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"Race" in College Admission FAQ & Discussion 9

tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
edited July 2012 in College Admissions
[Moderator's note: This thread has been superseded by a newer FAQ and discussion thread,

http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-admissions/1366406-race-college-admission-faq-discussion-10-a.html

in which you are all invited to participate. Accordingly, this thread will be closed to further posts.]

Ethnic Self-Identification Is Optional for College Admission

Students are often puzzled about how to respond to questions on college applications about race or ethnicity. The questions are required by a federal regulation, a new version of which from 2007 came into effect for the 2009-2010 application season. The regulation

U.S. Department of Education; Office of the Secretary; Final Guidance on Maintaining, Collecting, and Reporting Racial and Ethnic Data to the U.S. Department of Education [OS]

makes clear that self-identifying ethnicity is OPTIONAL for students in higher education. Below are examples of current application forms.

That self-identifying by ethnicity is optional has long been clear on the Common Application,

https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/Docs/DownloadForms/2012/2012AppFY_download.pdf

which more than 450 colleges (for example Harvard, Carleton, the University of Michigan, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Virginia) use as their main or sole application form. The latest version of the Common Application includes a section titled Demographics with a subsection printed on a gray background with the heading "Optional The items with a gray background are optional. No information you provide will be used in a discriminatory manner."

The Common Application optional section includes the federally specified questions about ethnicity:
1. Are you Hispanic/Latino?
O Yes, Hispanic or Latino (including Spain) O No
If yes, please describe your background ________________________________________________
2. Regardless of your answer to the prior question, please indicate how you identify yourself. (Check one or more and describe your background.)
O American Indian or Alaska Native (including all Original Peoples of the Americas)
Are you Enrolled? O Yes O No If yes, please enter Tribal Enrollment Number _________________________
________________________________________________
O Asian (including Indian subcontinent and Philippines)
________________________________________________
O Black or African American (including Africa and Caribbean)
________________________________________________
O Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (Original Peoples)
________________________________________________
O White (including Middle Eastern)
________________________________________________

Self-identifying ethnicity has also always clearly been optional on the Universal College Application,

https://www.universalcollegeapp.com/Library/PrintPreview/Universal_College_Application_Blank.pdf

which various colleges, including Harvard, accept.

Other colleges use their own application forms, but all must ask an ethnicity question as specified by the new federal regulation. But that question is optional in any case by law, whether the college notes that the question is optional or not.

The University of Minnesota has an online application form, and its question is like this:

Optional
Providing the information below is voluntary and will not be used in a discriminatory manner. These questions comply with the U.S. Department of Education's new standards for ethnic and racial data collection.

* Ethnicity: Are you Hispanic or Latino?
Yes No

* Race: Please select one or more that apply.
* American Indian or Alaska Native
* Asian
* Black or African American
* Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander
* White

The colleges have to ask for ethnicity data, and have to report them to the federal government, but students don't have to self-identify with any ethnic or racial category. Colleges are NOT required to use self-identified race or ethnicity as an admission factor. Some colleges do and some do not. (Some state colleges and universities are prohibited by state law in their states from considering race as an admission factor.) The questions are asked for federal reporting requirements but may or may not be a significant admission factor at some college you like. At ALL United States colleges, with a sole exception*, it is permissible to decline to answer the questions during the admission process.

High school transcript indication of student race/ethnicity is optional

http://www.pesc.org/library/docs/standards/High%20School%20Transcript/XML%20HS%20Trsc%20Impl%20Guide%20V%201.1.0.pdf

and is not done at all in whole states of the United States.

Don't worry about it. Self-identify or not as you wish. You are always free to self-identify with humankind as a whole by not self-identifying with any narrower subset of humankind. Recognize that students from a variety of ethnic groups--including whatever group or groups you would identify with, if any--are admitted to each of your favorite colleges each year. On the other hand, admission to some colleges (e.g., Yale or Amherst) is just plain competitive, so lots of outstanding students self-identified with each ethnic group you can imagine (or not self-identified with any group) are not admitted each year. Do your best on your application, apply to a safety, and relax.

http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-search-selection/493318-don-t-forget-apply-safety-college.html

*The sole exception to the general statement that self-identifying ethnicity is optional in the college admission process is a federally administered college for American Indians (Native Americans),

SIPI - Admissions and Records

which is a unique example, even among tribal colleges,

Tribal College List -- White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities

of a college that is truly for students of one ethnic group, a college operated by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). But even other BIA colleges appear to accept students from a variety of ethnicities, and that is definitely true of and reported by other tribal colleges.

