Supreme Court & College Admissions

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The Supreme Court, College, And You


By Mary Kate Hampton

Just 20 years ago, the college application process had rigid requirements for SATs, ACTs, SAT2s, and subject tests. The practice of sending in test scores has given way to many schools opting to go test optional and test blind. One thing is for certain in the realm of college admissions: It is always changing.

Some more big changes arrived in the world of college admissions recently by way of The Supreme Court. A major ruling just decided against the use of race in college admissions. For students who are about to apply to college this fall—or sometime in the next few years—this is an interesting development. Read on to learn a bit more about the affirmative action news and how students can take action in its aftermath.

What happened in the Supreme Court? There have been many cases about race and education in the Supreme Court. In June 2023, the court ruled on a case that involved a conservative group called Students for Fair Admissions. This group sued both Harvard University and the University of North Carolina over race-conscious admissions policies at the schools. The group alleged that the schools were using intentional discrimination. The court ruled in favor of Students for Fair Admissions, and this decision will potentially have a major impact on the college admissions process in the United States.

What is affirmative action, again? In a broad sense, affirmative action is about policies and practices that aim to increase opportunities for groups that have been historically underrepresented. In the world of colleges and universities, it has essentially aided in making the student population on college campuses more diverse. Supporters tend to argue that affirmative action is necessary to increase opportunities and create more diverse student bodies. Opponents tend to argue that affirmative action is unfair.

Okay, so what does this all mean? The effects of the ruling are being hotly debated in the news media and on social media. Basically, colleges and universities can still consider race as a factor for admissions. However, the ruling makes the use of race in admissions more complex. This could lead to future lawsuits or even further Supreme Court rulings on the issue.

What is the concern about this ruling? From some standpoints, the concern is that the more difficult it is to use race as a factor in admissions, the harder it could be for colleges to maintain a diverse environment on campus. For example, affirmative action has been banned in a handful of states including Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Washington. Admissions data from schools in these states shows that the bans increased representation of white and Asian students, while Black, Hispanic, and Native American populations remain underrepresented in school populations.

What does this mean for students who are applying to college right now? This is actually a great example of a Supreme Court ruling for students to learn from. By reading up on the current events in the Supreme Court, students are getting great practice in learning about the world and, possibly in forming their own opinions about what is right and wrong when it comes to the use of race in college admissions. Read articles, ask questions, and learn more about the judicial branch of our government and the impact its decisions have on citizens.

What can students who are applying to college do in light of this news?

Consider a holistic approach. Students are not just their race. And while this news about affirmative action is complex, it is important to note that many schools take a holistic approach to admissions. Consider what that means: Colleges like Harvard consider many different factors in admissions applications that have included factors like race, grades, extracurricular activities, service work, accomplishments, essays, and letters of recommendation. Each student is a whole person, and through each aspect of the college application (transcripts, activities and honors, essay, etc.), a student can show his or her talents, strengths, values, and even a powerful personal narrative.

Control your own variables. For now, do what you can, where you are. Race and its inclusion on the college application are not factors that students can control. There are many things within a student’s control including hours spent studying as well as time spent and skills earned at work. A student can work on improving in specific subjects, sports, or service areas on a goal-oriented path focused on the future. For seniors applying to college, they can work through the summer and early fall months to present the best application possible. Working with experts at College Ready can help students to ensure all the parts of their application are done thorough and thoughtful.

Tell your story. If race is a major part of a student’s identity, story, or even a struggle they’ve faced, students can tell their authentic story in a well written admissions essay. A strong essay can include details, imagery, character, and an authentic voice. Did you grow through something? Did you develop a new perspective? Write about it in a personal narrative. Not sure how to get started? College Ready offers great tools through an essay editing platform as well as one-on-one editing services from a professional essay editor.

Take action. Are you feeling political? As a high school student who may be directly affected by this ruling, now could be a great time to get involved in civics or politics. Standing up for what you believe in and getting involved in policy changes could lead to some fantastic life lessons that will prepare you for life in college and beyond.

Apply to college. The admissions process has started for students who are applying for admission in fall 2024. While the implications of the latest court rulings can be overwhelming, it is important to stay focused on your personal goals as you complete your college application. Are you ready to apply to college? Reach out to College Ready for a free discovery call, and learn more about how the experts there can help you with every step of the application process.

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