Archive for July 6th, 2011

July 6, 2011

Strategic race selection for college admissions

by Grace

Is it ethical for a student to pick and choose the racial identity that will grant the most advantage in the college admissions game?  This question is important in light of recently revised race and ethnicity reporting requirements for college applicants.

The change has made it easier for students to claim a multiracial identity — highlighting those parts of their backgrounds they might want to bring to the fore and disregarding others…

A recent NY Times story featured a prime example of strategic race selection in the person of Natasha Scott, a high school graduate with a black father and an Asian mother.  In an environment where Asians are ORMs (Over-Represented Minority) and blacks are URMs (Under-Represented Minority), checking the Asian box on her college applications could have lowered her chances of admission.  She grappled with her choices, and in the end she chose to identify herself only as black to the colleges to which she applied.  While some applauded her decision as smart, others like the MIT Admissions Counselor who posted on this CollegeConfidential thread would say that she “lied for perceived strategic advantage”.

Many scholarships are tied to racial or ethnic identity.  The National Achievement Scholarship Program for Black students and the National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) are just two examples.

Well, then, what is a student to do?  Here are some pulls from the article that shed light on factors that might influence students.

  • The onus of determining racial makeup is almost entirely on the students; the colleges do not typically seek out guidance counselors or other adults in the students’ lives for corroboration.
  • … at Rice … an applicant’s racial identification can become an admissions game changer.
  • “From an academic standpoint … they may all look alike,” said Chris Muñoz, vice president for enrollment at Rice since 2006. “That’s when we might go and say, ‘This kid has a Spanish surname. Let’s see what he wrote about.’ Right or wrong, it can make a difference.
  • Emory, like other colleges, was acting at least in part to ensure a sizable African-American student population, which the college’s leaders consider an institutional priority.
  • When asked for advice by an applicant weighing whether to identify as multiracial, Mr. White, the counselor from New Jersey, said, “…  If they’re Caucasian and African-American, I’d let them know that it would probably be beneficial to put yourself down as African-American or multiracial.”
  • When Mr. Muñoz was asked if, within the multiracial pool, there is a hierarchy of sorts for getting an edge in the admissions process … Not in an intentional way, but it’s just the reality….“It’s part of, what’s the story? How underrepresented is this group on campus?
  • “I think that when you’re a stressed out high school senior, you’ll do anything that’s legal to get into college,” 

It’s a dysfunctional system.  Here’s Roger Clegg:

I think our condemnation then and now should be more concentrated on the racially discriminatory system itself rather than on those who tried or try to game it.

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