College Search - Leech Lake Tribal College - LLTC - At a Glance

College Search - Little Priest Tribal College - LPTC - At a Glance

(scroll down for federal reported ethnicity of students)
Post edited by tokenadult on
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Replies to: "Race" in College Admission FAQ & Discussion 9

  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    College reporting to the federal government is based on the U.S. Census bureau definitions for ethnicity and race categories, which in turn are based on regulations from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which were announced on 30 October 1997

    Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity | The White House

    to take effect no later than 1 January 2003 for data collection by all federal agencies.

    The Department of Education has more recently updated its guidance to colleges on how to ask ethnicity and race questions

    U.S. Department of Education; Office of the Secretary; Final Guidance on Maintaining, Collecting, and Reporting Racial and Ethnic Data to the U.S. Department of Education [OS]

    or

    http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/other/2007-4/101907c.pdf

    and requested colleges change their forms by the high school class of 2010 application year to ask a two-part question, first inquiring about Hispanic ethnicity and then about race, for each student. The student will still be free to decline to answer either part of the question.
    Unlike elementary and secondary institutions, generally, postsecondary institutions and Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) grantees use self-identification only and do not use observer identification. As discussed elsewhere in this notice, postsecondary institutions and RSA grantees will also be permitted to continue to include a 'race and ethnicity unknown' category when reporting data to the Department. This category is being continued in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) because the National Center for Education Statistics’ experience has shown that (1) a substantial number of college students have refused to identify a race and (2) there is often not a convenient mechanism for college administrators to use observer identification.

    You can look up the detailed category definitions on the website of the United States Bureau of the Census. As the Census Bureau itself notes,
    The data on race were derived from answers to the question on race that was asked of all people. The concept of race as used by the Census Bureau reflects self-identification by people according to the race or races with which they most closely identify. These categories are sociopolitical constructs and should not be interpreted as being scientific or anthropological in nature.

    American FactFinder Help

    Categories used by colleges and universities to report to the federal government follow the categories used in the 2010 federal census under the 1997 OMB regulations.

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf
    "White" refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as "White" or reported entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Arab, Moroccan, or Caucasian.

    "Black or African American" refers to a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as "Black, African Am., or Negro" or reported entries such as African American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Haitian.

    "American Indian or Alaska Native" refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment. This category includes people who indicated their race(s) as "American Indian or Alaska Native" or reported their enrolled or principal tribe, such as Navajo, Blackfeet, Inupiat, Yup’ik, or Central American Indian groups or South American Indian groups.

    "Asian" refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as "Asian" or reported entries such as "Asian Indian," "Chinese," "Filipino," "Korean," "Japanese," "Vietnamese," and "Other Asian" or provided other detailed Asian responses.

    "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander" refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as "Pacific Islander" or reported entries such as "Native Hawaiian," "Guamanian or Chamorro," "Samoan," and "Other Pacific Islander" or provided other detailed Pacific Islander responses.

    These federal standards mandate that race and ethnicity (Hispanic origin) are separate and distinct concepts and that when collecting these data via self-identification, two different questions must be used.

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf
    Definition of Hispanic or Latino Origin Used in the 2010 Census "Hispanic or Latino" refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.

    The federal Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has posted guidance to colleges about how they are to ask about student ethnicity and race according to the federally defined categories.

    Standard 1-5 - NCES Statistical Standards

    The instructions on the National Center for Education Statistics website provide details on how word ethnicity and race questionnaires and how colleges should report the various categories self-reported by students to the federal government.

