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Articles / Applying to College / Mixed Race Student Feels Dishonest Marking "Black" on Applications

July 31, 2018

Mixed Race Student Feels Dishonest Marking "Black" on Applications

Mixed Race Student Feels Dishonest Marking "Black" on Applications
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Question: I am starting my college applications now and I have a question. I am half white, half black, but I identify as white because I've never met my father (who is black). In filling out applications, my mother is encouraging me to mark that I am either black or mixed, but since I identify as white, I don't feel comfortable doing that. She believes it will give me an advantage to the schools where I'm applying and I think it's dishonest. Can you help?

Your mom is right. (Aren't mothers always right? ;-)) Claiming your African-American heritage on your applications could push your file closer to the “In" pile, especially at colleges where you are a borderline candidate, or at any hyper-competitive place (such as the Ivies) where thousands of strong applicants are turned away every year. But, nonetheless “The Dean" agrees with you! If you identify as being only white and if you would be uncomfortable indicating otherwise on your applications, you should go with the choice that feels like the honest one.


However, this issue seems like excellent fodder for a college essay. Even if you have always considered yourself to be white, you may have an interesting and atypical perspective on race in society ... e.g., When does it matter? Should it matter? How has your awareness of your African-American heritage affected you? Do those around you who know about this heritage treat you differently than those who don't know?

Admission officials are always digging around to discover what sets an applicant apart from the crowd. So although you could begin your essay by emphatically stating that you view yourself as white, your thoughts on your biological background — whether presented in a way that's probing, poignant, humorous or all of the above — can help the admission folks see a side of you that the rest of your application won't reveal (always a plus in an essay!) and might mollify your mom as well, especially if you stick by your guns and check the Caucasian box!

*****

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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