Aftermath of the SCOTUS Ruling on Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Background: About two months ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down affirmative action in college admissions. Since then, U.S. colleges and universities have been eagerly awaiting guidance from the Biden administration on what this means to them. That guidance was released days ago.

On July 3rd, a racial discrimination lawsuit was filed against Harvard University based on its legacy admissions. According to the lawsuit between 2014 and 2019, students whose parents and family members were alumni were nearly six times more likely to be admitted, advantaging white students.

What has changed: The Common App, the application used by over a thousand U.S. colleges and universities, has made options for colleges and universities not to see the responses to the questions on race and ethnicity.

However, the SCOTUS ruling says that “nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”

The SCOTUS decision and the lawsuit against Harvard have led to several changes including these:

  • Some colleges and universities have dropped legacy admissions, a policy that gives students related to alumni preferential treatment in admissions. For example, Virginia Tech dropped legacy admissions.
  • In addition, Virginia Tech also eliminated early decision, replacing it with early action. Typically, students from financially disadvantaged families are less likely to apply Early Decision because they need to compare financial aid packages from different colleges before making their final college decision.
  • Wake Forest University began offering an Early Action deadline only for students who would be the first in their families to attend college.

These changes are attempts to balance the impact of the SCOTUS ruling on the diversity of college and university student bodies.

My Pet Peeve

Cornell University

I’m often surprised when I read a newspaper article that says a high school student applied and was admitted to all eight Ivy League universities. I am surprised not because they were admitted, but because I wonder why would anyone apply to all eight of the Ivy League colleges. It makes me wonder if the student applied primarily for prestige or really didn’t take the time to learn about the colleges they applied to.

While these eight universities have some things in common like low acceptance rate, high graduation rate, strong need-based aid, no merit aid, a high ranking in US News and World Report, and the same sports conference, they are more different than they are the same.

Yale University

I am left questioning how “smart” the student really was who applied to these eight schools. I ask myself, would someone who:

  • Liked Columbia University’s strong core curriculum, like the lack of a core curriculum at Brown University?
  • Liked college in a big city like The University of Pennsylvania, like being at a college in a town like Dartmouth University?
  • Liked the focus of the university being on the undergraduate students like at Princeton, be happy at Harvard where there are more graduate than undergraduate students?
  • Wanted to live on campus in a residential college system like Yale’s be happy at Cornell which only has housing for about half of its undergrads?
  • Wanted to go to a college with a semester system, be happy with Dartmouth’s quarter system.
  • Wanted a smaller undergraduate student body like Princeton’s be happy at Cornell where the undergraduate student body is more than three times as large?

Last, but not least these universities have strengths in different majors and some have majors not offered by any/many of the others.

University of Pennsylvania

What’s your reaction to my pet peeve? What do you think makes these 8 schools similar or different?

University of Pennsylvania

In early September, I visited the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), a member of the Ivy League.  While the college is in a busy part of Philadelphia, the layout of the campus gives you a sense that you are away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  UPenn has about 10,000 undergrads in 4 colleges and about another 10,000 graduate students.  The university was founded by Benjamin Franklin with the idea that the university would provide a practical, diverse, well-rounded, broad-based education with a liberal arts foundation.
Academics – Undergraduate students apply to one of four colleges:

  • College of Arts and Sciences (known as “the College”) – In “the College” students have general education requirements in seven sectors of knowledge and can take two years before they pick one of the 55 available majors.
  • Engineering and Applied Sciences – The Engineering and Applied Sciences offers both a Bachelors of Engineering and a Bachelors of Applied Science.  Those pursuing the Bachelor of Applied Science have more electives.  Those pursuing a Bachelors of Engineering must pick a major after the freshman year and need to do a Senior design project.
  • Wharton School of Business – At the Wharton School, there are 20 different concentrations.  Forty percent of the classes students take are outside of the Business school.  Freshmen participate on teams of ten to solve a business problem for a company.
  • Nursing – The Nursing School takes 90 – 100 Freshmen each year.  The nursing students begin their clinical rotation in the second semester of their Sophomore year.  There are four hospitals within five blocks of UPenn.  Many nursing students pursue a Bachelors/Masters degree in five years.

Undergrads can take classes in all four undergraduate colleges.  They can double major or major/minor in multiple undergraduate colleges, and they can take classes in all the grad schools (except the Vet school).  Students have both an academic advisor and a peer advisor.  Many of the majors are interdisciplinary.  Study abroad is popular in the Junior year, the summers, and the Fall of the Senior year.  The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships helps students find research opportunities or identify funding for research they wish to do.
The average class size is 26 students.  There are large lecture classes of up to 600 students, like Intro to Chemistry, Intro to Psychology, and Intro to Political Science.  These classes also have smaller recitation sections.
Applying – Early Decision applications are due by 11/1 and students hear if they are accepted by 12/15.  The Early Decision admit rate is 24%.  Regular Decision applications are due by 1/1 and students hear if they are accepted by 4/1.  The overall admit rate is 10%.  Students apply using the Common App plus a supplement which includes a “Why UPenn?” essay.  Students need to submit the ACT with Writing or the SAT with two Subject Tests.  Two letters of recommendation from core subject teachers are required.
Since Wharton is quantitative-heavy, they expect you have taken the highest level calculus offered by your high school.  The Engineering School is looking to see you have taken high level Physics and the Nursing School is looking to see you have taken advanced Chemistry while in high school.
Financial Aid – UPenn offers need-based aid, but does not offer merit aid.  They meet 100 percent of a student’s need and determine that need from the FAFSA, CSS PROFILE and their own supplement. Their financial aid packages do not include loans.  Their Net Price Calculator does not work well for divorced parents, parents who own a business, and self-employed parents.  If you are in one of these situations, call the financial aid office to get a better early estimate of your net price. The school is need-blind for citizens and residents of North America, and need-aware for others.

What is your experience visiting or attending the University of Pennsylvania?

Yale University

My visit to Yale University was out of the ordinary.  We went to the University’s Battell Chapel, on a Sunday in mid-January, for a memorial service of a family friend.  He was a Yale alum (Class of 2008) in his late 20s who clearly loved Yale and was loved by his classmates.  His friends and family came out in full force to celebrate his life.  His former Yale classmates spoke beautifully and eloquently about their friend and their time together.  They sang a cappella, as they had with him in Yale’s Society of Orpheus and Bacchus (SOBs), the second-longest-running a cappella group in the nation… or, as they prefer to put it, 20 male friends who love to sing and have fun together.  I could see and feel how these Yale students built strong, lasting friendships while working hard and playing hard at Yale.
Before the memorial service, we took the self-guided tour of Yale and visited the Yale Art Museum.  Here are some photos from our tour.


Cornell University, Ithaca, NY

Cornell University is unusual in that it houses four private and three public colleges.  If you are a New York state resident that means you can have the opportunity to get an Ivy League education at a state school price.  Cornell is well known for rigorous academics.  The engineering, architecture, and hotel administration programs are especially strong. 

The campus is spread out and very beautiful.  Gorges, ravines, waterfalls, lakes, and parks are all around.  The weather can be cold and snowy for much of the year. 

Freshmen live together on North campus.  Cornell’s food is the best I’ve had on a college campus, hands down.  Greek life is popular and hockey is the most popular sport on campus.  There are more than 600 extracurricular clubs to get involved with.  Collegetown, which is next to campus, offers students plenty of restaurants and bars.

If you have visited or attended Cornell University lately, share your observations.