    See the National Center for Education Statistics Race/Ethnicity FAQ

    http://surveys.nces.ed.gov/ipeds/visFaq_re.aspx

    and the Association for Institutional Research Race/Ethnicity Information webpage

    Race/Ethnicity Information

    and its subpages for more information about the current of colleges as they implement the federal regulations for applicants to college.

    Students of higher education (and applicants to schools of postsecondary education) are treated as adults, and are explicitly permitted to decline to identify their ethnic or racial category.

    Note that the decennial census in the United States redefines "race" categories from time to time,

    Should the Census Offer 'Negro' as an Identity Option? - TIME

    and there is no consistency between the practice of the United States and that of any other country in this regard.

    Moreover, not all consumers or producers of federal statistics on "race" follow exactly the same set of rules for determing race or reporting persons of more than one race,

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/10/us/10count.html

    so there is considerably ambiguity in the officially reported statistics.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    It would be dishonest, and possibly grounds for revoking an offer of admission, to self-report according to a category that doesn't fit you at all. On the other hand, all of the categories named in federal law are based on self-identification and colleges have no means to double-check every student's self-identifying.

    I find it interesting that more and more college applicants are declining to self-report their ethnicity to colleges. Declining to self-report is everyone's right under law and something that someone of any ethnic self-identification might choose to do. People can decide this issue for themselves, but I like to emphasize in my own life, as a member of a "biracial" family, the common humanity my children, my wife, and I share with all our neighbors and compatriots. We prefer the category label "human" but accept the category label "postracial" in our household.

    The latest version of the Minorities in Higher Education Report

    http://www.acenet.edu/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Programs_and_Services&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&CONTENTID=42703

    has a lot of detailed numbers (all based on reports colleges make to the federal government) about the growth in college enrollment in all the reported ethnic categories, and the growth of the reported category "race/ethnicity unknown." The "race/ethnicity unknown" category has been the fastest-growing category by far in the reported years. Similarly, news reports indicate that many Americans no longer think in the same race or ethnicity categories that divided earlier generations of Americans.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/20/us/20race.html

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/us/25race.html

    Many college applicants find it inconvenient to fit themselves into categories they have never applied to themselves until the college application season.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/us/14admissions.html
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    Here are some selective colleges with high percentages of students reported as "race unknown." These figures are based on Item B2, enrollment by racial/ethnic category, reported in the Common Data Set reports for each college (which in turn is based on IPEDS reporting to the federal government).

    FALL 2010 ENTERING CLASS

    21 percent undergrad at Colby

    U-CAN: Colby College

    20 percent undergrad at Claremont McKenna

    U-CAN: Claremont McKenna College

    20 percent undergrad at Smith

    U-CAN: Smith College

    9 percent 1st-year, 17 percent undergrad at William and Mary

    http://iae.wm.edu/ir/CDS/cds_1011_part_b.pdf

    17 percent undergrad at Reed

    U-CAN: Reed College

    9 percent 1st-year, 16 percent undergrad at Brandeis

    http://www.brandeis.edu/institutionalresearch/pdfs/CDS2010_2011_final.pdf

    15 percent undergrad at Pomona College

    U-CAN: Pomona College

    14 percent undergrad at Chicago

    U-CAN: University of Chicago

    14 percent undergrad at American University

    U-CAN: American University

    7 percent first-year, 13 percent undergrad at Amherst College

    https://www.amherst.edu/media/view/298331/original/Enrollment%20and%20Persistence.pdf

