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"Race" in College Admission FAQ & Discussion 6

tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
edited January 2010 in College Admissions
MODERATOR'S EDIT:

This thread is closed, being superseded by a new thread

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

with updated information in the FAQ 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, and a new version of that regulation just 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. That self-identifying by ethnicity is optional has long been clear on the Common Application,

https://www.commonapp.org/CommonApp/Docs/downloadforms/CombinedFirstYearForms2010.pdf

which almost 400 colleges (for example Harvard, Carleton, 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
Please describe your background ________________________________________________
2. Regardless of your answer to the prior question, please select one or more of the
following ethnicities that best describe you:
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 ________________
Please describe your background ________________________________________________
O Asian (including Indian subcontinent and Philippines)
Please describe your background ________________________________________________
O Black or African American (including Africa and Caribbean)
Please describe your background ________________________________________________
O Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (Original Peoples)
Please describe your background ________________________________________________
O White (including Middle Eastern)
Please describe your background ________________________________________________

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

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

which 77 colleges, including Harvard, accept.

Columbia University has its own application form,

http://www.studentaffairs.columbia.edu/admissions/sites/admissions/files/webfm/firstyearapp.pdf

including an optional section for ethnic self-identification:
ETHNICITY/RACE INFORMATION

The information below is optional. Please respond to questions 1 and 2, for governmental recordkeeping and reporting requirements.

1. Are you Hispanic or Latino (person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central America, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.) Yes No

2. What is your race? (Select one or more of the following five categories.)

American Indian or Alaska Native

Asian

Black or African American

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

White

Columbia asks additional optional questions to allow applicants to indicate affiliation with smaller groups that fit into the overall federally defined "race" categories, including asking for tribal affiliation and enrollment numbers for American Indian applicants.

MIT also has its own application form, which this year takes responses online but allows a .PDF download of how it looks as it is filled out. The online version of the form asks:
Ethnicity (check all that apply):

1) Are you Hispanic or Latino?
Yes, Hispanic or Latino (Including Spain) No
Which best describes your background?
Central America
Cuba
Mexico
Puerto Rico
South America (Excluding Brazil)
Spain
Other

2) Regardless of your answer to the previous question, please check one or more of the following groups in which you consider yourself to be a member:


American Indian or Alaska Native (including all Original Peoples of the Americas)
Which best describes your background?
Alaska Native
Chippewa
Choctaw
Cherokee
Navajo
Sioux
Other

Are you Registered?
No Yes, please enter Registration number

Asian (including Indian subcontinent and Philippines)
Which best describes your background?
China
India
Japan
Korea
Pakistan
Philippines
Vietnam
Other East Asian
Other Indian Subcontinent
Other Southeast Asian


Black or African American (including Africa and Caribbean)
Which best describes your background?
African American
African
Caribbean
Other


Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander (Original Peoples)
Which best describes your background?
Guam
Hawaii
Samoa
Other Pacific Islands (excluding Philippines)


White (including Middle Eastern)
Which best describes your background?
Europe
Middle East
Other

but the .PDF view of the form does not show all the detailed subgroups, and adds "(optional)" after the section heading.

The University of North Carolina uses an online form, and as the very first part of the online account creation process, it asks for demographic information, including
Are you Hispanic or Latino? Yes No

Please select all that apply. This information is optional and will not be used in a discriminatory manner.
American Indian or Alaska Native Asian Black or African American
White Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

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 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/HighSchoolTranscriptImplementationGuideV1.0.2.pdf

and may not be 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)
edited January 2010
1082 replies
Post edited by tokenadult on
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Replies to: "Race" in College Admission FAQ & Discussion 6

  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
    College reporting to the federal government is based on the U.S. Census bureau definitions for ethnic categories, which in turn are based on regulations from the Office of Management and Budget, because colleges are required to report by federal regulations,

    Revisions to the Standards for the Classification of Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity

    and you can look the definitions up on the Web. As the Census Bureau itself notes,

    "These categories are sociopolitical constructs and should not be interpreted as being scientific or anthropological in nature."

    Black or African American persons, percent, 2000
    White. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as "White" or report entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish.

    Black or African American. A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as "Black, African Am., or Negro," or provide written entries such as African American, Afro American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Haitian.

    American Indian and Alaska Native. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment.

    Asian. 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 "Asian Indian," "Chinese," "Filipino," "Korean," "Japanese," "Vietnamese," and "Other Asian."

    Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. It includes people who indicate their race as "Native Hawaiian," "Guamanian or Chamorro," "Samoan," and "Other Pacific Islander.



    Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2000

    "Hispanics or Latinos are those people who classified themselves in one of the specific Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino categories listed on the Census 2000 questionnaire -'Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano,' 'Puerto Rican', or 'Cuban' -as well as those who indicate that they are 'other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.' Persons who indicated that they are 'other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino' include those whose origins are from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, the Dominican Republic or people identifying themselves generally as Spanish, Spanish-American, Hispanic, Hispano, Latino, and so on.

    "Origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person's parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States.

    "People who identify their origin as Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino may be of any 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

    You'll see that footnote 2 at the bottom of the NCES webpage says,

    "The categories are presented in order of numerical frequency in the population, rather than alphabetically. Previous research studies have found that following alphabetical order in the question categories creates difficulties. That is, having "American Indian or Alaska Native" as the first category results in substantial over reporting of this category."

    So the preferred order for listing racial categories to gather data for federal reporting is to first ask about Hispanic ethnicity, as defined by federal law and self-identified by the student, and then to ask about "race," again as defined by federal law and self-identified by the student, with the preferred order of listing race categories being

    White

    Black or African American

    Asian

    American Indian or Alaska Native

    Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

    in that order. But in actual practice most colleges do not list the categories in that preferred order on their application forms, but rather in alphabetical order.

    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 has 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."

    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 and planned practices of colleges as they prepare to implement the new federal regulations for high school class of 2010 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.
    · Reply · Share
  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads 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, and full of good hope for this country's future, that more and more college applicants are declining to self-report their ethnicity to colleges,

    News: None of the Above - Inside Higher Ed

    which 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.

    The latest version of the Minorities in Higher Education Report

    http://www.acenet.edu/AM/Template.cfm?Section=CAREE&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=23716

    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 groups, and the growth of the group "race unknown."
    · Reply · Share
  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads 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 2008 ENTERING CLASS

    32 percent 1st-year, 26 percent undergrad at Bryn Mawr

    http://www.brynmawr.edu/institutionalresearch/documents/CDS2008_2009.pdf

    29 percent 1st-year, 24 percent undergrad at Scripps College

    Scripps College : Common Data Set

    24 percent 1st-year at Colby College

    College Search - Colby College - At a Glance

    23 percent 1st-year, 16 percent undergrad at William and Mary

    http://web.wm.edu/ir/CDS/cds0809.xls

    22 percent 1st-year, 14 percent undergrad at Yale

    http://www.yale.edu/oir/cds.pdf

    22 percent 1st-year, 18 percent undergrad at Reed College

    Reed College 2008-09 Common Data Set SecB

    22 percent 1st-year, 21 percent undergrad at Amherst College

    https://www.amherst.edu/media/view/98052/original/2008%20Enrollment%20and%20Persistence.pdf

    20 percent 1st-year, 15 percent undergrad at Vanderbilt

    CDS B

    20 percent 1st-year at University of Rochester

    College Search - University of Rochester - U of R - At a Glance

    18 percent 1st-year at Penn

    College Search - University of Pennsylvania - Penn - At a Glance

    18 percent 1st-year, 15 percent undergrad at Case Western Reserve

    http://www.case.edu/president/cir/200809cds/enroll08.pdf

    17 percent 1st-year, 14 percent undergrad at Brown

    http://www.brown.edu/Administration/Institutional_Research/documents/Enrollment2008.pdf

    16 percent 1st-year at Carnegie Mellon

    College Search - Carnegie Mellon University - At a Glance

    16 percent 1st-year, 15 percent undergrad at Cornell

    http://dpb.cornell.edu/documents/1000420.pdf#pagemode=bookmarks

    16 percent 1st-year at Tufts University

    College Search - Tufts University - At a Glance

    16 percent 1st-year, 11 percent undergrad at University of Richmond

    http://oir.richmond.edu/CommonDataSets/CDS0809_B.pdf

    15 percent 1st-year, 14 percent undergrad at Harvard

    http://www.provost.harvard.edu/institutional_research/Provost_-_CDS2008_2009_Harvard_for_Web_Clean.pdf

