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How Banning Affirmative Action Will Affect College Admissions

The upcoming Supreme Court decision is about to fundamentally change the college admissions landscape —and quite possibly higher education itself. There is very little we know right now, but behind the scenes, many are preparing for the fallout.

Ari Freuman

on May 31, 2023

In just 3 weeks, the Supreme Court is expected to release its decision on affirmative action. It is widely believed that the Court will put an end to affirmative action. This ruling has the potential to bring about major changes in how colleges admit students.

  • What is happening: Two universities (Harvard University and the University of North Carolina) are being sued by groups representing Asian-American students who claim the students are the victims of discrimination.
  • What the plaintiffs are saying: The plaintiffs allege that these universities systematically downrate Asians on the basis of skin color. The universities have not directly denied these allegations.
  • What we know: Oral argument transcripts and the Supreme Court’s conservative lean indicate that the Court will ban affirmative action.
  • What we don’t know: There is a lot of uncertainty. Although most expect the Court to side with the plaintiffs, only the text of the impending decision will reveal its scope and implications. We discuss below some potential outcomes.
  • How colleges will react: Colleges say they will first look to comply with the ruling and then look for ways to maintain their diversity.


Organizations such as Common App, College Board and Universities are already making changes in anticipation of the rulings.

  1. Common App is introducing an option that allows universities to hide applicants’ race. This move could provide colleges the ability to “shape” their diversity profile while providing plausible deniability. In oral statements, the Courts appeared sympathetic to allowing colleges to consider the role of racial adversity. Hiding race could allow colleges to argue they prefer students who have overcome adversity irrespective of its source. This new option could potentially allow colleges circumvent the Court’s decision if the Court’s ruling is sufficiently narrow.
  2. College Board is fast tracking the Black Studies AP Exam. .The Black Studies AP will allow students to showcase their proficiency in a study area primarily embraced by students of color. Although College Board has not linked this decision to the upcoming Supreme Court ruling, the timing of its introduction along with College Board’s willingness to bend to the demands of certain state governors are telling: the exam may be seen as a workaround, as the Black Studies AP Exam is an objective measure that will help black students stand out.
  3. Universities are making contingency plans.Comments at a Brown University roundtable have shed light on at least one college’s thinking: Brown recognizes that its black representation will suffer, but the college plans to offset the losses through legacy admissions and their athletics program. Their solutions, however, are problematic: Minority legacy applicants from competitive universities are comparatively privileged and many may find it objectionable to use physical factors to aid in qualifying black applicants for admissions.


What will this mean for the future of admissions?

Without the specific details of the decision, we can only speculate about what the Court’s ruling will mean for the class of 2024 and beyond. Most predict a move to a more holistic admissions environment, specifically one that allows universities to meet their diversity targets using “soft” factors such as essays, portfolios, etc. Some predict that colleges will be compelled to adopt a rigid admissions system based on “hard” factors such as grades, test scores, and unique achievements.

It’s important to note that the effects of the ruling won’t be uniform across all college competitiveness spectrum. Highly competitive institutions will face the greatest challenge, as they actively seek qualified minority applicants while striving to avoid overrepresentation. Conversely, non-competitive schools may observe an increase in the proportion of minority students.

The minority students who meet the criteria for admission to competitive universities will be heavily recruited and possibly enticed to enroll with scholarship offers. However, it’s possible that the wording of the ruling could prohibit such preferential treatment.

Again, it is crucial to emphasize that the outcome of the case and the implications of the ruling are speculative at this point. Ivy Tutor is closely monitoring the situation and will provide updates as new information becomes available.


Ari Freuman

Ari began his journey into test prep while working on his Master’s degree in Psychology at SUNY New Paltz and continued through his second Master’s in Statistics. Thanks to insights from his graduate-level studies, Ari became one of the top private tutors in the New York metropolitan era, where he earned a reputation as the original “Ivy Tutor.” Ari decided to create Ivy Tutor when he realized how difficult it was, at any price point, to find tutors who could reliably help students reach their scoring potential.


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