Harvard revamps application questions following affirmative action ruling

The new application has removed the three optional essays, replacing them with five short-answer questions.

Harvard says that while the ruling prohibits admitting students on the basis of race, students are still free to discuss race as part of their life experiences on the application.

Harvard University has altered the questions on its admissions application after the recent landmark Supreme Court ruling against race-based admissions.

The updated application removed the three optional essays, which included “a 150-word extracurricular response, a 150-word piece to describe ‘additional intellectual experiences,’ and the Harvard supplement,” according to The Harvard Crimson.

[RELATED: SCOTUS rules against affirmative action in college admissions]

The university has added five mandatory short-answer questions, which include prompts such as “Harvard has long recognized the importance of enrolling a diverse student body. How will the life experiences that shape who you are today enable you to contribute to Harvard?,” and “Briefly describe an intellectual experience that was important to you.”

In light of the Supreme Court prohibiting universities from considering race as part of the admissions process, Harvard indicated it will use a slightly different approach going forward. 

Specifically, the school notes that students can discuss race as part of their life experiences on the application, pointing to part of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion that states, “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 new questions will help facilitate this goal, as Harvard said that it will “provide every student the opportunity to reflect on and share how their life experiences and academic and extracurricular activities shaped them.”

[RELATED: Harvard responds, suggests it will continue to consider race via loophole in SCOTUS decision]

Some have questioned how this will be applied in practice and consider the possibility of resulting future legal disputes.

Joshua S. Wyner, executive director of the College Excellence Program at the Aspen Institute, noted, “Practically, what does it mean for admissions to consider race as part of someone’s experience but then not make a decision ‘on the basis of race?’ That ambiguity will not be resolved with this new application but when Harvard is dragged back into court to explain how it has applied this very opaque standard.”

Harvard University has been contacted for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.

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