4 years ago
Admissions Advice

Demographics in the college admissions process—is it really a significant factor?

Why do race/ethnicity demographics add/take-away from the chancing profile? I sort of understand that colleges want to add “diversity” to their campus, but how significant of a role does the cultural background of one’s identity play in their admissions chances? Like does it make a student stand out more or does it grant them a “unique” benefit due to minority identification? I was just curious as I am considered a “Hispanic/Latinx” and wanted to know some insight behind the differences in chancing. I suppose this may be an oddity that some adcoms keep hidden from public knowledge...

Also, what are the impacts of “dual-citizenship” on the admissions process as well (I hold both US-Guatemala dual citizenship). Will this also shift around the chances of admissions to college? I’m not an international student but an internationally adopted citizen. I just wanted to know the impacts of such an identity status. It all seems odd to me...


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Accepted Answer
4 years ago

Hi there,

This is a complex question to answer because it has many facets, so I'll start with the easier part to answer; dual citizenship shouldn't have much of an impact on your admissions calculus. US citizen vs. International student is more important for financial aid decisions (typically much less aid available for international students, if any).

With regard to other demographic data, colleges typically employ one of two policies regarding ethnic/racial diversity: affirmative action or race-conscious admissions. The former is implemented by public universities by state law while the latter is used by private universities. Both policies work to increase campus diversity (and, in some cases, to avoid lawsuits, though obviously many race-conscious admissions processes are under fire in the courts anyway). There are notable exceptions -- for instance, California prohibits the consideration of race in college admissions by public schools -- but wholesale, both these policies are widespread.

In practice, this does not mean you should depend on your race or ethnicity to push you over the edge, nor does it mean you should see your race or ethnicity as a barrier in the admissions process. Rather, it means people of certain demographic backgrounds tend to have stronger academic profiles in comparison to people with other demographic backgrounds. In particular, Asian-American applicants typically have measurably stronger profiles than their counterparts of other racial/ethnic backgrounds. In part, this is an acknowledgement by universities that standardized test scores, for example, are not perfect indicators of academic strength, especially for applicants within certain demographics (this also applies to socioeconomic status).

Of course, there are other demographic factors that come into play as well. These include state of residence (for public universities), legacy status (mainly for private universities), and, in a limited sense, gender (usually only for STEM departments that are historically male-heavy). None of these factors outweighs the rest of the holistic review process, which comprises academic and personal elements, but this is why CollegeVine's chancing models take this data into account when considering users' profiles. It goes without saying that these are characteristics you cannot change; therefore, the effect of your demographics on your admissions chances isn't something you should necessarily worry about -- just something to be aware of!

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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
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