College essay gains importance post affirmative action ruling | This Week in Admissions News

14/07/20235 minute read
College essay gains importance post affirmative action ruling | This Week in Admissions News

The world of college admissions is ever-changing and for students with top university ambitions, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest developments. After the Supreme Court banned affirmative action for college admissions, many universities might turn to the college admissions essay to highlight race in admissions. Check back next week to see what’s new and noteworthy in university admissions!


College essay gains importance post affirmative action ruling

For students applying to universities in the US, the college admissions essay is about to become even more important. According to Time, the admissions essay could be the place universities look for information about a student’s racial background now that the Supreme Court has banned affirmative action. “The essay is going to take up a lot more space than maybe it has in the past because people are going to be really trying to understand who this person is that is going to come into our community,” says Timothy Fields, senior associate dean of undergraduate admission at Emory University. 

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his majority opinion, “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.” This discussion could mean the essay and short questions that students answer about themselves. And many experts believe that students should talk about their experiences with race in their essays to highlight the issue and make it more personal.

However, the question remains whether universities will have the manpower to read these increasingly-detailed essays. And one way to counter that is to apply to a broader range of schools, including historically Black universities.

Meanwhile, Students for Fair Admissions, the group that won the Supreme Court cases outlawing affirmative action in admissions, sent an email to 150 colleges and universities, making demands, Inside Higher Ed has reported. The letter, from Edward Blum, the president of the group, told the colleges it was “incumbent upon your institution to ensure compliance with this decision.”

Specifically, colleges should:

  • “Cease making available to admissions officers ‘check box’ data about the race of applicants.
  • “During the admissions cycle, prohibit your admissions office from preparing or reviewing any aggregated data (i.e., data involving two or more applicants) regarding race or ethnicity.
  • “Eliminate any definition or guidance regarding ‘underrepresented’ racial groups.
  • “Promulgate new admissions guidelines that make clear race is not to be a factor in the admission or denial of admission to any applicant. This includes clear instructions that essay answers, personal statements, or other parts of an application cannot be used to ascertain or provide a benefit based on the applicant’s race. For ‘what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly,’ and an applicant ‘must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual—not on the basis of race.’”

Presidents, deans of admission and general counsels of private and public universities received the letter. It remains to be seen how many lawsuits arise about the misuse of information following the affirmative action ban.

Other top stories in admissions news this week:

  1. Germany is the best-value study destination, Times Higher Education has reported. Based on nine factors, like tuition fees, food prices, and accommodation costs, 20 countries were compared for studying abroad. Germany topped the list because of its free tuition for undergraduates and low-cost tuition for postgraduate students. Mexico, Thailand, France and the Netherlands make up the rest of the top five, because of their low tuition fees, lower cost of living and low rent prices. Some of the most popular countries for international students, such as the UK, US, Canada and Australia, found themselves towards the bottom of the table, because of their high tuition fees, living costs and healthcare. 
  2. The number of applications to UK universities has fallen from last year’s peak, figures show, with the proportion applying to elite institutions hitting record levels, Times Higher Education has reported. Final deadline data from Ucas shows 319,570 UK 18-year-olds applied by the June 30 deadline – 2 per cent fewer than in 2022, though still the second-highest on record. The number of applications to lower-tariff providers from UK 18-year-olds fell by 4 per cent, which was the largest drop in six years. 40.8 per cent of their applications were to higher-tariff institutions – the joint-highest on record.
  3. Americans’ confidence in higher ed is continuing to decrease, the Chronicle of Higher Education has reported. Five years ago, roughly half of people surveyed by Gallup expressed confidence in colleges and universities. That share has dwindled to just over one third, according to a new poll. Since 2015, confidence in higher ed has fallen by 21 percentage points. Most Americans surveyed by Gallup, 62 percent, have “very little” or just “some” confidence in colleges and universities. In 2015, that number was 42 percent.
  4. Historically Black Colleges and Universities are gearing up for an increase in applicants following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to ban affirmative action, McDowell News has reported. The total number of applicants at 35 HBCUs more than doubled in the past 20 years, rising to nearly 233,500 in 2021, according to National Center for Education Statistics data. As schools receive more applications, some have expanded their student bodies. With more than 9,000 students, Morgan State University saw record enrollment in fall 2022. The Baltimore, Maryland, school is expecting that demand to continue. For this fall, Morgan State received about 25,000 applications. Similarly, Morehouse College in Atlanta, which has about 2,200 students enrolled, is anticipating a 50% to 100% increase in applicants over the next three years.
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