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"Prefer not to say" Demographics

SpinnerTSpinnerT Core Member

Is it ever in the interest of an applicant to select the 'prefer not to say' on a demographics section of a given application? I am white male (who currently works in an undergraduate admissions office) and I am unsure of whether it's in my interest or not to disclose my race. Would it seem somehow misleading or consciously abusing the system to elect not to disclose the info, even when it is listed as an option? Thanks in advance, everyone!


  • LogicianLogician Alum Member Sage
    2464 karma

    Certainly not. That option exists for a reason. If you don’t feel comfortable disclosing your race, then by all means don’t.

  • lexxx745lexxx745 Alum Member Sage
    3190 karma

    The option does exist but I doubt picking it would ever reflect positively

  • VerdantZephyrVerdantZephyr Member
    2054 karma

    @lexxx745 said:
    The option does exist but I doubt picking it would ever reflect positively

    Hey Lexxx, can you explain your reasoning in more detail. I think people would be interested in you argument.

  • SpinnerTSpinnerT Core Member
    83 karma

    Thanks @Logician. @lexxx745, I reiterare @VerdantZephyr: Can you explain more why you think it would reflect negatively?

  • lexxx745lexxx745 Alum Member Sage
    3190 karma

    Im not saying its negative i just dont see how it could be positive. Like declining to answer anything, not just race doesnt seem like it would be positive.

    It could be neutral though

  • dudekcdudekc Core Member
    46 karma

    I said prefer not to say because honestly it's none of their business...They ask about sexual orientation too, which is really none of their business

  • VerdantZephyrVerdantZephyr Member
    2054 karma

    @dudekc That is kind of how I feel as well. I would like to be judged by my non-demographic qualities. I understand the need for demographics tracking, law especially is a place where URMs are really under represented but I have never been comfortable with it either. My usual preference is to opt out. I used to work in finance and starting conversations with people about race when recording HUD data also felt shallow even if it was for a good reason. Though that is a bit different since we were required by the government to assume race when they declined to answer.

  • SpinnerTSpinnerT Core Member
    83 karma

    @VerdantZephyr you're right. I work in undergrad admissions, and from my vantage, they could only be tracking that data to boost their own diversity numbers. Which is extremely important! I don't mean to undermine that. But, it is obviously not going to benefit me if my application is read as a majority applicant, rather than demographically neutral.

  • aa4567890aa4567890 Member
    73 karma

    It likely makes no difference what you choose, prefer not to say means they won't consider race as a factor in decision. Similarly if you are white, race also won't really be a factor in the decision, so it does not matter what you put.

  • howdoichangemyavatarhowdoichangemyavatar Free Trial Member
    edited October 2020 52 karma

    I would imagine there wouldn't be a difference either way unless you are a URM. From what I've heard admissions officers, and admissions experts say, it doesn't sound like your app gets dinged for not being a URM, but that URM applicants get a "boost." This makes a lot of sense when you think about the goals that schools set for themselves every year. The size of the "boost" given to URM applicants often depends on that school's goals in terms of student body make up and the time of the application.

    If the the admissions cycle is nearing its end and the school isn't on track to meet its goals, then a URM applicant would probably get a considerable boost over a non-URM applicant, but they wouldn't look at a 'prefer not to say' applicant and think to themselves, "this maybe a URM that could help us reach our goals for this year." That's just not a great bet to make. They might look at their waitlist for a URM first to meet that goal, depending on how many seats they have to fill and how far they are from that goal. (Of course, also keep in mind that they also have other goals - LSAT and GPA, diversity of experience/age, socio-economic diversity, geographic diversity etc., so its not as simple as URM vs non-URM).

    Also, I could be just be out of the loop, but I've yet to see anything about AA negatively affecting certain applicants like you see in undergrad admissions. (I'm thinking specifically of Asian minorities at top-tier schools). I'm not sure if the effect isn't as pronounced or if its just a topic people avoid, but it seems like the effect in undergrad admissions is a lot more debated than in law school admissions.

  • creid7498creid7498 Core Member
    29 karma

    The fact that OP has to even ask this question is actually incredibly sad. I chose to disclose my race but I had similar thoughts. Look at the recent court cases involving Yales discriminations of whites and asians. Truly sad.

  • jlewis2618jlewis2618 Member
    edited October 2020 69 karma

    I will qualify this by starting with a disclaimer that i know very little about admissions. But, it seems that it if we are concerned with percentages rather than absolute quantity, it is perhaps conceivable that if an admissions department has a requirement for X% Race A and Y% Race B, if you include your identity as Race A then the respective percentages are affected. While on the other hand, if you do not disclose race, then they can admit you without raising the proportion of A's.

    Does this make sense?

    This is worth noting:

    This will link you to an LSAT score breakdown by race from 2007-2014.

    Interestingly the highest scoring group is the group that didn't provide racial background. What does that tell you?

  • 422 karma

    Omitting your race and/or gender, isn't advantageous nor disadvantageous. If you omit either, they'll likely just assume you're white and/or male, but that doesn't matter. Your identified race may give you a soft boost, but if you don't check a box, you're just excluded from that boost. The same goes for gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. If you don't explicitly identify yourself as being in the minority in any of these categories, you're just excluded from the soft boost (if it exists).
    If you choose to omit any of these, and I think you have the right to make that choice, this information is not available to them and can't improve their diversity statistics (in those categories) if you're admitted.

  • OneFortyDotSixOneFortyDotSix Alum Member
    634 karma

    The above paper takes the following stance: there are two reasons to check "prefer not to say" on an application. The first may strictly be a function of utility on the part of the applicant to increase their chances. The other reason is a fundamental disagreement with the presence of racial considerations in admissions.

    The author presupposes the latter reason to be problematic, and the paper is essentially a guidance to educators and peers on how to address and re-educate such a "problematic" student.

    Such a view is in my estimation utterly abhorrent. The position of the author is that an ideological preference for colorblindness is a defect to be corrected. As much as you/we may disagree with that perspective, the fact is that it does exist in law schools and among law school adcoms, to what degree obviously being variable.

    Theoretically the safest bet is to check the box indicating your race, and if that happens to be white or asian, score the requisite additional points on the LSAT to compensate for whatever decrement your race affords.

    It's an imperfect solution for an imperfect system. The silver lining is that you have sufficient reason to push yourself that much harder w/r to the LSAT, which can only benefit your faculties in the long run. That's something for which to be grateful in my view.

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