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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Colleges ask students to write about identity -- in a constitutional-ish way

Asked by his first-choice college about a challenge he'd overcome, "Frank" wrote about struggling with algebra in ninth grade. He'd changed his attitude, changed his study habits and changed his math grades. He became an A student in math.


He didn't mention he was Mexican American or working class or the first in his family to apply to college. I knew that was the sort of challenge the college wanted hear about. But he took all that for granted.


Frank was rejected, but he went elsewhere and graduated in four years (if memory serves). I'm quite sure he's a successful adult.


What will change in college admissions? Photo: Ketut Subiyanto/Pexels

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision banning racial preferences in college admissions, selective colleges and universities are asking students to submit essays about how their "identity" or "life experience" has "shaped who you are," report Anemona Hartocollis and Colbi Edmonds in the New York Times. The majority opinion said applicants can write about their race -- if they're evaluated as individuals.


Harvard has replaced a single optional essay with five required essays, up to 200 words each. The first:

“Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?”

Sarah Lawrence College quotes Chief Justice John G. Roberts’s majority decision -- “Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life” -- then asks applicants to “describe how you believe your goals for a college education might be impacted, influenced or affected by the court’s decision.”

The new essay prompts comply with the court's ruling, said John Yoo, a Berkeley law professor who opposes race-conscious admissions, But if universities use the information to discriminate, it's a different story. “I don’t think the courts are going to be fooled by innocuous-seeming essay questions which are used as a pretext by the colleges.”


This is an "end run" around the court's decision, writes Dennis Saffran on City Journal. "Harvard might as well have written: 'Tell us your race in 200 words or less'.” He thinks the new admissions process will be rejected by the Supreme Court, which doesn't like to be ignored.

5 comentarios


Richard Rider
Richard Rider
27 ago 2023

This use of essays to surreptitiously tell the admissions committee the race of the applicant has been practiced by the CA UC system ever since the voters outlawed affirmative action racism in 1996. Indeed, more than a few bright white and Asian applicants figured this out -- writing essays that indicated they had to overcome racism in their hood. Properly written, such an essay would give an applicant a huge bump up in the admission pecking order. And no one would check the VERACITY of the facts in such essays. I used to advise UC applicants to use this tactic over 20 years ago. There are many ways the schools can still discern that race info without asking. The anti-white, anti-Asian racis…

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
20 ago 2023

I'd be glad to see a new admissions process dictated to the universities, whereby they can only use essays to break ties among applicants of equal academic rank, which should reassure the public that a Harvard grad trading on her degree like Injustice Ketanji Brown Jackson actually qualified for admission in the first place, rather than receiving a huge bump that placed her ahead of more deserving students who were rejected because of the colour of their skin.

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Invitado
20 ago 2023

I can't wait for all the essays from "Weng Cho Lee Nguyen" talking about how their friends were harrassed by the police while listening to NWA. 😁

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phillipmarlowe
19 ago 2023

"This is an "end run" around the court's decision, writes Dennis Saffran on City Journal. "Harvard might as well have written: 'Tell us your race in 200 words or less'.” He thinks the new admissions process will be rejected by the Supreme Court, which doesn't like to be ignored."


What an idiot! Chief Justice Roberts wrote that this was just dandy, as he also allowed the military academies to continue to use race for admissions.

Some people are saying judge Roberts has a problem with Harvard.

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Invitado
19 ago 2023

Conservative really missed the chance to use all of the findings in teh SFFA cases. As was pointed out during the trial, affirmative action benefit wealthy black students because an applicant was given the black admission "bump" no matter the class of the applicant but poor black students were not also given the poor applicant "bump."

There is also the issue that the admissions offices at the Ivy League were giving a huge admission benefit for what has been called "prep school polish" that upper middle class kids from the suburbs never received. "

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