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Articles / Applying to College / Will Parents' Korean Colleges Affect Admission Outcomes?

Will Parents' Korean Colleges Affect Admission Outcomes?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | June 30, 2015

Question: My parents spent the majority of their lives in Korea; we immigrated when I was three. They both attended fairly well- known and prestigious universities in Korea, and my father attended a graduate program after immigration. When I am answering the parent college question on applications, will the schools I apply to recognize my parents’ schools as being valid? Also, is my answer to this question on the application likely to affect my chances of being admitted?

When discussing the application question that inquires about your parents’ college background, the word “valid” isn’t … well … valid. 😉  That is, there is no “good” or “bad” way to respond to this question, and your admission decisions won’t be linked to the prestige of your parents’ alma maters.

I imagine that some admission officials will recognize the names of the Korean universities that your parents attended and others won’t. But it doesn’t matter. The primary purpose of this often-controversial question is to allow admission officials to ferret out the “first-generation-to-college” candidates who commonly get a small advantage in the admission process and are sometimes eligible for special scholarships.  When admission officers see that an applicant’s parents did attend college, it doesn’t matter so much which college they attended; it simply tells them that the applicant is not “first-gen.”

But, of course, admission officials do tend to make assumptions based on all sorts of information in the application. And many admission folks will concede (at least with a gun to their heads 😮 ), that these assumptions can be inaccurate or even unfair.  For instance, if they see a certain private school or a snazzy Zip Code on the application, they may infer that the student has had certain advantages which, in reality, might not be true. Similarly, if a parent’s profession is listed as “Cellist” or “College Professor,” the admission committee may expect that the student has had opportunities (exposure to the arts in particular) that the child of a “Factory Worker” or “Cafeteria Aide” may not have had. Again, these conjectures can be completely off target, but this whole crazy process is one that is rife with suppositions.

So those few admission officials who recognize the name of your parents’ colleges may realize that these are well regarded Korean schools and thus might have expectations for you that are a teensy bit higher than if your parents had gone to less illustrious institutions. But, ultimately, your answer to this question on the application will not really have any impact on your admission outcomes … certainly not one that will move the needle toward … or away from … the “Accept” verdict.


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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