College application process could be different this year in wake of affirmative action ruling

Mass — As many high school seniors head back to school, they’ll actually be thinking more about next year as they start applying to college.

The application process is always a tricky maze, but this year it’s going to be even more confusing in the wake of the United States Supreme Court decision to end affirmative action in the admissions process.

“It’s going to cause some significant adjustments in how admissions officers operate,” said Gregg Cohen, the founder and president of Campus Bound which advises families through the admissions process.

He says the high court’s ruling eliminating affirmative action won’t change the desire of colleges to create diverse student bodies.

“They realize that people have different life experiences and that helps in the educational growth of the other students because you learn a lot from the other students that are there,” Cohen said.

Because admissions can’t be based on race, Cohen says it’s more important than ever for an applicant to sell themselves with a strong essay.

“You really want to do a good job of sharing who you are, regardless if it’s sharing about your ethnic background, your economic background, your geography, or your life history,” said Cohen. “You want to be able to get that out there and explain how it will impact a college campus, and what you can bring to their community.”

Cohen said colleges are now adding additional essays to their application packets.

Because the admissions process is becoming more subjective, Cohen recommends applicants develop a long list of possible schools.

“With all these little nuances and what school’s goals are and their changing goals, it’s a little bit harder to predict where you’re getting in and where you’re not getting in.”

Another change to the admissions process is the move away from legacy admissions which is when an institution gives preference to someone who has family connections to the school.

Schools like Wesleyan University, MIT, Amherst College, and Boston University have all stopped considering legacy status on their own.

“Institutions of higher education should be looking at qualifications that actually add to the institution,” said State Senator Lydia Edwards, a Democrat from East Boston. “Honestly, just being born into the right family isn’t a qualifying skill set.”

Edwards has filed a bill to ban legacy admissions in Massachusetts.

“Very simple. It bans legacy preferences at public and private institutions as a criteria for admissions to the college or university. . . I don’t see how else you could do it short of having a law. The fact that some have done it is great. It’s not good enough.”

Edwards says legacy admissions hurt other students down the line as they can be overlooked for prestigious internships and lucrative careers.

Navigating all these changes can be challenging for students.

Cohen says the best thing parents can do is help their children develop that long list of possible schools and make them understand the world doesn’t end if they don’t get into their first choice.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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