    13 percent undergrad at Tufts

    U-CAN: Tufts University

    11 percent 1st-year, 13 percent undergrad at Case Western

    http://www.case.edu/president/cir/201011cds/enroll11.pdf

    13 percent undergrad at Lafayette

    U-CAN: Lafayette College

    12 percent undergrad at Harvard

    U-CAN: Harvard University

    12 percent undergrad at University of Richmond

    U-CAN: University of Richmond

    12 percent undergrad at Cornell

    U-CAN: Cornell University

    11 percent undergrad at Brown

    U-CAN: Brown University

    10 percent undergrad at Hamilton College

    U-CAN: Hamilton College

    9 percent undergrad at Yale

    http://oir.yale.edu/sites/default/files/cds_1.pdf

    9 percent undergrad at Penn

    U-CAN: University of Pennsylvania

    9 percent undergrad at Swarthmore

    U-CAN: Swarthmore College

    10 percent 1st-year, 9 percent undergrad at Franklin Olin

    http://www.olin.edu/DataSets/documents/Common%20Data%20Set%202010-2011%20B.pdf

    9 percent undergrad at Wesleyan University

    U-CAN: Wesleyan University

    9 percent undergrad at Boston University

    U-CAN: Boston University

    9 percent undergrad at Whitman

    U-CAN: Whitman College

    8 percent 1st-year, 8 percent undergrad at Stanford

    Stanford University: Common Data Set 2010-2011

    8 percent undergrad at Washington University in St. Louis.

    U-CAN: Washington University in St. Louis

    7 percent undergrad at Duke

    U-CAN: Duke University

    7 percent undergrad at Rice

    U-CAN: Rice University

    7 percent undergrad at Boston College

    U-CAN: Boston College

    6 percent 1st-year, 7 percent undergrad at Carnegie Mellon

    http://www.cmu.edu/ira/CDS/pdf/cds_2010_11/b_enrollment_and_persistence.pdf

    6 percent 1st-year, 7 percent undergrad at UC Berkeley

    http://opa.berkeley.edu/statistics/cds/2010-2011.pdf

    6 percent undergrad at Dartmouth

    http://members.ucan-network.org/dartmouth

    6 percent undergrad at Scripps

    U-CAN: Scripps College

    6 percent undergrad at Lehigh

    U-CAN: Lehigh University

    5 percent undergrad at Harvey Mudd

    U-CAN: Harvey Mudd College

    5 percent undergrad at Vanderbilt

    U-CAN: Vanderbilt University

    3 percent undergrad at Princeton

    U-CAN: Princeton University
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    A lot of applicants wonder if colleges will guess their ethnicity from their family name, or from their parents' birthplaces, or from something else that appears on the application form. (Such a guess would be a wild guess, and likely to be wrong, in my own children's case.) But it should be clear that when Harvard has been reporting to the federal government for years that about one out of every seven enrolled students at Harvard is "race unknown" that Harvard isn't bothering to do this. Harvard endeavors to admit almost every student who applies, as does Yale, but both colleges report that more than one eighth of the students enrolled are "race unknown" even after enrolling. Colleges don't bother to guess what they don't know. They aren't required to, and they aren't expected to, and they don't make any particular inference about students who exercise their right not to self-report ethnicity.

    Note that colleges are not permitted, by federal guidelines,

    https://surveys.nces.ed.gov/ipeds/visFaq_re.aspx

    to include a questionnaire checkbox such as "decline to state" or "refuse to answer."
    12) Can I include a "refuse to answer" checkbox on my data collection forms?

    No. The guidance does not allow for such a response when collecting the data.

    Further, colleges are not allowed to use national origin information to infer student race.
    13) Can I ask a student his/her nationality to determine race and/or ethnicity?

    No. Nationality is not a sufficient proxy for determining race or ethnicity.

    Other Frequently Asked Questions and answers in the guidelines make this point very clear.
    23) How do I know if a student or staff member refused to answer the race question, rather than just overlooking it?

    For postsecondary institutions, the Department has indicated that presenting the data collection form to the respondent is sufficient to ensure that individuals have had the opportunity to respond to the race and ethnicity questions. It is not necessary to prompt the respondent to complete one or both questions if they have been left unanswered. . (For elementary and secondary institutions, the criteria for this are more stringent, since they are not allowed to report race and ethnicity unknown.)

    24) How do I deal with nonresponse?

    Under the guidance, IPEDS continues to allow the reporting of "Race and ethnicity unknown."

    From the Association for Institutional Research FAQ:

    AIR Race/Ethnicity FAQ
    Q: Can I require students/employees to complete the race/ethnicity questions?

    A: No. You may only ask.

    Q: How do I know if a student or employee refused to answer the questions or just overlooked them?

    A: You don't.

