I don’t want “affirmative action” to work in my favor, but it probably will even tho I don’t want to

Here’s the thing: my original college was in Puerto Rico (where I’m from). I did the bulk of my education there, and finished the rest in Texas: 18 credits at a CC, and 39 at a large major state university (that college required a bare minimum of 36 in order to graduate). So I was able to graduate from that large state school.

Here is the issue at hand: any college I’ll be applying for, since I’ll be applying to other large state school in Texas, and nearby southern states (mainly SEC and a few Big 12 schools), WILL GET TO SEE I DID THE BULK OF MY EDUCATION IN PUERTO RICO!!!

I really don’t want a school to either use this either for or against me OUTSIDE of looking at grades. Like, I don’t want some admissions officer from Bama be like: “oh, she’s some dumb bish because she’s PRican, let’s deny her”, or on the opposite end, one from like LSU be all like: “OMG, dIvErSiTy! Let’s have this chick ASAP, and ignore her four essays and five letters of recommendation”. See what I mean?

How can I avoid my very obvious ethnic background be evident?

If you are applying to graduate school, your undergraduate grades, GRE test scores, and recommendations will be among the primary factors considered by admissions officers.

Try to focus on why you want to attend a particular graduate program, not on why you suspect that you may be admitted or rejected.

What field?
What college did you graduate from?

Finally - are you looking to start a masters? a PhD? a JD?, an MBA?

The answers that you will receive depend on these details, because admissions processes to different programs and different degrees vary by quite a bit.


Also, it looks like the 18 and 39 (total 57) credits you mention are not the usual “semester credit hour” credits of which 120-128 are typically needed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree.

It would help others help you if you mentioned what major and college you graduated from, and what type of graduate program you want to attend.

Why are you assuming that the only reason that AO’s will be looking at your application is because you consider yourself diverse?

Where’s your GPA?
GRE scores?
Research potential? Research papers?
Departmental Letters of Recommendation.

I went onto graduate school as a very diverse candidate. I was asked about my GPA, GRE scores, academic research supporters, LOR’s and what I wanted to do in the future. In California, it’s illegal to use affirmative action to admit students. A number of other states have followed suit.

Focus on your graduate applications, your future research, your LOR’s and your interviews. If you fit the grad program, they will admit you; if you don’t, it won’t be because of your “diversity”.

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I agree with the other posters that you should focus on things they’ll definitely care about like grades, GREs, and recommendations.

Assuming any other factors “work in your favor” I also don’t see why that should be a problem. Many things I have no control over have worked in my favor. In terms of education, my upbringing and role models influenced the fact that I went to college and grad school in the first place. Beyond that, I’ve benefited from the lottery economy–more than many people I know and less than some others, e.g. who became millionaires at a young age.

I don’t resent my luck, good or bad. The only question is what you make of it. Get into the best graduate program, put in the best effort you can, and get the most out of it. Let other people worry about how you got there.

I said I did the bulk of my UG in Puerto Rico. I did 72 credits there. Plus the remaining in Texas…so let’s add the Texas credits: 18+39=129. So yes, I did more than enough to graduate. I take you missed the part where I said I did the bulk of my education in Puerto Rico.

It’s for a Ph.D: political science.

Overall GPA: 3.05

Major: 3.17

GRE: still don’t know, I’ll be taking it in about 10-12 weeks from now, but the mock online tests I’m taking put me in the 40th percentiles. I’m signing up for a top of the line prep course, so that should increase my score.

I am gathering letters of recommendation. Not just from professors/lecturers, but employers, and the like.

I currently work in my area of study as well: I work for a small-ish grassroots lobby. I was also mildly involved (in an indirect, but crucial way) in one of my state’s 2020 election lawsuits. I gathered voting records for a lead counsel from a few small counties as counter-evidence so the case could get dismissed. I was a super invisible figure.

Here’s my update:

No, that part was clear. My point is just that if you believe a graduate program is appropriate for you, then put in your best shot for it. How you got in matters much less than how you do once you’re there.


You can leave your race and ethnicity off of your application. Although, they will still see where you’re from, it gives them the message that you don’t want it to be a factor. You could be Asian from PR for all they would know. And as far as geographic diversity, I suspect they will consider you a TX resident not a PR resident.


I don’t “need” to do a graduate program for any particular reason (given how I already work as a professional policy analyst). However, I do want to appear “legit”, and research public policy as well. Then again, I do not intend to pursue any tenure since it’s not something I need nor want. I love being a policy analyst (as my primary trade), but it’d be cool to give lectures as a side gig as well.

For some PhD programs, this may be a problem. Many PhD programs have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.3 or higher.

