August 8, 2023
On June 29, 2023, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled (6-3) that colleges/universities can no longer consider the race of a student when making an admission decision.
In the summary of the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that a student “must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual - not on the basis of race.” He went on to write, “Although both universities (UNC-Chapel Hill & Harvard) contend that an applicant’s race is never a negative factor, college admissions are zero-sum. A benefit provided to some applicants but not to others necessarily advantages the former group at the expense of the latter.”
Since late June, one of the most common questions we have received is how this decision by the highest court in our country will affect the next college admissions cycle. One area we have noticed a change in already is the common application school specific questions (supplemental essays).
Chief Justice John Roberts concluded that schools can still consider “an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise” if it can be tied to that student’s courage and determination.
Colleges have adapted quickly, creating different ways for students to give background of who they are instead of simply checking a box under “race”. Here are a few examples of questions that seniors applying to college will be asked this year:
Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?
Elon: What cultural traditions, experiences or celebrations are important to you? How have they influenced your understanding of self?
Notre Dame: What is distinctive about your personal experiences and development (eg, family support, culture, disability, personal background, community, etc)? Why are these experiences important to you and how will you enrich the Notre Dame community?
Duke: We recognize that “fitting in” in all the contexts we live in can sometimes be difficult. Duke values all kinds of differences and believes they make our community better. Feel free to tell us any ways in which you’re different, and how that has affected you or what it means to you.
Penn State: Please tell us something about yourself, your experiences, or activities that you believe would reflect positively on your ability to succeed at Penn State. This is your opportunity to tell us something about yourself that is not already reflected in your application or academic records.
Stanford: Virtually all of Stanford's undergraduates live on campus. Write a note to your future roommate that reveals something about you or that will help your roommate – and us – get to know you better.*
Michigan: Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups defined by (among other things) shared geography, religion, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, ideology, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities to which you belong, and describe that community and your place within it. *
Boston College: In her November 2019 Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” Chimananda Ngozi Aichi warned viewers against assigning people a “single story” through assumptions about their nationality, appearance, or background. Discuss a time when someone defined you by a single story. What challenges did this present and how did you overcome them?
Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt University values learning through contrasting points of view. We understand that our differences, and our respect for alternative views and voices, are our greatest source of strength. Please reflect on conversations you’ve had with people who have expressed viewpoints different from your own. How did these conversations/experiences influence you?
In the syllabus of a 2023 majority decision of the Supreme Court written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the author notes: "Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university." Drawing upon examples from your life, a quality of your character, and/or a unique ability you possess, describe how you believe your goals for a college education might be impacted, influenced, or affected by the Court's decision.
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During the month of August, I will be meeting with seniors around northern NJ to ensure they are organized, on schedule, and have a balanced list before they apply to colleges this fall. This session is FREE. I look forward to helping as many students as I can!
August 23' College Application Process Review