What race to put on college apps?
Hi! I’m a rising sophomore so this isn’t much of a concern right now, but I don’t know what race to put on my college apps! My mom is purely white and my dad is very african. So I would mark both, but I’m worried that putting ”white” will push down my admissions chances. when I put it into the college vine calculator, it lowered my admission percentages for top schools by around 20% compared to if I just put african american. And I feel like it wouldn’t really be dishonest, since I look fully black (I have super curly hair and brown eyes), and I’m involved in African American Culture Club. I’ve probably called myself “black” as many times as I’ve called myself “mixed”. Yet I still feel guilty for basically ignoring half of my racial background. Should I stick to the facts, or put what could help me in admissions and what society sees me as?
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Hi! This is a really good question! If the application gives you the opportunity to choose multiple or all that apply, you should pick that choice. If they don't (a rare occurrence), you should put African-American, and perhaps at your interview or in your essay you could speak about your identity as a biracial person! If society assumes that you are African-American due to your physical features, it wouldn't make sense to say that you were white on your application! Please take into note that I'm not fully qualified to answer your question, as I am fully white, but I can understand where you are coming from, as you have worded your question very eloquently! But the bottom line is, if you are given the option to choose multiple or even "other," do choose that, and then explain it in perhaps an interview or your essay. Good luck with everything!!
Both of the comments so far are giving very good advice for how to approach this decision yourself, so I'm mainly just going to focus on what colleges will do—and the short answer is that, in the end, the choice on what you put here actually matters more to you than it will to them. For better or worse, colleges are part of the society you're mentioning, and they behave in roughly similar ways.
To start with, colleges do not have a good process for evaluating mixed race students in context with affirmative action. To them, they need to pick one or the other. (Yes this isn't exactly smart or aware on their part, but it's how it works.) This shows up differently for different students. E.g., students who are half-white and half-Asian American will typically be lumped together with fully Asian-American students. But students who are half-white and half-black or half-Hispanic will typically be regarded alongside other black and Hispanic students, whether it's both of their parents or just one.
So in reality, they should look at you the same no matter which you pick—whether you check multiple boxes or just check "black," they should treat you the same. And the answer you give to that question isn't actually the only part of your app that they use to source info on your racial background. The Common App is also going to ask for both of your parents' info—their names, where they went to school, etc. So no matter what you put, they'll likely see your dad's info and put you together with other black students.
Hope that clarifies things, even if it's not the greatest thing to hear that you might not have as much agency in this as it feels.
Hey! I'm a junior and have filled out multiple applications for college programs, camps, etc. Most (if not all) applications will allow you to choose multiple/"all that apply". I think you should pick the option that society/school/friends/etc. see you as because the reason they ask for race is not only for statistics but to see if you come from a minority or disadvantaged background. If you feel like you've been treated white and allowed privileges non-mixed African-Americans don't have, I suggest marking mixed so as to not ignore your white background. But if you truly feel like your black appearance has made you treated unprivileged or equivalent to other blacks then go with just African. Regardless, colleges comply with affirmative action. Hope that helps!