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Liang ’19: Let my sister into Brown

Ah, Nov. 1. Amid the wafting breeze of pumpkin spice and sepia-tinged sunsets, there’s another thing about today that truly makes my heart sing. It’s the anxious typing of teens all over the world as they send in their early decision applications. Think of all those essays about scuba-diving in American Samoa and building toilets in Wyoming.

I didn’t apply early decision, but I nevertheless have a modest proposal for the Admission Office: Please, pretty please, let my sister — Joyce Shao-Wei Liang, Aries, would-be Sagittarius and current high school senior — into Brown. Why? Just because. After all, since when does Brown need clear reasons to make their admission decisions? Sure, there are many non-academic intangibles that could affect her acceptance — but then again, Brown has always made it clear that those intangibles are not major factors in admissions, so why should we even worry?

I mean, it’s not like Brown ever considers legacy status, sibling or otherwise. Nepotism absolutely does not exist in any form within the hallowed halls of this university! Sure, former Dean of Admissions Jim Miller once said that Brown gives “almost no weight” to sibling legacy cases.  I’m going to assume “almost no weight” is about as meaningless as saying “almost gluten-free” or “almost making the S/NC cutoff.”  So it feels good to know that legacy will not impact my sister whatsoever, that she will be admitted to this university solely on her merit alone, and not at all because I wrote an article in this newspaper or baked the Admission Office cupcakes or broke into President Christina Paxson’s P’19 house and entered her dreams “Inception”-style.

And we know that my sister’s decision to apply to Brown early won’t matter at all, because when has early decision ever affected people’s chances? The Admission Office’s website clearly states, “The Board of Admission makes the same decisions under Early Decision that it would under the Regular Decision plan.” So what if the acceptance rate for early decision is almost three times higher than regular admissions? So what if early decision favors the rich, the trained test-takers and white people in general? And so what if accepting her early decision means that Brown won’t have to woo my sister during ADOCH or worry about providing her with any sort of financial aid flexibility? There might be a 10,000-word Atlantic article titled “Early Decision Racket” that delves further into this, but it’s long and boring, and so we don’t have to worry about it. Yawn.

And it’s not like the college-admissions game is money-driven in any way. Money is a social construct and has no role to play in any decision made by this university. The Admission Office doesn’t need to consider how much my parents will donate when my sister gets in (Leung gallery, ha, more like Liang gallery, amiright?). It won’t need to think about how the $69 my parents donated to the Brown Band will pale in comparison to their donations to club basketball, or recreational pole dancing, or nude underwater basket-weaving or whatever weird millennial thing my sister is into right now. It’s not like every donation counts, right?

Let’s say for arguments sake that these things, maybe, possibly, potentially, have a teeny-weenie effect on admission decisions. Ordinarily, I’d say that it’s better to talk about things like money or power or privilege honestly than to pretend they don’t exist at all. But we seem to be ignoring a lot of things about college admissions and, for now, I’m willing to sell my soul and journalistic integrity to help my parents avoid the inordinate cost of sending two kids to two different colleges.

Maybe one day I can read an article that features a name like Joyce Liang ’22 MD ’26 P ’46 ’48 ’51 ’59 GP ’74 ’79 and not involuntarily cringe about the admission connotations associated with such a title. But for now, I’m a sucker for the status quo.

So I appeal to you directly, Dean of Admissions Logan Powell: When you’re making your decisions this year, keep in mind that if my sister doesn’t get into Brown now, a school like your former employer, Princeton, just might pick her up in May. Imagine the horror … my family would have to disinherit her. Or worse, actually send her there.

Mark Liang ’19 can be reached at Please send responses to this opinion to and other op-eds to


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