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  • Bentham Team

What the Affirmative Action Ruling Means for You, the Applicant

On June 29th, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled that Affirmative Action policies in College Admissions violate the 14th Amendment - equal protection under the law. The colleges and universities affected by the rule don’t agree with the court’s thinking, and continue to prize diversity, not only as a way of addressing inequity of opportunity, but also because they believe a diverse group of students on a campus or in a classroom is important to a vital and instructive educational experience. Aware of this, the court sternly warned against any veiled attempt to consider an applicant’s race.

So what happens now?

More Focus on the Essay

Because Admissions committees will not be privy to the page that states the applicant’s race, the essay becomes more important. The background and identity of the applicant are often apparent in the essays, and new essay questions might invite students to expand upon their communities and their struggles with adversity. The ruling makes a notable exception when it notes that experiences and perspectives that are related to race can be taken fully into consideration. In other words, an applicant's race can’t be the deciding factor, but applicants can use their race to tell the story of how they developed notable perspectives or qualities. Immigrants of all kinds, or the children or grandchildren of immigrants, should take advantage of this focus on how diversity and adversity have shaped character. Many of these second or third-generation students seem to shy away from calling attention to their background, but they might consider shining a spotlight on that aspect of their identities.

More Holistic or Less?

Data from the states that have already been compelled to disregard race as an admissions factor point to where this ruling might lead us. In Texas, the state university system decided to simply take the top 9%, in terms of GPA, from every school in the state. This fixed measure suggested an element of equity - regardless of whether your school was in an advantaged or disadvantaged community, those who worked hardest for their grades were admitted. In Michigan and California, on the other hand, the process became more holistic, as they leaned harder on the essays to realize their diversity goals.

An end to test scores and legacy admission?

In an effort to balance the scales, private colleges are being pressed to get rid of legacy admission, the special status often given to the children of alumni. Another measure many schools might take to inject more equity into the process is eliminating standardized test scores entirely, The UC system led the way in this, after their own affirmative action setback, and many schools might now follow suit, in order to avoid the perceived biases in these tests, and the advantage to those who can afford tutoring.

Affirmative action began, actually, as a way to protect WASP privilege. Alarmed at the disproportionate number of Jewish students on campus several decades ago, schools introduced other criteria - such as being “well rounded”. The same measures have arguably been taken in recent years against Asian applicants. The end of affirmative action will probably mean a small increase in the likelihood of admission for Asian students.

If you’re looking for assistance with your application, please reach out! Contact Bentham Admissions today!


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