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How to Write a College Admissions Essay After the Ban on Affirmative Action

The Supreme Court's decision to ban affirmative action in college admissions has had a significant impact on the college admissions process. In particular, it has led to changes in the way that colleges and universities ask about race and ethnicity in their application essays.

In the past, colleges and universities could explicitly ask students about their race and ethnicity on their application essays. This allowed them to consider race as one factor among many in making admissions decisions. However, the Supreme Court's decision has made it illegal for colleges and universities to use race in this way.

As a result, colleges and universities are now looking for new ways to get to know students from different backgrounds and experiences. They are doing this by asking more open-ended questions about students' cultural backgrounds, their perspectives on diversity, and their contributions to their communities.

These new questions can be challenging for students to answer, especially for white students who may not have had to think about their race or ethnicity in the same way that students of color have. However, it is important for all students to be able to answer these questions in a way that is authentic and thoughtful.

Students of color may feel like they have lost a valuable tool in the college admissions process. However, there are still ways to write a strong essay that highlights your cultural background and experiences, even without affirmative action.

Here are a few tips:

  • Focus on your personal story. What makes you unique? What are your passions? What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? Admissions officers want to get to know you as a person, so tell them your story. Avoid writing a report on cultural issues -- this essay is meant to be about you, not the world or the state of our country.

  • Be specific. Don't just say that you are a member of a minority group. Share specific stories and examples from your life that illustrate your cultural background and experiences. This will help admissions officers to get a better understanding of who you are. Avoid writing a laundry list of events that have happened to you -- be vulnerable about how one or two events impacted your worldview, what matters to you, and the course you are on in your life.

  • Be authentic. Don't try to be someone you're not. Admissions officers can spot a fake from a mile away. Be yourself and let your personality shine through in your essay. Certainly don't misrepresent your race or try to hide it, as that will come across as inauthentic.

  • Get feedback. Ask a trusted adult, such as a teacher, counselor, or college admissions consultant, to read your essay and give you feedback. This will help you identify any areas that need improvement.

  • Caution: Make sure to use my list of hyper-specific questions when getting feedback. One of the most dangerous things you can do is ask a parent for their thoughts and let them shape your essay into what they think you should write. Often times that's a parental puff piece! Again, you will lose authenticity -- that special aspect of your essay that makes it resonate with admissions officers. You can email me for that list if you haven't seen it!

In addition to these tips, here are some of the new questions students may face in the admissions process after the ban on affirmative action, and how to answer them:

  • How has your cultural background shaped your identity? This question is a great opportunity to share your personal story and how your cultural background has influenced your values, beliefs, and perspectives. You can talk about your family history, your cultural traditions, and the challenges and opportunities you have faced as a member of a minority group. TIP: While you may not belong to a traditionally defined minority group, every family has a unique history. Dive into your family's origins, traditions, and values. Think about how your ancestors' experiences may have shaped your upbringing and the values you hold. If you don't know what I mean by "values," please go read a Brené Brown book or just email me for a full explanation!

  • What have you done to challenge yourself or overcome adversity? This question is a way for admissions officers to see how you have handled challenges in your life. You can talk about a time when you faced discrimination, a time when you had to overcome poverty or homelessness, or a time when you had to overcome a learning disability. While you certainly can write about race to show how you will bring a diverse perspective to school, white students can still come up with a good answer. Think about times when you stepped out of your comfort zone, took on a new responsibility, or learned from failure. These experiences showcase resilience and personal growth.

  • What are your thoughts on diversity and inclusion? This question is a way for admissions officers to see how you value diversity. You can talk about why diversity is important to you, and how you have contributed to diversity in your community. Even if you haven't had direct experience with diversity-related challenges, you can still appreciate the value of diverse perspectives and backgrounds in fostering a more inclusive society. But there's a catch! It's easy to end up with an essay about diversity. Don't make that mistake! Keep it about you, your experiences, and your worldview. Think of events you witnessed, even media that impacted you or things your parents said when you were younger. How did it shape your view of diversity and why it can impact your life, your community, and your future?

  • How will you contribute to the diversity of our college community? This question is a way for admissions officers to see how you would fit into their college community. You can talk about your interests, your passions, and your goals, and how you would contribute to the college community in a meaningful (and specific) way. This is a chance for students of color to explain how they will bring their unique experiences to the campus. But white students can talk about how they have lifted up diverse voices, learned about their own privilege, or will bring their own family and cultural traditions and experiences to campus. CAREFUL: Don't fall into the trap of talking in general about diversity. First of all, they already care about diversity, so you don't have to convince them of the value of diversity in your essay. Secondly, it's not specific enough. Look up individual classes, professors, and clubs on campus that you can talk about and fit your "narrative" or "brand." If you don't know what I mean by that, please email me! Shaping your narrative is critical in your application.

It is important to note that the Supreme Court's decision to ban affirmative action does not mean that students of color are no longer welcome at elite colleges and universities. In fact, all colleges and universities are still committed to diversity and inclusion, and they are looking for students who will bring different perspectives and experiences to their campus. By writing a strong essay that highlights your cultural background and experiences, you can still show admissions officers why you would be a valuable addition to their college community.

If you are a student looking for help with your college admissions essays, I would be happy to work with you. I have a decade of experience helping students write strong, compelling essays that get them into their dream schools. I can help you to:

  • Identify your unique story and perspective.

  • Gather specific examples to support your points.

  • Craft a clear and concise essay that is free of errors.

  • Get feedback from a trusted advisor.

I believe that every student has a story to tell, and I am passionate about helping students share their stories with the world. If you are ready to start writing your college admissions essays, I would be honored to work with you.


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