Students can change what they write in the college essay. And they will no longer be able to be tortured by the SAT and ACT.
As for the children of former students? The pressure is on to end your advantage in the admissions game.
Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling ending race-based admissions is widely expected to lead to a dramatic drop in the number of black and Hispanic students at selective colleges.
But the court’s decision could have other surprising consequences, as universities try to comply with the law but also admit a diverse class of students.
Personal essay becomes more important.
The Supreme Court noted that students could highlight their racial or ethnic background in the college essay.
“Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., “as long as that discussion is tied specifically to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.”
But Justice Roberts also warned that the essay could not be used as a surreptitious way of telegraphing race.
That means that college essays can fundamentally change in tone and tenor, and in topic.
“Right now, students write about their soccer practice; they write about the death of their grandmother,” said Shannon Gundy, director of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland, in a recent presentation sponsored by the American Council on Education.
She added: “They don’t write about their trials and tribulations. They don’t write about the challenges they’ve had to experience.”
Fewer schools will require SAT and ACT.
In part because of the coronavirus pandemic, about 1,900 colleges and universities have eliminated requirements for standardized tests at least temporarily and moved to “test-optional” or no-test admissions.
Now some universities may remove those requirements permanently, in response to critics who say the tests favor students from wealthier families.
Eliminating test scores could also shield schools from lawsuits. Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court cases, relied heavily on the data in its case against Harvard.
Data released by the College Board, which owns the SAT, reveals that students whose families are in the highest economic bracket score 100 points more than those in the bottom bracket. Racial disparities in test scores are even starker. In 2022, white students scored an average of 1098 while black students scored an average of 926.
Admissions offices could go even further, like the University of California system, which has gone “test-blind,” meaning you won’t see test scores even if students submit them.
Preferences for the rich could end.
Most universities have long resisted eliminating a much-criticized admissions practice: giving the children of alumni, donors and professors a nudge.
But that may be more difficult now. In his concurring opinion, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch criticized Harvard for not removing the preference.
And President Biden promised Thursday that the Department of Education would look into “practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege rather than opportunity.”
Biden is not the first occupant of the Oval Office to question legacy admissions. President George W. Bush, who followed his father and his grandfather to Yale, said in 2004 that he thought they should be removed.
Schools generally want to keep these preferences, saying they build community and help raise funds. Only a handful of selective colleges have dropped out, including the California Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, and Amherst College.
A new measure of merit: adversity indices.
Following the ruling, President Biden also called for “a new standard” for judging applicants. In addition to test scores and grades, he suggested that schools measure the “adversity a student has overcome.”
“The kid who faced tougher challenges has shown more courage, more determination, and that should be a factor,” Biden said.
Some schools are already taking a student’s background into account in their admissions process. The University of California, Davis, School of Medicine evaluates applicants based on an Index of Socioeconomic Diversity, or “SED.”
Universities will deepen recruitment.
Selective colleges are used to applicants coming to them. Now, many more will be out looking for potential students.
The University of Virginia, for example, announced a plan this month to target 40 high schools in eight regions of the state that had little history of sending applicants.
An analysis by the university found that only 6 percent of students in the most disadvantaged schools in the state applied.
A program at the University of California could serve as a model. The program has provided academic support and college admissions counseling to thousands of high school students in low-income communities.