Should the Common App add an optional essay on race?

News & Society

  • Author The Ivy Institute
  • Published July 28, 2023
  • Word count 553

In the pursuit of cultivating a diverse and inclusive academic environment, the Common App has been at the forefront of exploring innovative approaches in the admissions process. Building on the success of the optional COVID-19 impact essay, this proposal suggests the addition of an optional race impact essay. The primary aim is to allow students to voluntarily share how race has impacted and shaped their lives and interests, in alignment with the Supreme Court's guidelines allowing race in admissions under specific conditions. Additionally, the proposal explores the possibility of colleges theoretically providing added points for applicants who have faced race-based challenges, similar to the consideration given to students differently impacted by COVID-19. This proposal advocates for a comprehensive evaluation that creates an equal playing field, recognizing the significance of racial identity in shaping students' educational journeys.

  1. Empowering Students through Voluntary Disclosure:

The introduction of an optional race impact essay on the Common App empowers students to share their unique experiences related to race on their own terms. By providing a space for voluntary disclosure, the essay encourages authenticity and self-expression.

  1. Compliance with Supreme Court's Guidelines:

An optional race impact essay aligns with the Supreme Court's guidelines, ensuring that race is considered in admissions only if the student willingly volunteers this information. This approach respects the privacy and autonomy of applicants in disclosing the impact of race on their lives.

  1. Promoting Diversity and Inclusion:

The optional race impact essay promotes diversity and inclusion by recognizing the role of racial identity in shaping students' perspectives and achievements. It provides a more holistic view of applicants and their unique contributions to the campus community.

  1. Theoretical Added Points for Race-Based Challenges:

While the Supreme Court's decision does not explicitly allow for added points based on race, colleges could theoretically provide added consideration for applicants who have faced race-based challenges. This approach creates an equal playing field, acknowledging the resilience of underrepresented students.

  1. Ensuring Comprehensive Evaluation:

By considering the impact of race through an optional essay, colleges can evaluate applicants more comprehensively. This approach allows for a contextual understanding of students' achievements and interests within the framework of their racial identity.

  1. Fostering Inclusive Campus Communities:

Acknowledging race-based challenges through an optional essay fosters inclusivity on college campuses. It celebrates the diverse experiences of applicants and enhances mutual understanding among students from different backgrounds, along with showcases their ability to add unique experiences and perspectives.

  1. Empathy and Support for Underrepresented Students:

The optional race impact essay demonstrates empathy and support for underrepresented students, creating an environment where their voices are heard and experiences valued.

The proposal to introduce an optional race impact essay on the Common App reflects a commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusivity in college admissions. By giving students the agency to share how race has impacted their lives and interests, colleges gain valuable insights into the significance of racial identity. While the Supreme Court's decision does not explicitly allow for added points based on race, colleges could theoretically consider race-based challenges to create an equal playing field. This approach fosters a more comprehensive evaluation process, celebrating the unique contributions of underrepresented students and enhancing campus communities. As we move forward in our quest for inclusivity and understanding, let us embrace this innovative approach as a stepping stone towards a more equitable and diverse academic landscape.

College admissions consultant at The Ivy Institute https://www.theivyinst.org

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