    Q: What is the level of effort needed to collect the new information?

    A: Presenting the data collection form to students/employees is sufficient to ensure that individuals have had an opportunity to respond. Postsecondary institutions can report unknown when the respondent doesn’t reply—there is no need to use third-party observation to supply race/ethnicity.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    United States Supreme Court cases on race as a factor in admission to state universities illustrate what some colleges have done over the years.

    Regents of the University of California v. Bakke 438 U.S. 265 (1978)

    Bakke Regents California - Google Scholar

    ruled on the admission practices of the University of California Davis medical school in the 1970s. The holding of the 5-4 divided court was that Bakke's constitutional rights had been violated by the UC Davis practice of having places in the class reserved for minority applicants and ordered Bakke's admission, while the 5-4 dictum (by a different combination of justices) written by Justice Lewis Powell suggested that future cases might find other patterns of consideration of race in higher education admission at state universities to be constitutionally permissible.

    Two subsequent cases, decided by the Supreme Court on the same day, define current standards of constitutional review of college admission practices.

    Grutter v. Bollinger 539 U.S. 306 (2003)

    Grutter Bollinger - Google Scholar

    Gratz v. Bollinger 539 U.S. 244 (2003)

    Gratz Bollinger - Google Scholar

    Many parents and students mistakenly believe that
    private colleges can do whatever they want

    when considering race as an admission factor. That is not a correct statement of the law. Indeed, a dictum in the Bakke case suggested that any practice illegal for state universities under the fourteenth amendment (the ground of decision in Bakke) would be equally illegal under federal civil rights statutes applicable to all colleges that receive federal funds (which are essentially all colleges in the United States, with exceedingly few exceptions).

    The Civil Rights Office of the federal Department of Education is the regulator of college practices in admission as regards "race." In 2003, the office published an interesting study of various models of college admission policies,

    RACE-NEUTRAL APPROACHES IN EDUCATION:

    including some "race neutral" policies. That office also investigates complaints of violation of equal protection under civil rights law. Here is the link for how to report violations of federal civil rights laws in education:

    How to File a Discrimination Complaint with the Office for Civil Rights
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    I'm a baby boomer, which is another way of saying that I'm a good bit older than most people who post on College Confidential. I distinctly remember the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated--the most memorable day of early childhood for many people in my generation--and I remember the "long hot summer" and other events of the 1960s civil rights movement.

    One early memory I have is of a second grade classmate (I still remember his name, which alas is just common enough that it is hard to Google him up) who moved back to Minnesota with his northern "white" parents after spending his early years in Alabama. He told me frightening stories about Ku Klux Klan violence to black people (the polite term in those days was "Negroes"), including killing babies, and I was very upset to hear about that kind of terrorism happening in the United States. He made me aware of a society in which people didn't all treat one another with decency and human compassion, unlike the only kind of society I was initially aware of from growing up where I did. So I followed subsequent news about the civil rights movement, including the activities of Martin Luther King, Jr. up to his assassination, with great interest.

    It happens that I had a fifth-grade teacher, a typically pale, tall, and blonde Norwegian-American, who was a civil rights activist and who spent her summers in the south as a freedom rider. She used to tell our class about how she had to modify her car (by removing the dome light and adding a locking gas cap) so that Klan snipers couldn't shoot her as she opened her car door at night or put foreign substances into her gas tank. She has been a civil rights activist all her life, and when I Googled her a few years ago and regained acquaintance with her, I was not at all surprised to find that she is a member of the civil rights commission of the town where I grew up.

    One day in fifth grade we had a guest speaker in our class, a young man who was then studying at St. Olaf College through the A Better Chance (ABC) affirmative action program. (To me, the term "affirmative action" still means active recruitment of underrepresented minority students, as it did in those days, and I have always thought that such programs are a very good idea, as some people have family connections to selective colleges, but many other people don't.) During that school year (1968-1969), there was a current controversy in the United States about whether the term "Negro" or "Afro-American" or "black" was most polite. So a girl in my class asked our visitor, "What do you want to be called, 'black' or 'Afro-American'?" His answer was, "I'd rather be called Henry." Henry's answer to my classmate's innocent question really got me thinking.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    I'm white but my ancestors are from South Africa. Can I put down that I am African American?

