College Admissions: Do Affirmative Action Policies Deny Spots to Other Qualified Applicants?

Does being a black person really help your chances in admissions for universities? originally appeared on Quora the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Aaron Ellis, studied at University of California, Berkeley, on Quora:

My freshman year in Berkeley was 1998 — a year after affirmative action had been eliminated as a factor in college admissions in California. Presumably, everyone who got into the school would be academic equals, the best of the best.

My dorm room freshman year was a triple, so I had two roommates.

  • There was me, a black AP Scholar with a strong GPA who was joining the track team.
  • There was a Mexican American kid who had a flawless GPA and was the valedictorian of a large San Diego high school.
  • And there was a Caucasian guy from Washington who had a 3.2 GPA and mediocre test scores.

The Caucasian roommate was very open about the fact that he was basically a lucky admit. He was at the lower end of all of the admission standards. But the important thing is this: he met the admission standards. Because he met the minimum admissions standards, he was worthy of a place in the university. So I never questioned if he deserved to be admitted into the school, even as I watched him struggle academically and go on academic probation.

In my time in college, I met lots of people of all races who were all over the spectrum in terms of high school achievements. Folks on the outside, especially the bigots and the disgruntled rejects, love to paint the picture of thousands of black people getting into college undeservingly, taking up the spots from other deserving (non-black) students. But the fact is, borderline admits come from all races and all places.

Believe it or not, there are lots of ways that people get advantages for admission. Lots of students are legacies, meaning they got in because their parents or grandparents were alums. Lots of people get admissions into schools…

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