3 years ago
Admissions Advice

Am I really Hispanic?

I read the Federal definitions, wording of the Common App (“Are you Hispanic/LatinX including Spain?… Regardless of your answer to the previous question, please indicate how you identify yourself…”). I know Puerto Rico is in every definition of Hispanic. I am posting because a family friend genuinely very knowledgeable about the college admissions process recently told my parents that I wasn’t Hispanic and was hoping for clarification.

I was born in Puerto Rico. I attended grade school in PR, middle school in NY, and I attended and am now am completing High School at an “International school” here on the island this year. Identity isn’t an easy question for me since my mom was born in Korea and my dad in California but both moved here before I was born. Both are very educated. I speak English, Korean, and Spanish at home. I speak English and Spanish with my friends, about half of whoms parents were born in Puerto Rico and the other half moved here later (like my parents) for business etc. My name is Spanish and I’m obviously fluent in Spanish. Outside the context of college admissions, I would tell someone that I’m from Puerto Rico but am also used to people being surprised by this.

My impression was that I was Hispanic and I would further identify as white and Asian but could anyone here please let me know your thoughts. Very confused about this.

Also if the answer is “technically yes but…” would I really be seen as “really” Hispanic by an adcom at a selective college or would they think I was being insincere?

Lastly this is a bit separate but are applicants from Puerto Rico and other territories considered “international?” If so does this help or hurt?

Thank you very much.

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[🎤 AUTHOR]@gsmatte3 years ago

https://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/report-your-data/race-ethnicity-definitions Hispanic or Latino

A person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

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3 answers

3 years ago

Though it's hard to say, you are Hispanic. Though just by being born there might not feel enough. From reading your post, it seems you've dove into the culture and even picked up the language. I am Hispanic myself though I'm not fluent in the language, I feel there is much more to being Hispanic by not knowing the language, or in your case being born in a Spanish-speaking country/ territory. So if this falls into the technically yes but category, I would suggest asking yourself how being born in Puerto Rico has impacted your life and how has it changed you. If you don't truly feel any connection I would reconsider adding it as your identity. I say this to reiterate that being technically part of the culture doesn't fully define you as being Hispanic. One last point, if you don't feel a connection another option could be trying to find that connection. I think colleges would like to see how you are curious about new things, especially about your identity and culture. Overall your story is well-diverse and beautiful. Therefore, however you choose to identify yourself as to how it's supposed to be.

3 years ago

Hi @gsmatte,

This is a great question, and I'm glad you're taking the time to reflect on an accurate portrayal of your identity for admissions purposes! Generally, people who identify as Hispanic come from families that originated in Spanish-Speaking/Latin Countries rather than a family that moved there. The "regardless of race" question is usually placed because there are people of White, Afro, and Indigenous races within these countries.

So, if your parents are White (with European/North American roots, exempting Spain) and Korean/Asian, you would most likely identify as White and Asian but not Hispanic. I think that, for this reason, your friend's comment has merit in the situation, and you may want to consider his opinion.

To better understand this, you may want to consider a hypothetical instance. If someone (let's call him George) whose parents are both White from England was born in Mexico and grew up there, would he be considered Hispanic? Perhaps he would hold Mexican citizenship, but I wouldn't say that he is Hispanic. His familial/ancestral roots are not within a Spanish-Speaking/Latin nation, although he may have adopted and been influenced by certain elements of Latin culture. The same could be said if George was born in China and grew up in China; He's not Asian.

As for your second question, I don't know how identifying as Hispanic would be viewed by AOs, but I think that the Hispanic ones, especially, may share an opinion similar to mine. Also, I'm fairly certain that territorial applicants are viewed as domestic (you should be able to double check this by emailing AOs or Googling); I think this may also help you in terms of boosting schools' representation from different geographic areas of the country (consider how islander/Hawaiian applicants are viewed).

Don't be discouraged though! Growing up in Puerto Rico certainly does make your identity unique, and being a fluent Spanish-speaker is definitely a plus! So, even if you aren't Hispanic, I think your identity may still be viewed as distinct from other applicants just because of how different it is. But try not to worry about race/culture and other things you can't change in the admissions process: Instead, focus on what you can control, like essays, interviews, etc., and you'll do just fine!

Let me know if this helped! Thanks

3 years ago

Students from Puerto Rico are NOT considered "international" students. However, as a boricua, you are legally defined as Hispanic.

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