Whether the new undergraduate application addresses diversity questions in a practical way concerns many University students.
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions released new application policies last week to comply with the June U.S. Supreme Court rulings, which allow the University to consider race in admissions but not under a point system that offers 20 points out of a possible 150 for underrepresented minorities.
The new application requires two 250-word essays and one 500-word essay. Students have several choices of essay topics, such as their past experiences and how they think diversity has played a role in their lives.
“One of my primary concerns is that a high school student of color will not be able to accurately assess how their race and ethnicity has affected their experiences,” said Tania Brown, vice president of LSA Student Government. “This process is essentially asking a student to relay 17 years of the way in which they have experienced their identity in a 250-word essay.”
LSA senior Adrian Reynolds said he wonders whether students would feel nervous about writing on a subject they are unfamiliar with.
“I think they could, but the question is whether they would actually want to,” Reynolds said.
LSA senior Eli Segall said he is concerned that the new application addresses only racial and ethnic diversity.
“Why not diversity of opinion or political affiliation?” Segall asked. “It’s hard to define what diversity they’re talking about.”
But most students agree more essays and questions will not deter applicants from applying.
“Michigan was actually my shortest application,” Business School junior Cassandra Pringle said, adding that she applied to both Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. “If you really want to come here, the application shouldn’t deter you.”
Part of the new application is aimed at assess an applicant’s financial situation, with questions about family income and the schools siblings attended.
Several students said those new questions are beneficial and would not turn people off.
“I am a proponent of socio-economic affirmative action,” Michigan Review Editor in Chief Ruben Duran said. “In America, everyone can be poor. Not everyone can be a member of a minority.”
But Reynolds said he was concerned applicants might take advantage of the questions. “If it’s just as simple as putting down less than $25,000 … It’s not helping (the University) figure out if they hit that goal,” he said.
But other students noted that applicants with socio-economic disadvantages would have to answer similar questions later to receive financial aid.
Another concern by students is that there is no way to see how various factors are measured. Compared to the point system, admissions will take on a more subjective approach.
“(This) is a way for the University to hide how to make their decision,” LSA sophomore Laura Davis said.
Duran said the only positive aspect of the point system was its objectivity and that outsiders knew exactly how admission was determined. Now, “There’s no way to be a watchdog,” he said.
Although guardedly optimistic about the new system, student government leaders were upset that no one from the Michigan Student Assembly or LSA-SG were consulted over the summer even though both bodies remained in operation. They hope to be involved in the feedback process at the end of the admissions cycle when the University evaluates the new system.
“Only time will tell us if these new guidelines will uphold the goals of the university and the students,” LSA-SG President David Matz said. “If they do not, we as students will hold our University accountable to their American responsibility to offer equal opportunity for all.”