The Factor that Race Plays in Your College Admission

People protesting affirmative action, as they believe that their race is hurting their chances of getting accepted into universities. What is the role race plays in college admissions?

The Boston Globe

People protesting affirmative action, as they believe that their race is hurting their chances of getting accepted into universities. What is the role race plays in college admissions?

Danielle Huizar, Editor

“The only reason you are going to get into college is because you’re Mexican.” As a student who is half-Mexican, I have heard these words, or a version of them, far too many times from bitter peers or blunt family members. Although these words diminish the hard work I have put into my grades and extracurriculars, with affirmative action policies, there could be some truth in that statement. In fact, my Filipino mother is constantly making sure that I marked Hispanic in all my college applications to help increase my chances of getting into top universities. This poses the question: how much of a factor does your race play in your college application?

In 1965, Executive Order 11246 was issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson, which started affirmative action through attempting to promote an increase in opportunities for minorities. In turn, contractors and colleges needed to use affirmative action policies to increase the number of minorities being hired or admitted. Then, in 1978, the Supreme Court Case University of California v. Bakke ruled racial quotas–requiring a certain number of a racial group to be admitted to a school, hired, etc.– unconstitutional but upheld affirmative action. For many years, there has been a consistent debate regarding affirmative action centered around the question: is it unfair towards non-minority students? Almost two decades later, Proposition 209, which essentially banned affirmative action by not allowing government institutions to take race, sex, and ethnicity into consideration in college admissions or employment, went into effect, and at UCLA and UC Berkeley, there was a steep drop in admission of African American, Hispanic, and Native American students ( 

While it may seem that affirmative action policies are seemingly going away, race still could play a role in your college admission. Even though racial quotas were banned in 1978, currently, Universities still try to balance out their students at their school. Essentially, Universities want more racial diversity. There is no set number of a racial group to be accepted into a school, but colleges still want a relatively balanced percentage of races that attend their school. In 2015, at multiple UC schools, Asians took up almost 50% of the admitted students which put them at a disadvantage in consideration of college, so although an Asian student could be qualified to get into the school, to keep a relative balance of races, they might be denied admission just because of their race ( Furthermore, in 2015, Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard was a lawsuit which tried to end Harvard’s consideration of race in their college admissions, and it claimed that “Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policy unlawfully discriminates against Asian-American applicants in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964” ( This case is continued today, as many anti-affirmative action proponents hope it reaches the conservative Supreme Court to end affirmative action for all of the United States.

On the other hand, colleges primarily pay attention to applicants’ GPA, test scores, class rank, extracurriculars, and letters of recommendation while deciding whether or not an applicant should be accepted into the school. They want to make sure you are ready for the school, so they make sure you can academically handle the workload and academic rigor of college ( Thus, colleges would not only accept someone because they are a certain race; instead, they need to make sure students are qualified to attend the school to accept them. Magdalena Aparcio (11) believes that “regardless of race, students still need to work hard” to get into college.  Currently, most colleges in America are using a “holistic” view while determining whether or not to admit an applicant. This “holistic” view takes into consideration your background and finances to adequately see your work ethic and disadvantages you may have faced in your high school career ( 

Therefore, although race may play a factor in college admission, hard work, grades, extracurriculars, and other factors play a much larger role. While affirmative action may be unfair for students during college admissions, it is important to focus on the aspects of your application you can control.