    15 percent 1st-year at Chicago

    College Search - University of Chicago - At a Glance

    14 percent 1st-year at Pomona

    College Search - Pomona College - At a Glance

    14 percent 1st-year, 8 percent undergrad at Wesleyan University

    http://www.wesleyan.edu/ir/cds/cds2008-09.pdf

    13 percent 1st-year, 7 percent undergrad at Stanford

    Stanford University: Common Data Set 2008-2009

    13 percent 1st-year at Cooper Union

    College Search - Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art - Cooper - At a Glance

    12 percent 1st-year at University of Miami

    College Search - University of Miami - UM - At a Glance

    11 percent 1st-year at Washington U in St. Louis

    College Search - Washington University in St. Louis - Washington U. - At a Glance

    11 percent 1st-year at NYU

    College Search - New York University - NYU - At a Glance

    11 percent 1st-year at Lehigh

    College Search - Lehigh University - At a Glance

    11 percent 1st-year at Whitman

    College Search - Whitman College - At a Glance

    11 percent 1st-year, 8 percent undergrad at Hamilton College

    https://my.hamilton.edu/college/institutional_research/CDS2008_2009.pdf

    10 percent 1st-year, 11 percent undergrad at Swarthmore College

    http://www.swarthmore.edu/Documents/administration/ir/cds2008.pdf

    10 percent undergrad at Johns Hopkins University

    U-CAN: Johns Hopkins University

    9 percent 1st-year, 8 percent undergrad at Columbia

    College Search - Columbia University - At a Glance

    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/opir/abstract/2008-enrollment_ethnicity.htm

    9 percent 1st-year, 7 percent undergrad at Virginia

    UVa CDS: B. Enrollment

    9 percent 1st-year at Tulane University

    College Search - Tulane University - At a Glance

    9 percent 1st-year at Davidson College

    College Search - Davidson College - At a Glance

    8 percent 1st-year, 7 percent undergrad at Princeton

    http://registrar.princeton.edu/university_enrollment_sta/common_cds2008.pdf

    8 percent 1st-year at United States Naval Academy

    College Search - United States Naval Academy - Navy - At a Glance
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
    99 percent 1st-year at Hillsdale College

    College Search - Hillsdale College - At a Glance

    95 percent 1st-year at Howard University

    College Search - Howard University - At a Glance

    86 percent 1st-year at Keystone College

    College Search - Keystone College - At a Glance

    82 percent 1st-year at McGill University

    College Search - McGill University - McGill - At a Glance

    80 percent 1st-year at Savannah College of Art and Design

    College Search - Savannah College of Art and Design - SCAD - At a Glance

    54 percent 1st-year at Wilmington University

    College Search - Wilmington University - At a Glance

    30 percent at Smith College

    College Search - Smith College - At a Glance

    29 percent 1st-year at Champlain College

    College Search - Champlain College - CC - At a Glance

    28 percent 1st-year at Rhode Island School of Design

    College Search - Rhode Island School of Design - RISD - At a Glance

    26 percent 1st-year at George Mason

    College Search - George Mason University - At a Glance

    23 percent 1st-year at Boston University

    College Search - Boston University - BU - At a Glance

    23 percent 1st-year at Hartwick College

    College Search - Hartwick College - The Wick - At a Glance
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads 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. 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.

    From the Association for Institutional Research FAQ:

    FAQ Race/Ethnicity Topics
    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.
    · Reply · Share
  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads 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)

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=4987623155291151023&q=Bakke+Regents+California&hl=en&as_sdt=2002

    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)

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=5183084208914209139&q=Grutter+Bollinger&hl=en&as_sdt=2002

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

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=6805287674686880550&q=Gratz+Bollinger&hl=en&as_sdt=2002

    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

    A news report about one federal Department of Education Office of Civil Rights inquiry can be found in the Daily Princetonian newspaper:

    Department of Education expands inquiry into Jian Li bias case - The Daily Princetonian
    · Reply · Share
  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads 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. Today I look forward to an American society and ultimately a world society in which people are treated as people, free to take on or disregard ethnic identities as they each individually decide.
    · Reply · Share
  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads 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.

    Black or African American persons, percent, 2000

    "White. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as 'White' or report entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish.

    "Black or African American. A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as 'Black, African Am., or Negro,' or provide written entries such as African American, Afro American, Kenyan, Nigerian, or Haitian."

    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,

    Black or African American persons, percent, 2000

    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.

    My parents were born in Pakistan. I was born in the United States.

    By the federal definitions,

    Black or African American persons, percent, 2000

    you are Asian.

