Does checking the “Other” race box help your admission? With Portuguese parents, I don’t feel that I’m quite white.

By Maxine Seya

In what ways does checking the Other race box help your admission, or does it? My parents are first generation Portuguese (my grandparents, all 4, are from Portugal). I speak some Portuguese at home. I understand I can’t check the Hispanic box but I don’t feel that I am quite white. What should I do?

– Sylvia, a reader in Cummings

Checking the Other box doesn’t give you any extra or fewer “points” on your application. Since the admissions officers will have no information on your race, and they can’t legally make assumptions, they will have to remove that aspect from their evaluation rubric, so to speak. Your application will be reviewed upon the merits of your writing, your recommendations, your academic performance and rigor, your accomplishments, and your interest in attending that school.

There are times when checking certain race boxes give you extra “points” during the review. Because of affirmative action, people who mark African American or Hispanic might get more “credit” for their accomplishments (but usually admissions officers still will not admit a student if she does not at least meet a minimum level of performance, even within those race groups).

It sounds like you don’t identify as either white or Hispanic. If that is true, you can check “No” for Hispanic then leave the rest blank. This section, at least on the Common App, is optional.

You might be interested to know that according to a 2009 Pew Research Report, in the eyes of the U.S. Census, Brazilians, Portuguese, and Filipinos are Hispanic if they identify as such, even if their ancestry doesn’t originate from a Spanish-speaking country. This is contentious, since many Portuguese Americans do not want to be classified as Hispanic nor white. They want to be classified as Portuguese.


Hi there.

No one spotlights the human stories of college admissions like we do.

But we're independent journalists who need support from readers like you.

Your subscription keeps us going -- completely ad-free.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Maxine Seya
Maxine Seya is a former investigative journalist, college consultant, and admissions interviewer. She studied at Peking University (Beijing, China) and Université Paul-Valéry (Montpellier, France) and investigated for CNN and Huffington Post before graduating from Northwestern University. She founded SocratesPost to share the human stories behind the admission gates and offer parents clarity as they help their teens with college.