When applying to the University four years ago, Dave Nelson said he was certain his 3.7 grade point average and 33 ACT score would be enough to guarantee acceptance into the same school his dad had attended and raised him to cheer for as a child.
Instead, he said, he was shocked to first be waitlisted and then to receive a rejection letter.
“I was very surprised. I didn’t feel there was any way they were going to reject me,” said Nelson, now a junior at Michigan State University’s College of Engineering.
Although he is not certain he was rejected because he is white, Nelson – a graduate of Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School – said the University’s use of race as an admissions factor is not a fair way to achieve diversity.
“With the race factor, you can have two people who went to the same high school, had the same classes, the same grades, and one got in based on the color of their skin,” he said.
The University’s admissions policies have come under fire since 1997, when two lawsuits were filed by two white applicants, Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter, who felt they were rejected from the College of Literature, Science and the Arts and the Law School in part because the plus factor given to minorities.
While most white students with grades and test scores as high as Nelson’s are easily accepted into the University, a counselor from the Downs River school district who wished to remain anonymous said minority applicants from his school generally got accepted with lower grades and test scores than white applicants.
“I would say they’re lower in general, not a lot lower, but lower,” said the counselor, whose district includes Gratz’s alma mater. The counselor said this year many of the white students he advises have expressed concern about their chances for admission into the University. “When they found out how people were accepted, they felt it’s unfair,” he said. “Most feel they cannot get in, especially if they’re Caucasian without great grades and test scores.”
Michigan State freshman Laura Cole said she was rejected from the University while some of her minority friends were accepted despite having lower grades and test scores. Cole said she graduated from Grosse Pointe South High School with a 3.9 GPA and 28 ACT score.
Although she believes a racial plus factor is necessary in some cases, Cole said the 20 points given by the LSA policy to black, Hispanic and Native American students is too much when compared to the points given to other factors such as test scores, because applicants cannot control their race.
Nelson said although the University’s admissions policies target minorities from poorer and less affluent school districts, “(they’re) not doing anyone a favor by accepting them into a school they’re not prepared for.”
Yet because some minorities who receive points attend affluent high schools and do not face the same disadvantages as minority applicants from inner-city schools, the University should take minority applicants’ socioeconomic status into account when determining who to give points to, Cole said.
But white applicants like Nelson and Cole – both of whom had higher GPAs and ACT scores than Gratz – are not the only ones who feel the University’s admissions policies place them at a disadvantage.
Aarti Soorya, an Indian American who was rejected from the University despite a 3.5 GPA and 25 ACT score, said many Asians believe they face stiffer competition when applying to the University because they are overrepresented.
“I think just because there are so many Indians at the University of Michigan, I think that was one of the reasons, maybe, why I didn’t get in,” said Soorya, a sophomore at Kalamazoo College.
If the University’s goal is to achieve campus diversity, as lawyers representing the University argue, then the LSA admissions policy should not grant a plus factor to some minorities but not others, Soorya said.
“It’s kind of a double standard. If they’re going to admit one minority over another, that’s a little shady,” she said. “They should keep a standard level for all minorities.”