Ruling Raises Uncertainty for High School Students Heading to College

The teenagers seeking shade as their tour groups crisscrossed leafy Harvard Yard on Thursday knew that they would be among the first students to feel the impact of the Supreme Court’s ruling on race-based admissions when they applied to colleges.

What they didn’t know was exactly how it would affect their chances. But many high school students said they were concerned to see long-established admissions practices giving way to something different.

“It makes me more stressed about the whole concept of college,” said Danyael Morales, 16, a rising senior at Boston Latin Academy, a public school in Boston.

Mr. Morales was born in the Dominican Republic, learned English as a second language and hopes to attend Columbia University to study business. “I’ve already spent months learning how to write a college essay, and I think this will alter my entire application process,” he said.

Maya McClinton, a 17-year-old high school student from Brooklyn who is attending a summer school program at Harvard, anticipated that the decision would be a blow for applicants from neighborhoods like hers.

Public school students in less wealthy, privileged areas already have fewer Advanced Placement classes and extracurricular options to choose from, said Ms. McClinton, who is Black. Without affirmative action “to help level the playing field,” she said, she fears that she and her peers will have an even harder time competing for the tiny number of openings at elite colleges like Harvard.

Minhal Nazeer, 17, a high school student in Louisville, Ky., who plans to apply to colleges including Harvard and the University of North Carolina in the fall, said she would take advantage of the college essay to discuss her South Asian identity, something that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said in his majority opinion that universities could consider.

“Nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected the applicant’s life,” Justice Roberts wrote, “so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university.” He warned, however, that universities could not use discussion of race in the essay as a substitute for the current system of affirmative action.

“I will be talking about my race in my applications to schools,” said Ms. Nazeer, whose parents immigrated from Pakistan. “And I hope they recognize that as an integral part of my identity.”

Colbi Edmonds contributed reporting.

Jenna Russell is The Times’s New England bureau chief, based in Boston. @jrusstimes

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