Asian American students should hide their race on the Common App

A high school class room. Image: Rao Advisors.

Students often ask us a common question: "Should I reveal my race on college admissions applications?"

The 1964 United States Civil Rights Act expressly bars discrimination against race and ethnic origins. Still, high schools, colleges, and even state and local governments collect terabytes of student race and ethnicity data each year. 

Information collection is mainly harmless, such as learning about trends based on race. For example, a 2022 national study showed that transfer enrollment from two-year community colleges to four-year colleges experienced significant drops during and immediately after Covid, resulting in a double-digit enrollment decline over two years since the spring of 2020. Black and Native American transfer student rates declined precipitously, over 16%. 

High school students first reveal their race when they initially sign up for the PSAT, SAT, or ACT. But should high school students check the race box on the Common App when applying to colleges?

Common App Race Box

Students using the Common App have always had the option to not disclose their race in the "race box." 

But as the New York Times reports, the Common App has changed its platform so that even colleges can opt out of seeing a student's race if a student indeed discloses their race. The new option will help colleges comply "with whatever legal standard the Supreme Court will set in regards to race in admissions," the Common App said in a statement. Students who want to ensure that their race is considered must take additional steps to include their ethnic background in their uploaded resumes and college essays or request teachers to talk about their race in recommendation letters. 

The college admissions journey is becoming increasingly complicated as schools look for various factors in students beyond grades and admission test scores.

We recommend that high-performing Asian and Indian-American students refrain from disclosing their race on college applications. If the Supreme Court rules that race should not be a factor in college admissions, there is little reason to include this information for any colleges that may not wish to comply with the ruling.

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