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Helping an Applicant Stretch His Ethnic Identity

Urban Marketing Group Staff

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The red flag was a call from the parents of a student she was being hired to help get into a top college.

“The first thing this dad says is that the kid’s grandmother was born in Colombia, and he asks, ‘How can we use this to our son’s advantage?’”

In her admissions work, the counselor (who asked that her name not be used since she is talking about a client) said that she has discussed affirmative action and racial and ethnic identity issues with students and their parents. But it’s never been the first question asked. And both the family background (wealthy, able to afford private school for their son) and the son’s academic record (mediocre for one applying to top colleges) added to the counselor’s discomfort.

Then more facts: the student had never been to Colombia, never met his grandmother and — aside from his parents’ coaching to play up his connections with Latin America — didn’t have any thoughts about being Latino (on one side of his family). But he wanted to check the Latino box in his applications.

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