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Articles / Applying to College / Should Adopted Son Self-Identify as Hispanic?

Should Adopted Son Self-Identify as Hispanic?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Dec. 27, 2012

Question: Our son was adopted from Colombia as a baby. We have always considered him to be a "White" person. Is he "Hispanic" or "White" for purposes of the college application? Our surname is not Spanish. We are middle class Americans.

Hispanic applicants get a boost in many college applicant pools. So, because your son is Colombian, he should take advantage of this benefit. If he so chooses, he can use his essay or the "Additional Information" section of his applications to explain his background more specifically.

Over the years I've observed that most colleges will "count" adopted students like your son as Hispanic, although some will not. College officials commonly want to bolster their Hispanic head-count and may thus be eager to include any student who self-reports as such, even if that student has no ties to his or her Hispanic roots. Admission officials may also reason that, even when Hispanic candidates hail from Caucasian American families as your son does, they may have grown up looking (and sometimes feeling) different than their parents and neighbors or they have become accustomed to answering questions about their personal history that their classmates rarely face. Thus, these adopted applicants can bring a diversity of experience to campus that a more typical white student might not.

So my vote would be for your son to self-identify as Hispanic and then to decide if he wants to explain further ... or not. Either way is fine. But he should not feel as if he is somehow cheating by checking the Hispanic box. I am not a big fan of race and ethnicity questions on applications, but as long as they're still around, I encourage students to use them advantageously, as long as it's honestly as well.

(posted 12/27/2012)

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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