    The answer to this question is always the same, by the United States federal definitions.

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-05.pdf

    "DEFINITION OF WHITE USED IN THE 2010 CENSUS

    "According to OMB, 'White' refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

    "The White racial category includes people who marked the 'White' checkbox. It also includes respondents who reported entries such as Caucasian or White; European entries, such as Irish, German, and Polish; Middle Eastern entries, such as Arab, Lebanese, and Palestinian; and North African entries, such as Algerian, Moroccan, and Egyptian."

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-06.pdf

    "DEFINITION OF BLACK OR AFRICAN AMERICAN USED IN THE 2010 CENSUS

    "According to OMB, 'Black or African American' refers to a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa.

    "The Black racial category includes people who marked the 'Black, African Am., or Negro' checkbox. It also includes respondents who reported entries such as African American; Sub-Saharan African entries, such as Kenyan and Nigerian; and Afro-Caribbean entries, such as Haitian and Jamaican.*

    "*Sub-Saharan African entries are classified as Black or African American with the exception of Sudanese and Cape Verdean because of their complex, historical heritage. North African entries are classified as White, as OMB defines White as a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa."

    Here's a simple rule of thumb: if no one in South Africa would have called you "black" or "coloured," especially during the days of apartheid,

    Apartheid -- Africana

    you have no basis in America for calling yourself "African American," the official synonym of which is "black." A person who checks "Black or African American" is asserting that he or she has "origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa." Not all people who live on the continent of Africa have origins in a black racial group, and that is the official definition--you are only "African American" if you are black. If you call yourself white, and your friends do too, it doesn't matter where your parents were born, or what countries they lived in. You also have the choice of not indicating any ethnicity or race at all. What a college does with what it sees on your form varies from college to college.

    Good luck in your applications, and good luck to everyone else applying in the coming application season.

    My parents came from Somalia [Ghana, etc.]. Am I African American?

    By the federal definitions,

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-06.pdf

    Somali students who grew up in the United States are definitely black, and the terms "black" and "African American" are synonyms in the federal definitions of "race" categories. The same applies to young people whose parents came from other tropical African countries where black people live. (North African people are categorized as white by the federal definitions.) You also have the choice of not indicating any ethnicity or race at all. What a college does with what it sees on your form varies from college to college.

    Good luck in your applications, and good luck to everyone else applying in the coming application season.
    I am half Black/half Korean

    For admission seasons since 2009-2010, all college application forms are required by federal regulation to have an optional ethnicity question that is in two parts, first asking about Hispanic ethnicity (yes or no) and then asking about the federal defined "race" categories, with the instruction "select one or more" (or some language very similar to that) meaning that you can choose one or more category. (You can choose no category at all by not answering the question.) You also have the choice of not indicating any ethnicity or race at all. What a college does with what it sees on your form varies from college to college.

    Good luck in your applications, and good luck to everyone else applying in the coming application season.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    My parents were born in Pakistan. I was born in the United States.

    By the federal definitions,

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf

    you are Asian.

    "'Asian' refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as 'Asian' or reported entries such as 'Asian Indian,' 'Chinese,' 'Filipino,' 'Korean,' 'Japanese,' 'Vietnamese,' and
    'Other Asian' or provided other detailed Asian responses."

    You also have the choice of not indicating any ethnicity or race at all. What a college does with what it sees on your form varies from college to college.

    Good luck in your applications, and good luck to everyone else applying in the coming application season.
    Does being Indian as in people from India...count as being "Asian"? I've been given mixed responses.

    The mixed responses you have received are correct if they agree with the federal definition, which is that people from India (or Pakistan or Bangladesh or Sri Lanka) are Asian. That's the current federal definition. I can remember the time when people from that part of the world were officially deemed "white." The definitions are arbitrary. They may not be a good idea, but they are the law.

    You can, of course, decline to answer the race question on a college application, in which case your race will be officially reported by colleges to the federal government as "race unreported."
    Does being from the Philippines make me a URM?

