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"Race" in College Admission FAQ & Discussion 8

tokenadulttokenadult Registered User Posts: 17,471 Senior Member
edited November 2011 in College Admissions
Ethnic Self-Identification Is Optional for College Admission


MODERATOR'S NOTE: There is a newer version of this thread now, with updated information. This thread is closed. See the new thread

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

for the latest discussion of this topic.

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. Below are examples of current application forms.

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

Similarly, 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

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.

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 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)
Post edited by tokenadult on
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