Which programs are you looking at?

This requirement isn’t really set in stone, but, to bypass it, you would require a potential advisor to specifically request you, or you would need some glowing LoRs from top people in your field.

Here is the thing - unless somebody is independently wealthy, they cannot do a PhD unless they have 5 years of financial support (tuition + stipend) for the PhD program. This is expensive for the program, so they tend to be picky about who they select.

That means that you have to demonstrate that you are a good bet for them. You have to show that you can do the coursework, and, more importantly, that you will be able to perform a large body of research at a very high level.

Regarding your first question - admissions to PhD programs do not involve admission officers. PhD student applications are reviewed by the graduate committee of the program. The committee includes faculty and grad students.

They look over your application. Your application does not include essays.

It includes:

A. A cover letter, which is a good place to demonstrate that you understand what a PhD program in Poli Sci entails.
B. Your CV. Make sure that it is an academic CV, and that it does a good job of being professional and presents your experience in the best light possible.
C. Letters of Recommendation, which are critical. They should be, as I wrote, from people who can attest to your research and academic abilities.

These are the three most important parts of your application.

D. You will add your transcript, so they see that you have the coursework needed, and that you did well on the courses which are important in your field.
E. GRE scores. Not all programs as for GRE scores, and more programs are dropping them as a requirement, but many still do. You will want your scores to be at least in the top 80th percentile, and it would be better to have them higher.

F. You may be requested to add some examples of your work - papers, presentations, etc, from your classes, or perhaps conference presentations or peer reviewed articles. Even if these are not specifically requested, you may want to see if you have the possibility of submitting supporting material.

An important thing to remember is that almost all requirements can be waived if a faculty member in a PhD programs wants you to be their student, or if you have a very good LoR from a top person in the field. A friend of mine was accepted to a good PhD program with a 2.7 GPA, because she had been a field assistant for one of the top people in the field for few years, and he was able to attest that her research skills for this particular discipline where absolutely top notch. I know of another students whose GA was only so-so, but it was in entomology and he was known in the discipline as a top amature entomologist (he got a B in my class, but I wrote him one of the most enthusiastic LoRs I have ever written). He has finished his PhD and is doing a post doc.

What you should be doing is:
A. learning all that you can about Poli Sci research, and about the particular topics that interest you
B. Reaching out to potential PhD advisors in graduate programs which interest you.

While having a good GRE score can help you, these two activities are critical. Without them, it will be very challenging for you to be accepted to a PhD program.

As for your question: it is unlikely that you will suffer discrimination based on racial or ethnic identity. Your atypical trajectory could work for or against you. Nobody will accept you for a PhD program for “diversity”, unless you are considered qualified otherwise.

Diversity may cause them to select a certain qualified applicant as opposed to another equally qualified applicant. Sometimes there is some extra money so that they can accept a qualified minority applicant in addition to the ones for which their department has funding. Yes - PhD students cost money, so the number of students that are accepted each year depends on how much money a department or an individual faculty member happens to have.

A PhD is not required if you are a public policy expert and want to teach as an adjunct.

Unless you require a PhD to do the job that you want to do, there is no reason for you to do a PhD. A PhD is the least cost effective degree out there.


Go re-read @MWolf’s post. PhD admissions are a different animal from UG admissions and while diversity matters, there are field- and degree- specific metrics that also matter.

A PhD is first and foremost a research degree. If you haven’t done any primary research- through your own undergraduate work, or working in a policy position- you are starting on the back foot.

The people who select PhD candidates are definitionally academics, so your academic history matters: your relevant coursework, academic record and LoRs from faculty and researchers.

You are anxious that you not get an extra boost because of your ethnicity, which is admirable. But based on what you have posted here, your CV is pretty thin for a PhD program. That combined with your off-handedness in why you are considering doing a PhD at all is going to run head-long into applicants who are more experienced, more qualified and more dedicated. When universities are figuring out who they are going to support for 5 years, that will matter.


I’m not millionaire level rich (kinda far from it), but I do have many external funding sources that will pay for the degree in full. Like, paying for the degree will not be an absolute concern to the college (not for me). They’ll be getting their money AND (on top of my own job as an analyst) I have other sources of income to live very comfortably. If I didn’t had ways to find MY own funding, I wouldn’t be bothering with this.

My question was mainly about avoiding the dreaded “affirmative action” issue. Going into deep detail over what other research, writings and the like I’ve done felt very redundant to mention.

I mean, I’m applying for a goddamn Ph.D! Those are things that should come without saying. Should I also write my credit card’s number in here as well? Like, what if I had given details (or even the kind) of what sort of research I want to do and/or currently doing/planning, and someone else decides to rip it off?!