    "Asian. 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 'Asian Indian,' 'Chinese,' 'Filipino,' 'Korean,' 'Japanese,' 'Vietnamese,' and 'Other Asian.'"

    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.
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads 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 ( thread-opening post here ).

    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 #6

    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, many colleges report lots of applicants as "race/ethnicity unknown," so not every admission committee guesses about every applicant.
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads 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

    Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin, percent, 2000

    "Hispanics or Latinos are those people who classified themselves in one of the specific Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino categories listed on the Census 2000 questionnaire -'Mexican, Mexican Am., Chicano,' 'Puerto Rican', or 'Cuban' -as well as those who indicate that they are 'other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino.' Persons who indicated that they are 'other Spanish/Hispanic/Latino' include those whose origins are from Spain, the Spanish-speaking countries of Central or South America, the Dominican Republic or people identifying themselves generally as Spanish, Spanish-American, Hispanic, Hispano, Latino, and so on.

    "Origin can be viewed as the heritage, nationality group, lineage, or country of birth of the person or the person's parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States.

    "People who identify their origin as Spanish, Hispanic, or Latino may be of any 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.
    I am half Black/half Korean

    For this year's (2009-2010) admission season, 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.
    I am Persian.

    You are white by the federal definitions,

    Black or African American persons, percent, 2000

    as are various people of Middle Eastern origin.

    "White. A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. It includes people who indicate their race as 'White' or report entries such as Irish, German, Italian, Lebanese, Near Easterner, Arab, or Polish."

    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.
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads 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?
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
    The reading list

    Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions, June 21-26, 2009, Suggested Reading

    of the 2009 Harvard Summer Institute on College Admissions introduces several books on controversial issues in college admissions recommended by highly selective college admission officers. Their take on these issues may not all be uniform, and may not be the same as mine, but it's worthwhile looking at these books to gain some perspective on what some admissions officers read to prepare to do their work.
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
    fabrizio wrote:
    I noticed that the College Board didn't report any statistics for U Toronto or U Waterloo, suggesting that the schools either didn't give them to the College Board or don't keep them.

    That's a good question. Canadian colleges, of course, are not subject to United States federal law. I don't know why some colleges report Common Data Set information to the users of that information and others do not.
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  • mifunemifune 2733 replies28 threads Senior Member
    "I find it interesting, and full of good hope for this country's future, that more and more college applicants are declining to self-report their ethnicity to colleges."

    I agree and in the future I sincerely hope that race is completely disregarded as an admission factor. It is inherently discriminatory and race does not define anyone beyond a superficial level. Many students who are among the most highly qualified applicants who will become, or had the possibility of becoming, great leaders have been denied the opportunity for a great education because of something that they could not control.
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  • Seeme25Seeme25 207 replies94 threads Member
    Call me crazy, but I'm black and i didn't check the box to be included in the national achievement service. It was my personal boycott... i feel like these "ethic only recognitions" diminish the accomplishments of minorities. It's as if nothing one does would matter if they weren't a minority. i was only a commended student in the National Merit. But i think that means a little more than a semifinalist in the National Achievement. I know this because my friend (black) had around the same score as me and was a semifinalist. he was eventually chosen as a finalist.

    ...just my two cents
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  • EpicAznEpicAzn 54 replies48 threads Junior Member
    Although putting your race down on an application is optional, is it really gonna keep the adcoms from knowing what race you actually are? I mean, most people of Asian decent have last names that would signal that they were Asian.

    Also, does it look better to put your race or to leave it blank on an application?
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
    Although putting your race down on an application is optional, is it really gonna keep the adcoms from knowing what race you actually are?

    See FAQ section 2, in post #10 of this FAQ and discussion thread, and most of the other early posts. Lots of students get into great colleges without the colleges knowing the students' "race."

    Good luck in your applications.
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  • tokenadulttokenadult 15970 replies1501 threads Senior Member
    Call me crazy, but I'm black and i didn't check the box to be included in the national achievement service. It was my personal boycott.

    Every once in a while I hear about an applicant making a decision like that. Each applicant has to make up his or her own mind about what to do, but it is possible that any applicant of any ethnicity might decide to be categorized just as part of humanity, with no particular other categorization. To each their own.

    Good luck in your applications.
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  • Sapper1815Sapper1815 40 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Canadian universities don't ask for race/ethnicity data, and aren't required to. The stats for McGill appear to refer to 82% Canadian, 18% foreign students.
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