It’s that time again.  Time for high school seniors to apply to college.

But how do you do it?  I don’t mean how do you fill out the general questions any application would have, but how to you define yourself racially and ethnically?

You’d think that would be pretty simple, wouldn’t you?  Just check the boxes that come closest and move on.

But in today’s world of “who you are defines what you need to get in”, that’s not the case.  Not even close.

John Hinderaker, of, has written a very powerful, very necessary commentary on college admissions:  specifically, what racial/ethnic designations will make it easier or harder to get into a desired school.

I hope you use the above link and read every word of it.  But let me give you just one part:

Jennifer Hernández, also 17, a Salvadoran American, wants colleges to take race and ethnicity into account.

Of course she does.

Her Hispanic identity “is something that makes me who I am,” she said. “It adds to my character and adds to my personality.”

She has been taught to believe that and has no hesitation about expressing the view that her “Hispanic identity” entitles her to preferential treatment. Thought experiment: “My white identity is something that makes me who I am. It adds to my character and adds to my personality.” How do you think that would go over with college admissions officials?

…She grew emotional as she recalled the “differences in expectations” that she has faced while growing up as a Hispanic student accepted into a highly competitive public high school. She said she has endured taunts about the likelihood of her becoming a teen mom before becoming a scientist. (For the record, she is not a mother.) There are those, she said, “who think you got here because you didn’t earn it. Even though you did. You worked hard — maybe even twice as hard, maybe three times as hard, to get where you are. But it’s never acknowledged.”

See the problem?  How can an applicant simultaneously expect preferential treatment based on who he/she is, and then lament the likelihood of being identified as a “preferential treatment” student?

Look, I understand, and fully respect, that the reason this is done is to redress past injustices, in which people of certain heritages have had their chances for college admission lessened or denied outright because of who/what they are.

But, as we have discussed repeatedly here, this is the proverbial “zero sum” game.  If you try to redress past grievances by giving preference to some specific groups you are, to the same extent, punishing students from other specific groups.

If , for example, 10% of a school’s admissions are reserved for students with below-acceptable academic standards because they belong to a specific race or ethnicity, that means the same 10% of admissions are denied for students with at-or-above acceptable academic standards for exactly the same reason:  because they belong to a specific race or ethnicity.

There is a very good argument that this is unfair to everyone.  It is certainly unfair to students who are denied entry into the school because of their race/ethnicity.  But it also means the lower-standards students will be less likely to perform as the general student body.

This leads either to higher dropout rates for those students, or a pass-along policy which enables them to skate through school without doing as well as other students.

Is that supposed to help anyone?  Improve relations between races and ethnicities?

Hey, here’s a great idea:  how about setting standards and applying them equally to everyone.  Isn’t that what should always have been done?  Why not do it now…

…while recognizing past injustices by establishing “tiebreaker” procedures for historically underrepresented races/ethnicities so that, among students who truly qualify for admission, a greater percentage are among these groups.

Nothing can be done that is 100% correct.  Nothing can be done that is 100% fair to everyone.  But, at least in this scenario, there is an attempt to redress past injustice that does not create a racial and ethnic “underclass”, where everyone knows that “they” didn’t have to work as hard or accomplish as much to get in as “we” did.

I hope this is of at least some value in making your personal decisions about how college admissions should be handled.

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