In late June, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a landmark ruling: colleges may no longer consider race when deciding whether or not to admit students. This ruling effectively puts an end to affirmative action, a decades-long policy whereby colleges explicitly consider the race of their applicants when granting admissions, to make classes more diverse and ensure equitable opportunities for racialized students.
As explained by Vox, affirmative action was introduced “initially to encourage the participation of historically marginalized groups and mitigate the effects of decades of segregation by university systems.” Now, campuses generally continue to believe that fostering high levels of student diversity is beneficial or essential for everyone’s education, or that race-conscious admissions are necessary to combat the many barriers facing students of color trying to earn college degrees.
This controversial change will most affect the top colleges in the nation; Ivy League and other highly competitive schools with low admissions rates. Selective colleges are now trying to find ways to maintain the racial diversity of their student bodies while remaining race neutral, ensuring that students of colour – especially those who are Black or Hispanic – have the opportunity to “learn, graduate, and connect to the social and employment networks that determine success.”
For example, top colleges are looking at changing or expanding upon the questions they ask about an applicant’s life, so that they can gain a fuller picture of a student’s lived experience. Schools can then make admissions decisions based on more comprehensive and detailed information. Selective colleges may also choose to remain test-optional, permanently removing the requirement for SAT and ACT scores to hopefully support Black and Hispanic students who have lower test scores but good grades. Or, they may decide to give preference to lower income students, who are often also people of colour.
In any case, college applicants can work to adjust to any changes in admissions in three ways:
- Not being discouraged to apply to a selective college if they are a person of colour; it is still worth applying to your dream school, even in the absence of affirmative action.
- Putting extra effort into your application, particularly in any areas where you can communicate your life experience and any specific barriers you have faced.
- Finally, get help. A college admissions counselor can help students and their families to navigate the ever-changing world of applying to college, especially at selective schools.
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