELY DO THIS.BEYOND FRESHMAN YEARGet to know teachers you like in classes you enjoy. You need to form a relationship with them that is more than a student ID, because them, along with your RESEARCH PROFESSOR and your SHADOWING PHYSICIAN, will all be people you ask for LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION during your junior year. You need quite a few of these to beef up your application without any bias (4–5).Another thing, the end of Junior year is basically the year where by then you should have lots of good experiences, grades, and accolades all together. You really only have 2 years (including summers) to get all of these things, and yes, you basically are doing everything for your application, personal statement, rec letters, etc. But make sure you actually WANT to do the things you do, because it will make them more enjoyable and not just a hoop you have to jump through, and they are legit important to you.Let me tell you the time table you are working with. First 2 years, do all these things that you can (you don’t have to have all of them, but many are amazing to have, and you can do more than you think). During the summer after your sophomore year, buy a book set (I used Kaplan) are start preparing for the MCAT. Prepare to take the January MCAT your junior year, because then you will have the rest of that second semester to basically not worry about it. You also have all of Christmas break to study for it. But, it take 6 MONTHS (usually) of dedicated study time, flashcards, practice tests, everything you can do to make sure you know. The MCAT is basically a huge ACT on everything you ever learned about any science, psychology, and a section like the ACT reading, only harder. So it takes time to study. But studying for six months plus winter break, and taking it in early January leaves you with that semester to not worry about it. That semester (second semester of your junior year) is also when you will start PREPARING YOUR APPLICATION. This means going over lots of drafts of your personal statement, listing paragraphs about your experiences and why they are meaningful to you (see AAMC and your advisers to go over this stuff), approaching people to ask for rec letters, searching for med schools you want to go to, and waiting for your MCAT score. You will be bust with way more than just classes, and getting behind is bad. Also, it takes time for teachers to write rec letters, AND it takes a month to get your MCAT score back. Thus, if you need to re-test, you get it back in the beginning of February, and have time to retake it. This is because, unless you are taking a gap year, the AMCAS application opens up in MAY. You will want to have everything ready to be uploaded by then, because medical schools look at applications on a rolling schedule, and they will call you for interviews in the Fall semester of your Senior year. If they get your app too late in the cycle, then by the time they get to you, most of their spots in medical schools will already be filled up, and you will have to re-apply. So, you have your first 2 years, and then a semester of junior year to get accolades and experiences, then second semester junior year to put it all together, take the MCAT, and apply that May. Don’t let time get the better of you!After you apply, relax, but still be productive during the summer, and still remain involved during your senior year. But also, take a lighter load, and have fun! Enjoy your last year of undergrad!CONCLUSIONRemember, you don't have to do ALL of this, but the essentials I would say, from my own experience and regrets, would be:Declare a fun minorGo abroadshadowresearch early on in your careerbe an officer in clubs you like/have hobbiesBe an RATHE MOST IMPORTANT, IS BEING HAPPY, HEALTHY, (EATING AND PHYSICALLY), AND OPTIMISTIC. YOU WILL FEEL SO MUCH BETTER AND BE SUPER CONFIDENT. IF YOU ARE HAPPY AND CONTENT, EVERYTHING WILL FALL INTO PLACE BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE ENERGY AND FOCUS FOR IT.Seriously, you can get sucked into darkness during this time, and if you let it, it can destroy you. Just take it easy, know you are are kickass person, and just be the awesome all around student you know you are. Have fun, be with people you love, and be happy. Don’t give into despair. Plus, if you STICK TO THE STUDY AND HEALTH COMMITMENTS I MENTIONED, YOU WON'T HAVE A REASON TO WORRY because you’ll succeed in your classes and the MCAT. Attitude and self-love is EVERYTHING. I don’t have some of this, and I am really suffering. So, take my word for it, as your senior who has been through it, and you will be amazing. Good luck!UPDATE: I forgot to mention, if you are lucky, some undergrad research positions you can get course credit for, and others you can get PAID for. A person I know has 2 jobs, she is (you could guess) an RA, easy job, and gets paid for a research position! She is rolling in extra cash for basically living on campus and taking a class. She has another unpaid research position (that’s 2 labs!). She has a 4.0 overeall and BCPM GPA, never made a B in any class in undergrad, has a ton of service, went abroad, shadowed etc, and has all the health and attitude qualities I mentioned above, and planned her schedule and minor up until Junior year taking the MCAT in January like I mentioned, and she made a 518. She has multiple research conference awards, and with all her accolades and clubs, she is getting into any medical school she wants. She is taking three art classes next semester, and basically has no worries and all the time in the world. So, take it from this example. be like this student. Anyway, see if you can get paid for research! I am in 2 labs myself, both of which I am getting course credit for.