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Articles / Applying to College / Should We Check the "Asian" Box on Applications?

July 19, 2007

Should We Check the "Asian" Box on Applications?

On the Common Application and many others, there is a check box for identifying the applicant's ethnic group. We have been told that Asian applicants should omit this response since top colleges have so many Asian applicants already. However, it is very easy to tell that we are Chinese simply from our last name. Therefore, if we skip that question, would admission officers think we are not honest?

You are absolutely correct. If you child does not check the "Asian" box on the application, admission officials might suspect that you are trying to "game" the system. As in most things in life, honesty is the best policy here.


Moreover, despite what you read or hear about a glut of outstanding Chinese candidates at top colleges, if your son or daughter has especially strong ties to your Chinese roots, this may even be an advantage in the admission process. For instance, if your child has some expertise on a little-known aspect of Chinese history or culture or, perhaps, participates in an unusual Chinese tradition, this may be good fodder for an atypical essay. It might show admission officials that he or she will bring "diversity" to campus. Even if the applicant pool is already rife with other Chinese hopefuls, this can make YOUR child stand out in the crowd.

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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