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Affirmative Action: Everything You Need To Know!

by Harivallabhi Ganapathy ('24)


With the leaves changing color comes the new academic school year. It’s a hard year for everyone in high school, freshmen settling into a new school or seniors starting their college applications.

To the surprise and dismay of many, on June 29 the Supreme Court ruled that affirmative action is unconstitutional.

In reaction to the decision, guidance counselor Ms. Anastasia Marcella said, “I think it’s definitely going to be detrimental to some students, overall, maybe not immediately, but eventually. It’s definitely going to become increasingly difficult for some students of certain minorities to be accepted into certain elite colleges.”

To understand how this is going to affect college admissions in the future, especially for the Class of 2024, future college students and parents need to understand what affirmative action is.

Affirmative action stemmed from the civil rights movement in the 1960s, where considering a student’s background such as race, sex, or national origin became a factor in deciding to admit an applicant. This policy was implemented to increase educational opportunities for underrepresented groups. Many of the schools that engage in affirmative action are selective colleges because they recognize that there is unequal access to education/opportunities in America.

Sophomore and spokesperson of the Black Onyx club Petralyn Yeboah-Manson said, “College applications are hard enough as a student. But the disparities among minority groups specifically pertaining to Black people and people with disabilities in the college application process are far too great and Affirmative Action, in part, aided those minority groups. So seeing that justice for my people in terms of equal access to education was the perfect step in the right direction of a very long path to true equality.”

Affirmative action has always played a role in college admissions and applications. Until the June ruling, race could be considered along with standard criteria like academic records, GPA, extracurriculars, etc. This was mainly because proponents felt that there would be many benefits to having a diverse student body on campus. At selective colleges like Ivy Leaguesespecially, race would be a factor that would give applicants a push into the admitted pile.

“I see it taking counselors, students, and families more time through the planning process to develop the college list so that it could be a comprehensive list so that we can still have a balance of schools,” said Ms. Marcella.

According to an article by USnews.com, many adults have felt that affirmative action was not needed. In the article, there is a mention of a survey taken in 2019 by Pew Research Center, 73% of American adults said colleges should not consider race in college admissions. The same survey was taken four years later, in 2023, and the responses were mostly split in half, one side saying colleges should consider race in their applications, another side saying they shouldn’t, with about 16% of the responses saying they're not sure.

Manson differed and added, “I think that affirmative action is needed. We as a country have yet to reach a point of equality among all demographics of people. The only way to get to equality is through equity. I think that Affirmative Action in part helps the disparity in equity levels among all demographics present in America.”

In some colleges, in Florida for example, where affirmative action has been banned for years, they automatically admit a certain percentage (usually the top 10%) of a high school’s graduating class. This policy usually does increase racial diversity in the college but a lot of people of color with families don’t move to states with banned affirmative action.

“Those schools aren’t considering other things. What about the quality of the student? What about the personality of the student? What about the special talents of the student? What about the integrity of the student,” Ms. Marcella continued, “You know, you aren’t getting all of that by admitting the top 10% of the class.”

Instead of the policy written above, colleges will likely use the methods that Towson University in Maryland has been using for years to enroll more students of color. Some of these methods include going test-optional, focusing on high-minority areas in the state, and having resources to help with the transition from high school to college. These methods did gain Towson University more students than expected.

The Biden administration also encourages these methods, including a few others like considering how much the applicant’s race means to them by their essay or for students on campus, having more race-centered clubs, according to PBS.

College admission is always hard for seniors every year, but for some of this year’s seniors, this small disadvantage could change their whole application.

As her final piece of advice, Ms. Marcella advised the Class of 2024, “Look at college as an experience of a lifetime to have all of these wonderful experiences and opportunities. Along with that, you want to make connections as well.”


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