    The federal definition of "Asian" (one "race" category for domestic students) definitely includes students of Filipino heritage. The "Pacific Islander" category includes people from Hawaii or from Guam, but it excludes people from Taiwan, the Philippines, Japan, or Indonesia (all of which are countries located on Pacific islands).

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf
    “Asian” refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent, including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as “Asian” or reported entries such as “Asian Indian,” “Chinese,” “Filipino,” “Korean,” “Japanese,” “Vietnamese,” and “Other Asian” or provided other detailed Asian responses.

    “Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander” refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as “Pacific Islander” or reported entries such as “Native Hawaiian,” “Guamanian or Chamorro,” “Samoan,” and “Other Pacific Islander” or provided other detailed Pacific Islander responses.

    I have not seen any evidence for claims one way or the other that colleges usually distinguish people from the Philippines for more favorable admission consideration than that given to other "Asian" applicants. Colleges each make up their own policies in this regard, but I'm not aware of any college that is on record as having such a policy. Filipino people I know locally have very lofty college ambitions and probably apply to college in large numbers around the country.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    Is it safe to leave the "race" part on Common Application blank? I heard people saying that it's better for people to leave it blank than to fill in a race that might get looked down on?

    The answer to this frequently asked question makes up the first few posts in this FAQ thread.

    You have and everyone has the legal right to leave the form blank ( post #1 ).

    The recent national trend has been for an increasing number of college applicants to decline to self-identify any ethnic group ( post #3 ).

    Many colleges admit many students each year for whom they do not know of any ethnic affiliation ( post #4 ).

    You don't need to worry about this. If you choose not to self-report any race or ethnicity, for whatever reason you have, the college won't hold that against you, because for all the college knows you are just a student who is very aware of your legal rights and chooses to exercise those rights. See

    post #5

    for evidence that colleges don't care about a blank response, because they can't infer anything from it, and aren't required to do anything about it.
    If I have an Asian last name, should I still indicate my race?

    The Census Bureau has done a study of the most common family names in the United States and what "race" or ethnicity is reported by people with those last names. A lot of family names are characteristic of (that is, highly correlated with) one federally defined "race" group or another, or of Hispanic ethnicity, but there are always exceptions. Wang is a family name in Norway as well as in China. "Leroy Johnson" could be a black man or a white man. And so on. People marry people of other "races," and adopt children from other "races," and thus family names are not an unerring guide to anyone's "race," especially if you look closely at the federal definitions.

    What you decide about how to fill out your application form is up to you. But notice that many great colleges report lots of applicants as "race/ethnicity unknown," so not every admission committee guesses about every applicant.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    So I am a middle class white guy, but my grandfather was full Mexican (this makes me a quarter).

    The definition of Hispanic ethnicity used by the federal government

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-04.pdf

    "Definition of Hispanic or Latino Origin Used in the 2010 Census

    "'Hispanic or Latino' refers to a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race."

    makes clear that a great variety of people of varying ancestry or "heritage" or "country of birth" can categorize themselves as Hispanic. You have the choice to indicate Hispanic ethnicity, by that definition, and to indicate white "race" after indicating Hispanic ethnicity. (The forms used in this application season first ask a Hispanic ethnicity yes-no question, and then suggest "select one or more" for the "race" question.) You also have the choice of not indicating any ethnicity or race at all. What a college does with what it sees on your form varies from college to college.

    It's always a good idea to let a college know about any diversity factor you might bring to a new enrolled class at the college. It's unclear how weighty different kinds of ethnic heritages are in college admission decisions at which colleges.

    Good luck in your applications, and good luck to everyone else applying in the coming application season.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    My family was born and raised in Morocco.

    You are white by the federal definitions,

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf

    as are other people of North African origin and various people of Middle Eastern origin.
    “White” refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as “White” or reported entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Arab, Moroccan, or Caucasian.

    You also have the choice of not indicating any ethnicity or race at all. What a college does with what it sees on your form varies from college to college.

