UVA de-emphasizes legacy admissions, replaces 'checkbox' with essay question on universities ties

The application will have a prompt for legacy students and those with other personal relationships asking why their connection to the University matters and how they will contribute to the community.

The University of Virginia revised its admissions process to de-emphasize legacy students and other factors.

The University of Virginia revised its admissions process to de-emphasize legacy students and other factors. 

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling against affirmative action in college and university admissions, UVA amended its application to remove “checkbox” information such as race or ethnicity, replacing it with an identity essay, as Campus Reform previously reported. In a statement on August 1, university leaders included legacy factors in that decision.

[RELATED: University of Minnesota drops race from admissions after SCOTUS ruling]

“The Court has made it clear that colleges and universities may not consider race, for its own sake, in their admission decisions,” UVA President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom said. “In the same opinion, the Court also stated that schools are not prohibited ‘from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise,’ provided this individual experience is ‘tied to that student’s unique ability to contribute to the university.’ 

“We will follow the law,” the statement continued. “We also will do everything within our legal authority to recruit and admit a class of students who are diverse across every possible dimension and to make every student feel welcome and included here at UVA.”

The application will now include an essay prompt “that provides an opportunity for students to describe their experiences, including but not limited to their experiences of race or ethnicity, and the ways in which those experiences have shaped their abilities to contribute.” 

“To the extent a candidate’s race or ethnicity is disclosed through this process, that information only will be considered as it relates to that person’s unique ability as an individual to contribute to the University, and not on the basis of race or ethnicity alone,” the statement said.

The statement added that no one who assesses applicants will have access to the so-called “checkbox” information on the applicant’s race or ethnicity.

The application will also have a separate prompt where legacy students and those with other personal relationships to the university can communicate those relationships. Those students will have a similar prompt that asks them to explain their connection to the university, why it matters to them, and how they will use their ties to contribute to the community.

Ryan and Baucom also reaffirmed the university’s commitment to student success and said that UVA would judge candidates on their academic qualifications. 

Campus Reform previously reported that UVA announced a new essay question for the 2023-2024 admissions cycle that asks students how their racial and ethnic background would help them contribute to the UVA community. “What about your background, perspective, or experience will serve as a source of strength for you and those around you at UVA?”

[RELATED: UVA adds racial identity question to admissions essay]

Craig Meister, a college admissions coach, and educational consultant, said it was a “leading” question meant to elicit responses highlighting applicants’ racial diversity. Meister also said that UVA was aligning itself with the Biden administration’s suggestion that universities account for “adversity” that an applicant overcame.

Campus Reform reached out to the University of Virginia for comment. This article will be updated accordingly.