It’s a bit harrowing to think that one of the questions people face when scrawling their lives onto a few pieces of paper in the name of accessing an educational institution is whether to tick all the relevant ethnic boxes or not. Most likely this will be far from the first time anyone of mixed race has had to sit and measure the inherent benefits or disadvantages that go with declaring yourself one race or another. Natasha Scott of Houston divulges her dilemma on College Confidential, a platform designed for prospective students looking for answers from fellow peers.
She explains that being half Asian half Black means she is considering only mentioning her black heritage as she believes it will boost her chances of admission whereas defining herself as Asian may prove a hindrance. Part of her knows that it would only serve as a means to an end if she puts down “black”, but morally she can’t quite let herself feel at ease with the decision. Of the commenters nobody suggested she marked herself as being purely Asian. Previously these little square boxes wouldn’t have resulted in identity tug of wars for college applicants, but now students can select what suits their ethnic make-up best from an extensive menu; this was introduced by the Department of Education in a bid to collect more information about race and ethnicity.
Of course, this, as is often the case in such institutions, raises the question of whether to use this information to manipulate a diverse mix of races in the student body. As a result many white students are opting to skip the race question entirely out of fear of being cast aside for not being exotic enough. Another worry brewing amongst scholars is that this information would lead to discrimination on financial grounds – on average a family with one white parent and one black parent is likely to be more affluent than a family of two black parents, meaning that the former would be able to provide more for their child’s education, thus rendering the child favourable as they would put less strain on the universities’ financial aid supplies. The issue of allowing students to identify themselves freely and maintaining an unbiased attitude towards the newly available racial statistics is a tough one to solve.
So far it’s seen institution admissions directors pile together at the end of the intake season to hand pick the last few hopeful students. In many cases the selection process up to this point will have leveled out the academic achievements so they will be looking for distinguishing personal features upon which to base their decision. The results of such situations are palpable with the overall admission rate for freshmen at Rice University being 19% and the multiracial students’ rate being 23%. Of course, the fact that there is no concrete definition of what it means to be mixed race does inflate the statistics somewhat. It is actually becoming a factor for which students will consult their counselors and rightly so as it could open the door to providing the opportunity to share a unique background story rich of cultural traditions. The question is – for how much longer will this be truly unique?