The Supreme Court’s decision to end affirmative action disrupted the college admissions landscape for both colleges and applicants. As the first group of college applicants in the post-affirmative action era, the class of 2024 faces new questions about including race and ethnicity information in their applications.
To get insight into how students are navigating these concerns, in September, Intelligent.com surveyed 103 high school seniors of color who plan to go to college in the 2024-25 academic year. We asked students how they plan to address race in their college applications as well as their thoughts on the end of affirmative action.
- 77% of students of color say they are likely to write about their race in their admissions essays
- 88% of students of color are likely to answer a demographic question about their race/ethnicity versus opting out
- 3 in 4 students of color feel pressure to include information about their race in applications
- 44% of respondents of color weren’t aware of Supreme Court’s affirmative action decision before taking survey
- More than one-third of students of color say they aren’t receiving guidance from their school in light of the ruling
3 in 4 college applicants of color likely to write about their race in their essay
In light of the end of affirmative action, one way students may choose to highlight their racial background is to write about their race in their college admissions essay. However, many students of color may be unclear of how to proceed, and according to our survey, only 37% of students of color say they are receiving guidance from their school about how to approach college admissions in light of the Supreme Court ruling.
Among students of color who responded to the survey, 77% say they’re very likely (22%) or somewhat likely (55%) to write about their race in their essay.
Ninety-four percent of Asian students say they are likely to include discussion of their race in admissions essays compared to 77% of Hispanic/Latino students and 72% of Black students.
‘It’s an important part of my identity’
Among the students of color who say they’re likely to write about their race, 90% say it’s because race/ethnicity is an important part of their identity, and 53% say they believe discussing race in their essay will give them an advantage in the admissions process.
Hispanic/Latino and Black students are more likely to say the reason they will write about their race is because their race is an important part of their identity (95% and 91% respectively) compared to Asian students (78%).
Meanwhile, 64% of Asian students believe writing about their race in their essay will give them an advantage compared to 54% of Hispanic/Latino students and 35% of Black students.
For the 17% of students who say they are somewhat unlikely (13%) or very unlikely (4%) to write about their race, the top reason is they are not sure what the value is of disclosing this information (74%). Respondents additionally say the reasons they won’t discuss their race in their essay is because they want to only be evaluated on other merits (52%) and they feel it would be a disadvantage (26%).
Black students were more likely than students of other racial groups to say they won’t write about their race because they are “not sure what the value is of writing about [their] race/ethnicity” with 90% of Black respondents choosing this answer.
“I would encourage applicants to remain authentic to their personal identities. If they want to discuss their race as a defining factor in their life, they should confidently do so. However, they should thoughtfully consider the strategy they will employ in their presentation.”
“One option for students to explore is the challenges that they have faced due to their racial background with a greater focus on the discussion of how they continue to persevere and overcome these challenges. An alternative approach is to share their uniqueness stemming from their racial identity,” says Beata Williams, admissions consultant at Intelligent.com.
A higher percent of students likely to answer a race identification question
College applications also often include multiple choice questions asking students to identify their race and ethnicity.
If given the option, 42% of students of color are very likely and 46% are somewhat likely to provide answers to questions regarding their race/ethnicity, while 9% say they’re somewhat unlikely to answer these questions, and 3% are very unlikely to.
When examining results along racial lines, 94% of Asian applicants indicate they’re likely to answer a question about race as are 88% of Black applicants and 86% of Hispanic/Latino applicants.
Sixty percent say they will answer a race-related question because they think it’s important for schools to have this demographic information.
3 in 4 students of color feel pressure to discuss their race in the essays
Five percent of students of color say they feel a lot of pressure to include their race in their college applications, while 37% feel some pressure and 31% feel a little bit of pressure to include this information.
More than two-thirds of students of color who reported feeling pressure to include information about race in their application say that society puts this pressure on them. Fifty-seven percent say the pressure comes from teachers and counselors, while 44% say the pressure to mention race comes from themselves.
2 in 5 students of color unaware that affirmative action had ended
Prior to completing this survey, 44% of respondents say they weren’t aware of the Supreme Court ruling that ended affirmative action. That number was slightly higher among Black students (50%) and Hispanic/Latino students (48%) than Asian students (20%).
Among students who were aware of the ruling, 12% say they strongly agree and 64% say they somewhat agree with the ruling.
This survey was commissioned by Intelligent.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish. It was launched on September 23, 2023 and 103 respondents completed the full survey.
To qualify for the survey all participants had to be current high school seniors who plan to go to college for the 2024-25 school year.
To avoid bias Pollfish employs Random Device Engagement (RDE) to ensure both random and organic surveying. Learn more about Pollfish’s survey methodology or contact [email protected] for more information.