Sybil Low by Sybil Low
College Application Essays Are Becoming A New Venue to Discuss Race

According to The New York Times, college application essays may take on a new dimension following the Supreme Court’s recent decision against affirmative action policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. 

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Key Takeaways

  • The Supreme Court’s decision does not prohibit students from discussing how race has affected their lives in their application essays.
  • Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. warns against using the essay as a covert means of racial selection.
  • Education officials suggest that the essay prompts should evolve to gather more meaningful information about a student’s background, including racial experiences.

The essays could become a platform for applicants to discuss how race has influenced their lives, albeit with some limitations.

In the ruling, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. clarified that students are still free to discuss how race has played a role in their lives. He wrote:

“Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise.” 

However, he strongly cautioned against using the essays as a backdoor method for racial selection.

A Shift in Essay Content

Shannon Gundy, the director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland, suggests that students should start using their admissions essays to describe how race has affected their lives instead of sticking to traditional topics. 

“Right now, students write about their soccer practice; they write about their grandmother dying. They don’t write about their trials and tribulations. They don’t write about the challenges they’ve had to experience.”

Shannon Gundy

Gundy believes that starting in the fall, colleges might begin to use essay questions to gather more insightful information about a student’s background. In an email, she stated:

“We’ll have to work together to develop useful essay prompts, educate counsellors and students about how best to approach the college essay, and provide information to colleges that may be reluctant (or even risk-averse) about how to craft questions that are more meaningful.”

Caution and Cooperation

While the ruling opens up new avenues for discussing race in application essays, it also raises concerns among colleges who may be apprehensive about violating the court’s ruling. Chief Justice Roberts emphasized: 

“What cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.” 

This serves as a warning for educational institutions to exercise caution and avoid using essays as a surreptitious means for racial selection.

What Now?

The recent Supreme Court decision presents an opportunity for college application essays to evolve into a more reflective and insightful tool. Students are given the chance to share how race has influenced their lives, which may help admissions officers gain a more comprehensive understanding of an applicant’s background. However, both students and colleges must navigate this change responsibly, ensuring that the essays don’t become a covert tool for racial selection. Collaboration among colleges, counselors, and students will be crucial in crafting meaningful essay prompts that comply with the Supreme Court’s guidelines.

Related Articles:

The Rise of NYU’s Selectivity in College Admissions

Affirmative Action and The Call for a College Admissions Overhaul

The Reddit Chronicles: Bizarre and Memeish College Essays that Actually Worked

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