After Supreme Court Ruling, UVA Adjusts Admissions Practices

August 1, 2023 By Mike Mather, Mike Mather,

University of Virginia admissions officers will no longer see an applicant’s race or ethnicity in a “checkbox” on applications, but prospective students will have an essay opportunity to explain their backgrounds and upbringing and how those experiences will allow them to contribute to UVA, according to a statement from President Jim Ryan and Provost Ian Baucom released Tuesday.

The changes outlined in the statement are reflected in the latest version of UVA’s Common Application, also released Tuesday.

The application change and the statement from UVA leadership come one month after the U.S. Supreme Court largely struck down the use of racial or ethnic status in admissions decisions, ruling that colleges could not give extra weight to an applicant’s race. But Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion also stated 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,” Ryan and Baucom noted in the email to the University community.

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“We will follow the law,” Ryan and Baucom wrote. “We will also 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 at UVA.”

This year’s Common Application for undergraduates, developed with input from University leadership and the Office of University Counsel, will 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 ability to contribute,” the statement said. “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.”

Although the Supreme Court did not address so-called legacy admissions to colleges and universities, the revised UVA application offers an optional essay opportunity that “give[s] all students – not only, for example, the children of our graduates, but also the descendants of ancestors who labored at the University, as well as those with other relationships – the chance to tell their unique stories,” Ryan and Baucom wrote.

The goal of the revised application process, according to University leadership, is to “do our best to understand each applicant as a person, and to evaluate the unique path that led them to apply to UVA,” and to remain aligned with University’s mission statement to develop “talented students from all walks of life.”

“We look forward to getting to know them,” Ryan and Baucom concluded, “and to learning how they might contribute to the University.”

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Mike Mather

Managing Editor University Communications