You can always apply to programs at state universities where the states have rules against use of race/ethnicity in admissions. For example, AZ, CA, FL, MI, NE, OK, TX, WA.

However, graduating from such a state university will not prevent people from making assumptions if they are prone to doing so and your race/ethnicity is visible to them, since there have been instances on these forums where posters assumed that state universities in those states were considering race/ethnicity in admissions when they actually were not.

I think you should probably stop your handwringing about being a diverse candidate. Your academic credentials are somewhat weak (grades, test scores) for quality PHD program programs. The best thing to do right now is study to increase your test scores and write the best essays and receive the best recommendations possible. Also, you should really understand what your academic or employment goals are at the end of your program


I think your focus is misplaced. When a department accepts grad students, they are looking for people who are ultimately going to be doing research, co-authoring papers, and speaking at conferences. While they may have some idea about diversity as a goal, that’s going to be secondary to accepting the best students they can (which could mean different things, whether it is obvious metrics of academic achievement, or some unique interests backed by letters of recommendation).

This is in contrast to their undergrad admissions. Undergrads are there to take classes, and form more of an aggregate as far as the university is concerned. For graduate admissions, the question is really whether you look like you will add to the department’s research output. Put in your best application and let them worry about how they came to their decision. (Note: I have a PhD and can speak from some experience at least with respect to my own field.)


At Alabama, for example, the cost for tuition + fess will be about $125,000, another $25,000 a year for minimal living expenses, so that would be another $125,000-$175,000. Then you have unexpected expenses, moving expenses, etc.

Do you have at least $250,000-$300,000 or even more? The salary for somebody with a PhD in Poli Sci will not pay off loans of that amount.

If you read my post, you would see that I mentioned that YOU should know what you want to research. Moreover, ideas are cheap. Every fresh graduate student comes in with dozens of them.

I can also promise you that potential PoliSci grad students, and faculty are not searching through the posts on CC for new ideas. I have been in and around academia for decades, and I have rarely seen any potential grad students whose ideas for research are developed and mature enough to be interesting for any person who is already engaged in research.

The only persons that I knew who came in with such ideas for research had either already had a master degree with a thesis or had been working in research for years.

That’s OK, since the point of PhD is to learn how to do research.

The research and writing that you have done are the only things that are really relevant, so you should have led with that.

Based on the language you use, I would guess that you are still pretty young:

So perhaps you should take a step back and reevaluate what you really want to do. You seem to want to have a PhD, but you do not seem to know what that means or how to get around to achieving this goal. You also do not seem to really have an idea as to why you would want a PhD.

Finally - you seem to be most focused on “proving” to us that you are “good enough”.

We are not the people you need to convince. We are the people who are giving you advice as to how to convince the people that you need to convince.

Feel free to ignore the advice. However, I can tell you that people on this thread know more about admissions to PhD programs than you do.


If you’re not looking for funding from the university, you may have more options for your PhD degree, even with your somewhat weak academic record. However, the program that may accept you may not be in the top tier. As someone in academia, I have seen that in the past ten years or so, doctoral programs have been popping up like mushrooms, especially in areas such as public policy and public administration and the like. We refer to them as “professional type” PhD programs, and many can be pursued part time. My own regional, third tier university offers PhD’s in these fields. Many folks in higher ed administration universities obtain these degrees, as well as those in K-12 education, and those working in government and non-profits. I feel that such programs would be a good fit for you, given your goals (from what you have written here.)

I am in agreement with other posts, and I would go even further to say that the traditional, high-intensity, research focused PhD may not be a good fit considering your goals. But I am just chiming in to say those are not the only Ph D options available.


Being Hispanic is no longer unique, especially in Texas.

I have a daughter who is Chinese, but you’d never know that by reading her transcripts, resume, or interests. There just isn’t a clue in her name, her activities, her course of study. If she wanted people to know, she could put hints on there or even outright say it. Sometimes when she first meets people you can see the surprise on their faces when they match the background info to the person standing in front of them. It has never mattered, or if it has, she moves on from that situation because she, like you, doesn’t want it to matter. When she applied to college a mistake was made and there were two applications, one where she checked the race box and one where she didn’t, and she was accepted off both applications (yes, we received two letters, slightly different names).

As suggested above, don’t check the race box, don’t list activities that identify you as Hispanic. I don’t think they care as much as you think they do. They want to know that you have done the prep work in undergrad, that you have thought about their program and how you can benefit from it, and how you can contribute to the department. At the PhD level, it is not about a trophy for every player for participation. Sure they want diversity because it helps them, but not at the expense of strong candidates.