The Ivy Coach Daily
September 7, 2023
Race in College Admissions Post Affirmative Action
Originally Published on January 7, 2018:
Even after the Supreme Court’s ruling that struck down Affirmative Action, race remains a factor in the elite college admissions process. Why? Because a guiding mission of these institutions remains to educate diverse classes of students. And the Supreme Court’s 6-3 majority opinion, penned by Chief Justice John Roberts, left a critical opening in college essays, activities, letters of recommendation, and more for colleges to continue to factor in a student’s race in their decision-making.
As Chief Justice Roberts wrote, colleges can still consider “an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.” Chief Justice Roberts’ words surely did not go unnoticed by America’s elite colleges. In its response, specifically citing this line of the majority opinion, Harvard’s leadership said it would “comply with the Court’s decision.” Yes, it’s a tongue-in-cheek yet serious response all in one.
Race Has Never Been Simply a Checkbox in Admissions
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, we at Ivy Coach anticipate that The Common Application, when released on August 1st, will eliminate the race checkboxes. But, in the elite college admissions process, race was never simply about a checkbox or two on the application. It was always about more. Because, to date, admissions officers have not just admitted students to meet benchmarks for each race. Instead, they’ve long wanted students who would contribute their background to the school’s diverse community.
For example, many students and parents have come to Ivy Coach over the years and asked us if they could check that they’re Native American because some DNA kit that came in the mail stated that they might just be 3% Native American. Or maybe a new leaf on Ancestry.com revealed that a student’s great-grandfather on his mother’s side was born in South Africa. It’s as though these students and parents believed college admissions officers at our nation’s elite institutions were born yesterday.
But such ill-advised moves would almost certainly backfire, and we at Ivy Coach always recommended against such transparent, unethical attempts to manipulate the admissions system.
Applicants Will Have to Approach Sharing Their Race as an Art
So now that the race checkboxes on college applications are likely to be eliminated, do we anticipate more students discussing their race in their essays and other components of their applications? Yes. Yet we urge these applicants to avoid being on the nose in their storytelling.
For example, writing “I am Black” will be perceived as a not-so-subtle attempt to get around the Court’s ruling, and admissions officers will be more hesitant to go to bat for that applicant than if an applicant is more subtle in their storytelling but still makes their race known.
And while we at Ivy Coach believe it’s not right that Black, Latino, and Native American students should have to write about their race at some point in their application’s narrative, it’s crucial admissions officers are presented with such backgrounds — because they’re still trying to admit diverse classes.
As Brian Taylor of Ivy Coach recently stated to Gothamist in a piece on the Affirmative Action ruling, “College consultant Brian Taylor of Ivy Coach said those who decide to reflect upon their race and how that shaped them need to do so in creative ways. That might mean relaying specific experiences or perspectives, rather than overly broad assertions about what it is to be from a particular background. ‘Just because you’re Black doesn’t mean you have to write about George Floyd,’ Taylor said.”
Ivy Coach’s Assistance Navigating Sharing Race in Admissions
If your child is unsure how best to navigate sharing their race in the post-Affirmative Action college admissions landscape, fill out Ivy Coach’s consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services.
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