    Good luck in your applications, and good luck to everyone else applying in the coming application season.
    I am Persian.

    You are white by the federal definitions,

    http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf

    as are other people of Near Eastern or Middle Eastern origin and various people of North African origin.
    “White” refers to a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicated their race(s) as “White” or reported entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Arab, Moroccan, or Caucasian.

    You also have the choice of not indicating any ethnicity or race at all. What a college does with what it sees on your form varies from college to college.

    Good luck in your applications, and good luck to everyone else applying in the coming application season.
    Since when was "Middle Eastern" a sub-category of "White"?

    Since the beginning of federal law on the subject. There has never been a separate "Middle Eastern" category (even though some people in some eras have asked for one) and Middle Eastern people have long been construed as just as white as Icelanders, Italians, Greeks, Latvians, and Irish people for purposes of any law in the United States that distinguished white people from other people.

    One consequence of this is that there was much more immigration to the United States in the 1920s by Arab people than by Chinese or Japanese people (who were banned from immigration to the United States). There have been various social consequences of this after arrival as well.

    This may not make sense to you, but it is the law.
  • tokenadulttokenadult Posts: 17,473Super Moderator Senior Member
    I'd like to ask a serious question, because in the midst of discussion of college admission policies there are from time to time references to "underrepresented" groups without explaining how "underrepresentation" is demonstrated.

    If a medium-size privately operated national research university takes applicants from all over the country, and indeed all over the world, but has a plurality of its applicants living within 500 miles of the university (a fairly common pattern), should the university

    a) balance "representation" by the world population of all college-age young people?

    b) balance "representation" by the national population of all college-age young people?

    c) balance "representation" by the regional population--within a specified distance from the college--of all college-age young people?

    d) balance "representation" by the world population of all college-age young people who have completed secondary education?

    e) balance "representation" by the national population of all college-age young people who have completed secondary education?

    f) balance "representation" by the regional population of all college-age young people who have completed secondary education?

    g) balance "representation" by the world population of all college-age young people who are as academically qualified--determined by that college's rules--as the least qualified admitted students from the year before?

    h) balance "representation" by the national population of all college-age young people who are as academically qualified--determined by that college's rules--as the least qualified admitted students from the year before?

    i) balance "representation" by the regional population of all college-age young people who are as academically qualified--determined by that college's rules--as the least qualified admitted students from the year before?

    j) balance "representation" by the actual group composition of that college's applicant pool that year?

    k) simply admit students based on the college's judgment of academic and personal qualifications, as long as its admission procedures admit some representatives of every major ethnic group officially recognized in the United States?

    There are quite a few possible standards here, with different possible results, and it's not usually clear to me which standard participants in the discussion are appealing to when they call one group or another "underrepresented." Underrepresented by how much? Which students actually apply to which colleges?
  • justinkjustink Posts: 228Registered User Junior Member
    Last year I was in the same situation as you all, applying to colleges using the commonapp.

    I got to the "Identify Yourself" question, and noticed that it said "Black OR African American"


    My dad is white, but from South Africa, so i technically am South African-American.

    Thinking I was being moral and honorable, I did not check the "African American" box.

    DO NOT BE LIKE ME IF YOU ARE IN A SIMILAR SITUATION

    Check the box. Just do it. I'm not saying I ended up in a bad school. I am super happy about choice for college and the program I am in. It's great. It really is.

    But now that I think about it and talk to my peers here, I realized I passed over a great opportunity to take advantage of a flaw. They all seem to know people who benefitted from checking the box in a racy situation like this.

    Everyone is trying to get that "edge". If you can, do it.

    Learn from my mistake.
  • aldfig0aldfig0 Posts: 872Registered User Member
    I wonder: if a member of a so called "overrepresented" group declines to report his/her race on the application, and removes all hints to it in other part of the application (like the essays), will that person have a higher chance of admission?
    (sorry if this has been already answered, the posts are way too long to read)
  • clandarkfireclandarkfire Posts: 320Registered User Member
    The percentages that are allegedly high for applicants who don't report race are somewhat misleading; for the most part, the percentages are significantly higher for those who do report their race.
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