Mixed-Race? Dilemmas of Checking Racial Box on College Applications

People walk on the campus at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. (AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach) (National Journal)

As the nation's mixed-race demographic continues to grow, teens and young adults sometimes face perplexing questions, such as what race and ethnicity box to check on college applications, according to an article in The Mash, a weekly teen publication.

The article, which appeared in the Kansas City Star, says that while mixed-race individuals are still a tiny minority, census data show that people who identify being two or more races grew 32 percent in the last decade, bringing the total to 9 million. Overall, biracial Americans make up just 2.9 percent of the total U.S. population.

(RELATED MAP: Census: More in U.S. Identify as Mixed-Race)

People who identify as black and white grew 134 percent, according to a Next America story. At 87 percent, white-Asian is the second-largest mixed-race category.

These youngsters often worry about how to accurately identify themselves as they weigh the real or perceived costs and benefits of including (or omitting) a part of their heritage on college applications.

Gabriel Carrier, a senior at Naperville (Ill.) Central High School, faces a dilemma confronting many single-raced Asian-Americans, whom many colleges and universities consider overrepresented on campuses.

Carrier, who is French and Chinese, told The Mash that he plans to apply mostly to Ivy League schools. For those universities, he plans to identify himself as "white" in the hopes it will give him a boost. He plans to check the "Asian" box for his "safety schools," the article noted.

Carrier is not alone in his concern that indicating his Asian background could potentially work against him, partly because of lingering stereotypes about Asian-Americans.

(RELATED: Asians Often Burdened as Model Minority)

On the Internet site College Confidential, a forum for college admissions, a writer who called herself barcelonagirl95 posted, "I have a friend who is looking into boarding school next year, and she has a question about race. She is mixed-race — two minorities, Asian and Middle Eastern — but you probably wouldn't be able to tell if you didn't know. From my understanding, both races, especially Asian, are overrepresented. How will that affect her?"

The question generated a response from someone with the screen name ExieMITAlum, advising her girlfriend to focus on the application. "A lot of Asians are turned down, but then again, a lot are admitted."

In a nation of nearly 309 million people, who are the 9 million (and rising) biracial Americans?

  • 20.4 percent are black and white.
  • 19.3 percent are white and some other race.
  • 18 percent are Asian and white.
  • 15.9 percent are white and American Indian and Alaska Native.
  • 3.5 percent are black and some other race.