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Applying to college as a Chinese American adoptee

By: Téa Tamburo

Writer’s note: I went through the admissions process with privilege: a good high school, a financially stable family and experienced college counselors. Additionally, I’m not trying to say I’m pro or anti race-conscious admissions. Sharing my college application journey isn’t me trying to gripe; it’s me trying to highlight how my identity honestly made me feel and share an event that I learned more about myself from.


While filling out the Common Application to apply to colleges, I was faced with a question that made my stomach drop. It wasn’t about the quintessential things you think about in a college application (GPA, test scores or extracurriculars); it was about my race. I took a deep breath and checked the box that said “Asian.”


I was a member of the Class of 2023 and applying in the fall of 2022, so the Supreme Court hadn’t yet ruled against race-conscious admissions. Students for Fair Admissions alleged that Asian students were disadvantaged in the college admissions process.


There are a multitude of things that go into a college application, let alone an admissions decision. I knew that my race was just one thing about me and that I was plenty of other things too: editor-in-chief of my school’s paper, president of two clubs and the founder of this adoption page. All of those sound like they’d help a college application stand out, yet I was scared they weren't enough to outweigh my identity. This was the one time I wished I wasn’t Asian. It was disheartening to think that the work I had done the past four years could, just maybe, be overshadowed by my race.


Still, I wrote my main essay about my journey to embrace and find community as a transracial adoptee. In my essay, I recounted feeling different and facing ignorance as a child and highlighted how these experiences made me who I am both personally and professionally. This was my story, and I didn’t want to give my fear of a checkbox or an admissions committee the power to muffle my voice and pride in who I am.

"This was my story, and I didn’t want to give my fear of a checkbox or an admissions committee the power to muffle my voice and pride in who I am."

I figured that I as a whole person — my GPA, extracurriculars, passions, interests, race and more — are what make up my application, and the best application I could write would highlight who I actually am. I convinced myself that if an admissions committee didn’t agree, the school probably wasn’t right for me.


I’m currently in my first semester at Case Western Reserve University and really love it here, so I ended up where I belong and feel seen for who I am. The admissions process was just one step in my journey, but it taught me to remain proud of my identity and my story, even when it was hard.

 

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[Description: Light beige background with an oval-shaped photo of Téa. She's in a graduation cap and gown with trees behind her. To the left side, large text in dusty pink quotation marks says "This was my story, and I didn’t want to give my fear of a checkbox or an admissions committee the power to muffle my voice and pride in who I am." Small text at the top says "Applying to college as a Chinese American adoptee."]

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