The Ivy Coach Daily

October 11, 2021

Checking the Race Box on the Common Application

College applicants should answer the ethnicity question on The Common Application truthfully.

If you’re a biracial student — maybe your mom was born in China and your dad’s ancestors came over on the Mayflower — should you not check Asian for the ethnicity question on The Common Application so as to avoid the discrimination that so many Asian American applicants face in elite college admissions? The answer is a resounding no. You should absolutely check Asian. You should also check white. After all, there is absolutely no need to hide who you are and your family’s background. And doing so, well, it’s just not fooling anyone anyway.

You see, parents often ask us, “Why should my daughter check Asian under the race box if she’s half white, her last name isn’t an Asian surname, and Asian Americans face such rampant discrimination in highly selective college admissions?” We reply, “Ivy Coach has been more vocal about the discrimination that Asian American applicants face in highly selective college admissions than just about anyone — dating back many years. But Asian Americans don’t face discrimination in elite college admissions based solely on their race. Rather, they face discrimination based on a profile associated with their race (e.g., strong math/science grades and scores and weaker English/history/foreign language grades and scores). Irrespective of one’s race, one should always endeavor to stand out in admissions. As we put it at Ivy Coach, we help make students weird. Presenting a profile that is closely associated with one’s race is inherently not weird. It’s typical and it will lead to discrimination in admissions. So as long as you don’t present that typical profile, you won’t face the same discrimination. And, besides, The Common App. asks for mom’s birthplace. She’ll need to list China in any case.”

In short, answer the ethnicity question truthfully. If your mom was born in China and your dad’s ancestors came over on the Mayflower, check both Asian and white. As Dr. Seuss, a former Dartmouth College student, once said, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because in the end those who matter don’t mind and those who mind don’t matter.” Or rather, in elite college admissions, those who matter are just looking for interesting applicants and you’re not fooling them anyway by not checking your true race.

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