Affirmative action in college admissions has been a topic of debate and discussion for many years. With the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina cases, affirmative action in college admissions has been decided. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of affirmative action, its purpose, and the arguments for and against its implementation in college admissions.

What is Affirmative Action?

Affirmative action refers to policies and practices that aim to provide equal opportunities for historically disadvantaged groups, particularly in education and employment sectors. It is designed to address the disparities and inequalities that certain minority groups have faced historically. Affirmative Action was signed into law on March 6, 1961 by President John F. Kennedy.

The Purpose of Affirmative Action in College Admissions

The primary goal of affirmative action in college admissions is to promote diversity and inclusion within educational institutions. By considering an applicant’s race, ethnicity, or socio-economic background, colleges and universities aim to create a student body that reflects the diversity of our society. Proponents argue that diversity leads to a richer learning environment, fosters greater cultural understanding, and prepares students for a diverse workforce and globalized world.

Arguments for Affirmative Action

  1. Promoting Equal Opportunities: Advocates of affirmative action argue that historical injustices and systemic discrimination still put certain minority groups at a disadvantage. By giving preferential treatment to these groups, affirmative action seeks to level the playing field and provide equal opportunities for all.
  2. Diversity Benefits Everyone: Proponents argue that a diverse student body enhances the educational experience for all students. Exposing students to a variety of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds fosters critical thinking, empathy, and cultural understanding, which are essential skills in an increasingly interconnected world.
  3. Compensating for Structural Inequities: Affirmative action acknowledges the disadvantages that minority communities have faced due to systemic racism, discrimination, and limited access to quality education. It aims to rectify these issues by prioritizing underrepresented groups in college admissions.

Arguments Against Affirmative Action

  1. Reverse Discrimination: Critics argue that considering race or ethnicity in admissions decisions can lead to reverse discrimination. They claim that qualified students from different races might be denied admission in favor of less qualified candidates solely based on their race or ethnicity.
  2. Merit-Based Admissions: Opponents argue that college admissions should be solely based on merit, such as academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and personal qualities. They contend that affirmative action undermines meritocracy and places unfair emphasis on factors that may not be directly related to an applicant’s abilities.
  3. Stigmatization and Tokenism: Critics claim that affirmative action can often lead to stigmatization and tokenism, where minority students may feel that they were admitted only to fulfill diversity quotas rather than based on their individual merits and accomplishments.

What does this mean for students applying to college?

It’s too early to tell how colleges applications will be impacted, but students applying for colleges may see changes in the application process. For example, colleges may place a heavier focus on essays. Students are still able to note ethnicity and race in their essays. Although essays are on an individual level, students can craft well-written essays to indicate the effect that race or socio-economic background has had on their experience.

Objective Requirements

There are still objective requirements that most institutions will consider as part of the application process. These objective requirements typically include:

  1. High School Transcript: Colleges will request your high school transcript, which includes your academic records, grades, and course selections. This provides an overview of your academic performance throughout high school.
  2. Test Scores: Many colleges require standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, as part of the application. These tests measure your knowledge and skills in areas like math, reading, and writing. Some colleges may have specific score requirements for admission.
  3. Letters of Recommendation: Colleges often request letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, or other individuals who can speak to your academic abilities, character, and potential for success in college. These letters provide insight into your strengths and achievements beyond your academic record.
  4. Essay or Personal Statement: Many colleges require an essay or personal statement as part of the application. This gives you an opportunity to showcase your writing skills, express your motivations for attending college, and provide context to your experiences and goals.
  5. Extracurricular Activities: Colleges are interested in your involvement outside of the classroom. They may request information about your extracurricular activities, such as sports, clubs, community service, or leadership roles. These activities can demonstrate your interests, skills, and contributions to your community.
  6. Application Fee: Most colleges require an application fee, which covers the administrative costs of reviewing and processing applications. However, fee waivers are often available for students who demonstrate financial need.

It’s important to note that these requirements can vary from college to college. Some institutions may have additional requirements, such as interviews or portfolios for specific programs. Additionally, colleges may have different weightings for each requirement, placing more emphasis on certain aspects of the application.           

Affirmative action in college admissions is a complex and controversial topic. It aims to rectify historical injustices and promote diversity in educational institutions. While proponents argue that it provides equal opportunities and fosters a rich learning environment, critics raise concerns about reverse discrimination and the undermining of merit-based admissions. The debate surrounding affirmative action is likely to continue, as the goal of achieving equal and inclusive educational opportunities remains an ongoing challenge.

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