February 11, 2022 | OPINION | By Karly Hamilton | Illustration by Sierra Romero
A lot of factors come into play when high school students apply to college. Grades, test scores, extracurriculars, essays, and even race are likely to be considered in the college admissions process. Colleges and universities do not all follow the same process, and some admissions strategies are viewed differently than others — especially when it comes to affirmative action.
According to a CBS News article, the intention behind instituting affirmative action policies was to increase minority representation in higher education and the workforce. However, opponents of the policy argue that preferential treatment of certain groups in admissions leads to discrimination against others. The Supreme Court recently agreed to hear a case about affirmative action at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, catalyzing strong reactions from people on both sides of the issue.
While the intention behind affirmative action is good, I do not believe considering race in college admissions solves issues that are more deeply ingrained in our society. There should be more to college admissions than grades and standardized testing scores, but the way to solve these issues is not by making decisions based on race.
A New Yorker article, written by Nicholas Lemann, argues that affirmative action was introduced to help racially integrate higher education, a goal which it continues to make progress towards. The article also cites standardized test scores as a key example of where racial gaps are present in the admissions process.
The article goes on to state that President of Students for Fair Admissions, Edward Blum, has been spearheading challenges to affirmative action. He suggests that the way to correct historical discrimination is not by incorporating new racial preferences. I think he is right.
I am not saying there is not a lack of diversity in our country’s higher education system — there is. But the way we should go about addressing that is a slippery slope. No solution will make everyone happy, but there are ways to encourage a more equitable application process without considering race in admissions decisions.
For example, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many schools to rethink standardized testing requirements. Testing not only exacerbates racial gaps, but it can also be impacted by socioeconomic status, school systems, and something as simple as a student’s testing ability.
Changing testing requirements as many schools go test-optional is another way to make the admissions process more equitable, yet this approach does not prioritize certain racial groups over others.
According to the Class of 2025 profile, 50% of Colorado College’s first-year class did not submit standardized test scores with their applications. Additionally, 28% of students identify as people of color, 10% as first-generation college students, and 56% as female.
While the choice to omit test scores as a requirement in the application process does not solely account for these numbers, it is a step toward making the application process more accessible to students of all backgrounds — race, gender, ability, and otherwise. To me, making standardized tests optional feels like a solid step toward a more equitable admissions process.
A test-optional application process allows some students to showcase their strengths without forcing students, especially those who do not test well, to be judged on their ability to take an exam. Providing this choice to students gives them greater control within their application process, and it also minimizes the advantage of students who had access to test preparation or tutoring prior to taking the exam.
I think it is important that the Supreme Court hears this case; I will be able to see both perspectives on affirmative action. On one hand, it does increase racial diversity at colleges and universities. However, it also prioritizes certain groups of people, and I can see how that is perceived as inequitable.
While the case will not be heard until the Court’s next term — which begins in October — it is important to know that the discussion is on the horizon. The college admissions process is not perfect, but hopefully this case will prompt further discussion about how college admissions can be more accessible to all without making decisions based on race.