See the news release on early admissions for details. There is enough good information here that we need to spend four days reviewing it. This is day 2.

American students of color comprise 30 percent of the Early Decision group, including 27 African Americans, 25 Asian Americans, 20 Latinos, and one Native American. Twenty-two students are first-generation college students (that is, neither parent has a four-year college degree), almost twice last year’s total,and nearly 20 percent of Early Decision admits come from low-income families.

1) How is the College counting racial minorities now-a-days? Here is key section of the Common Application.

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The College has many students who consider themselves bi-racial, especially students with one Asian and one white parent. Many of those applicants — well aware that elite colleges discriminate against Asian-Americans (although it us unclear if Williams does so) — will either check only the White box or decline to provide any racial info. Nothing that the College can do about that. But how does the College count students who check two boxes, say White and Asian? Do such students get included in the 25 Asian Americans?

The College Board reports:

The ethnicity question on the Common Application has been updated to meet the Department of Education reporting requirements.

Always fun to watch different parts of the US Government disagree about racial classifications! The choices given above are very different than the choices provided on, say, the US Census. My sense is that the Department of Education did not like the Census approach because that approach makes it harder to keep track — or even minimizes (or maximizes!)? — the percentage of black students. Does anyone understand the politics? In particular, by getting rid of the “More Than One Race” option, it forces (?) black students to check the Black box and/or prevents the Colleges from claiming that the “More Thank One Race” students might be Black when, in fact, they are much more likely to be mixed White/Asian.

Answers to the ethnicity question are not required for submission.

What advice do readers have for applicants to Williams? High school students applying to, say, Harvard, should do everything possible to minimize their Asianess, but I don’t think that being an Asian American hurts when applying to Williams. (Of course, many/most students applying to Williams will also apply to schools that are likely to discriminate against Asians.)

Also, how does Williams count students who decline to answer? See extensive discussion of this topic eight (!) years ago. Back to the Common Ap.

If you choose to answer this question, you may provide whatever answer you feel best applies to you or any groups of which you feel you are a part. You can answer all or none of the questions. If you wish to answer the ethnicity question but feel that the established categories do not fully capture how you identify yourself, you may provide more detail in the Additional Information section of the application.

Bold added. Recall our discussion from several years ago, referencing a New York Times article:

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The average combined SAT differential between African-American and Asian-American students at places like Williams is around 150 points. Imagine that you are an ambitious high school senior with mid 600 SATs. Without a “hook,” you are highly unlikely to be admitted to Williams. Check the box marked African-American on the Common Application, and you improve your chances dramatically. How much do you really want to go to Williams?

Given the tests’ speculative nature, it seems unlikely that colleges, governments and other institutions will embrace them. But that has not stopped many test-takers from adopting new DNA-based ethnicities — and a sense of entitlement to the privileges typically reserved for them.

Prospective employees with white skin are using the tests to apply as minority candidates, while some with black skin are citing their European ancestry in claiming inheritance rights.

Note that the Common Application gives you almost complete latitude in what boxes you check. It states, “If you wish to be identified with a particular ethnic group, please check all that apply.” In other words, there is no requirement that you “look” African-American or that other people identify you as African-America or even that you identify yourself as African-American, you just have to “wish to be identified.”

Now, one hopes, that there isn’t too much truth-stretching going on currently. The Admissions Department only wants to give preferences to students who really are African-American, who add to the diversity of Williams because their experiences provide them with a very different outlook than their non-African-American peers. But those experiences can only come from some identification — by society toward you and/or by you to yourself — over the course of, at least, your high school years. How can you bring any meaningful diversity if you never thought of yourself as African-American (or were so thought of by others) until the fall of senior year?

“This is not just somebody’s desire to go find out whether their grandfather is Polish,” said Troy Duster, a sociologist at New York University who has studied the social impact of the tests. “It’s about access to money and power.”

So true. Note that Duster gave a talk at Williams a few months ago. Too bad that no one on campus blogged about it. I’d bet that it was interesting.

Driving the pursuit of genetic bounty are start-up testing companies with names like DNA Tribes and Ethnoancestry. For $99 to $250, they promise to satisfy the human hunger to learn about one’s origins — and sometimes much more. On its Web site, a leader in this cottage industry, DNA Print Genomics, once urged people to use it “whether your goal is to validate your eligibility for race-based college admissions or government entitlements.”

If you care about the traditional notion of diversity at Williams — that it is critical for the College to have enough African-American students, students who identify themselves this way and are so treated by society — than this phrasing must make your blood run cold. What happens when hundreds (thousands?) of students with 600 level SATs take these tests and “discover” that they are African-American?

Some social critics fear that the tests could undermine programs meant to compensate those legitimately disadvantaged because of their race. Others say they highlight an underlying problem with labeling people by race in an increasingly multiracial society.

“If someone appears to be white and then finds out they are not, they haven’t experienced the kinds of things that affirmative action is supposed to remedy,” said Lester Monts, senior vice provost for student affairs at the University of Michigan, which won the right to use race as a factor in admissions in a 2003 Supreme Court decision.

Still, Michigan, like most other universities, relies on how students choose to describe themselves on admissions applications when assigning racial preferences.

Up until now, we have all assumed (hoped) that applicants are mostly honest. The College does not check that you are “really” African-American or Hispanic. They take you at your word — although they certainly like to see club membership, essay/recommendation references and other signs consistent with that check-mark.

Yet what happens when every student at elite high schools gets tested? This will happen. Indeed, how can any social studies teacher resist such a test when it would serve as a great starting point for all sorts of amazing class discussions?

Then, once every junior at Exeter has taken the test, it will be time for some fun discussions in the college councilor’s office.

Uptight Parent: We would really like Johnny to go to Williams.

College Counselor: Well, Johnny is a great kid who will do well at Colby. But, with his grades and test scores, Williams would be quite a reach.

UP: If Johnny were African-American, he would get into Williams.

CC: Well, that might or might not be true, but it hardly seems relevant to this discussion since Johnny is white.

UP: But the project that Johnny did for social studies showed that he was 2% sub-Saharan African.

CC: So . . .

UP: That means that he can check the African-American box on the Common Application.

CC: Well, the traditional usage of that box is for students that have always identified themselves, and been identified by others, as African-American.

UP: But it doesn’t say that on the form, does it?

CC: No.

UP: So, Johnny can check it, right? There is no school policy against it?

CC: Correct.

UP: In fact, since the test demonstrates that, scientifically, Johnny is African-America, I can count on the school to verify that designation in all its application paperwork.

CC: Yes. [Sigh] And I hear that the fall foliage is lovely in the Berkshires . . .

Think that this is just more stupid EphBlog fantasy?

Ashley Klett’s younger sister marked the “Asian” box on her college applications this year, after the elder Ms. Klett, 20, took a DNA test that said she was 2 percent East Asian and 98 percent European.

Whether it mattered they do not know, but she did get into the college of her choice.

“And they gave her a scholarship,” Ashley said.

Of course, being “Asian” does not help you when applying Williams.

Note also that these tests often make mistakes, so many of the box-checkers will actually be mistaken.

The point here is not that the current admissions policy at Williams is bad or good. It is what it is. The point is that there are significant preferences given to those who check certain boxes and that cheap genetic testing will provide many people with a plausible excuse to check boxes that, a few years ago, they did not have. How much will the admissions process change as a result? Time will tell. It will be very interesting to look at the time series of application by ethnic group over this decade. I predict that the raw number (and total pool percentage) of African-American and Hispanic applicants will increase sharply. Time will tell.
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Eight years later, what has time told us?

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