Colleges Change the Essays on Applications After Affirmative Action Ban

— Johns Hopkins University

For college applicants, this is the year of the identity-driven essay, the one part of the admissions process in which it is still explicitly legal to discuss race after the Supreme Court banned affirmative action in June.

A review of the essay prompts used this year by more than two dozen highly selective colleges reveals that schools are using words and phrases like “identity” and “life experience,” and are probing aspects of a student’s upbringing and background that have, in the words of a Harvard prompt, “shaped who you are.”

That’s a big change from last year, when the questions were a little dutiful, a little humdrum — asking about books read, summers spent, volunteering done.

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