Will Application Essays Change Because of the New Affirmative Action Supreme Court Ruling?

Are you wondering if college application essays will change because of the new Supreme Court Ruling effectively ending affirmative action admissions in colleges?

Here are some facts to guide our advice and thoughts on this:

College application essays won’t change in Michigan

The current ruling won’t affect the way the University of Michigan looks at essays because of Proposal 2, a 2006 Michigan constitutional amendment restricting Michigan public universities from considering race in admissions decisions.

“As a result, U-M has been operating for the past 17 years without considering race in its admissions policies. —U-M Public Affairs

Consult this August, 2023 news story the Ann Arbor Observer asked me to write: “After Affirmative Action.”

After Affirmative Action

In Michigan and elsewhere, should you now mention your race or minority status in your essay? A student asked this question recently, because of the changes in affirmative action.

Colleges will try to maintain diversity, because colleges believe that diversity benefits all students.

“I can tell you, whether you’re a college, or a news agency, or Fortune 500 company, a diverse team that looks at things from different points of view is a stronger team.  And it’s true for the educational system as well. If you go into a classroom or laboratory, you see a diverse student body. I can see the interaction that occurs, and they learn from each other.”—U-M President Santo Ono in a PBS interview with Amna Nawaz

If your race or background is an important and authentic part of your story, then you might want to mention it in a college application essay sent to a number of colleges, as in the common application from commonapp.org.

In his decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote, “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration or otherwise.”–NY Times

“I think what students choose to write about in their essay are the things that are most important to them and the things that have shaped their lives up to that point.”—University of Michigan associate vp for public affairs Rick Fitzgerald.

Colleges will likely look at essays “holistically” now, like the University of Michigan has since 2005, as described in Paper Cut: The U-M Picks Its Freshman Class.

“At the admissions office, points went out in favor of a “holistic” review process, in which all characteristics are considered flexibly in the context of the student’s entire file.”–Paper Cut:  The U-M Picks Its Freshman Class, by Debbie Merion

However, if your story about your race is one describing the challenges you have overcome, note that an essay about challenges–whether related to race, family life, or health–can be challenging to write.

For example, here are some Quora answers about why writing about a health challenge may not be your strongest essay topic.

What are the things that you should never mention on a college application essay?

For my college essay, I wanted to write about my father’s brain cancer and how that has shaped my perspective and character. Is that too personal?

Our next blog will discuss how to best write about life challenges.

There is no doubt that it feels good to write about our struggles. Classic literature is filled with these stories. But writing about such a topic in a strong way takes skill.  This next blog provides some pointers for writing a strong, compelling essay on a challenge you have overcome.

Need more assistance with writing your college application essay?  Would you like to work one-on-one with a principled, honest, award-winning writer who helps students, authors and businesses tell their story in a compelling, meaningful way?  Write to Debbie Merion:  Debbie@EssayCoaching.com