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Courtesy of Ciara Anderson
Culture > News

1 Year After The End Of Affirmative Action In College Admissions, My Identity Matters More Than Ever

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

In the spring of 2024, Her Campus surveyed 340 Gen Zers about the one-year anniversary of the repeal of race-conscious college admissions. Only half the respondents said they’ve talked about Affirmative Action with their friends — we’re here to spark more conversations.

When I was applying to college as a high school senior, the application forms resembled those of nearly every standardized test I had ever taken in my life. Name. Date of birth. Gender. Ethnicity. Race. Filling these out never seemed to have any effect on me before, I’d thought, so why would that change now? It hadn’t yet occurred to me how much those few questions could affect the trajectory of my college career. 

The significance only began to dawn on me when I started receiving follow-up queries from the universities I had applied to, asking about my family history, education background, and household income. “First Generation” suddenly became a term that felt like it was stamped on my forehead in bright red letters. I learned that my background meant more than just financial aid; it was a set of labels that helped open doors — including ones I may not have known existed otherwise. 

As a Black student who went on to attend a Predominantly White Institution, I’ve seen this manifest in a number of job opportunities, financial aid offers, and resources I may not have received if my whole self — labels and all — were not taken into account when I applied to my school. Between high school and college, I went from not really thinking about my labels, to really appreciating them. But now, unfortunately, they mean something totally different in the wake of Affirmative Action’s rollback within college admissions. 

Ciara Anderson
Courtesy of Ciara Anderson

To catch you up to speed, Affirmative Action began in the 1960s as a series of policies and initiatives aimed at increasing the representation of historically marginalized groups in education and employment. Over the decades, it has played a crucial role in helping students from diverse backgrounds gain access to higher education by promoting diversity and inclusion within academic communities. For many students, including myself, it provided a sense of hope and possibility, knowing that there were systems in place designed to level the playing field within the academic world. 

However, on June 29, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court officially struck down race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, which effectively ended Affirmative Action across college admissions programs. This ruling has caused significant concern on my campus in the past year. In tandem with the implementation of Senate Bill 17 in the state of Texas, which restricts diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives at public institutions, I’ve noticed that Affirmative Action’s end has sparked a noticeable shift in conversations about diversity among student advocacy groups, my own friends, and many minority faculty members on campus. 

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Many of us are anxious about the future of equitable admissions, and this uncertainty is extremely unsettling for me, as I’m planning to apply for graduate school. As a rising junior, I won’t have to actually start applying until spring 2025, but I’ve already begun researching programs that work best for me, my studies, and my wellbeing as a Black woman. I’ve also begun majorly stressing about how my application process will be impacted by the loss of Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action was crucial because it acknowledged the unique challenges faced by students like me and took into consideration the inherent value we can bring to institutions. As an African American woman attending a Predominantly White Institution, as well as first-generation college student from a single parent household, my journey has been shaped by overcoming significant obstacles, from navigating academic environments where I often felt like an outsider to breaking barriers as a minority in predominantly white spaces. These experiences have endowed me with resilience, a strong work ethic, and a commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion in every space I occupy. But without Affirmative Action in place as I apply to grad school, I fear that so much of what I bring to the table will be overlooked or lost in the shuffle.

Because of this, pursuing a graduate program feels incredibly daunting. I question if my efforts will be enough. Will the admissions committees recognize the depth and breadth of my achievements in the context of the challenges I’ve faced? Or will they overlook the unique perspectives I bring because my race can no longer be a factor in their considerations? 

Ciara Anderson
Courtesy of Ciara Anderson

It’s easy to question my identity’s role in my ability to get into a good school. But instead of spiraling, these concerns are driving me to focus even more on showcasing all of my labels through my grad school applications. Since I’m planning to join an MFA program, my application materials will allow me to do so in a creative way, across different mediums. For example, I plan to use my creative intent statement and portfolio to not only to showcase my work, but also to convey the rich, diverse narrative that defines who I am. The absence of Affirmative Action may not allow me to check a box to declare crucial aspects of my identity, but it can’t stop me from being clear and assertive in presenting how my diverse background enriches my potential as a student, artist, and person.

I hope those who are like me can summon a similar strength and determination to persevere through this new era of college admissions. On a larger scale, I hope for a future where equitable admissions are rooted not just in policy, but in a sincere appreciation for the value that diversity brings to the world of education — a world where students from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to succeed, where labels are recognized for their value but do not define one’s whole identity. Because everyone deserves the chance to pursue higher education as their whole, authentic selves.

Ciara Anderson is a junior at Texas A&M University studying Telecommunication Media Studies and Performance Studies. Being both a creator and advocate has acted as a backbone throughout her college career so far. In her spare time, she loves talking about all things music and movies, and runs her own radio show on her college’s campus! On campus, Ciara is an ambassador, student leader, and mentor who strives to make a positive impact on her peers and her college.