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The Daily

How Affirmative Action Changed Their Lives

Thu Jul 13 2023
Supreme Court DecisionAffirmative ActionCollege AdmissionsRace-conscious AdmissionsDiverse ClassroomsLegacy AdmissionsDonationsAsian American Community


The episode explores the recent Supreme Court decision on affirmative action and its impact on college admissions. It features personal experiences with affirmative action, discussions on the influence of race in college admissions, and reflections on rejection and the Asian American community's perspective. The episode highlights the need for diverse classrooms and examines the role of legacy admissions and donations. It concludes with insights on the speaker's excitement for Boston University and a shift in values regarding elite schools.


Race-conscious Admissions and Diverse Classrooms

The episode emphasizes the importance of race-conscious admissions in creating diverse classrooms.

Legacy Admissions and Donations

Legacy admissions and donations also contribute to advantages in college admissions, potentially harming Asian Americans.

Personal Reflections on Rejection

The episode explores personal reflections on rejection and the conflicting emotions surrounding the Supreme Court overturning affirmative action.


  1. The Supreme Court Decision on Affirmative Action
  2. Personal Experiences with Affirmative Action
  3. The Impact of Affirmative Action on College Admissions
  4. Personal Reflections on Affirmative Action and College Admissions
  5. Insights

The Supreme Court Decision on Affirmative Action

00:02 - 08:15

  • The Supreme Court recently struck down affirmative action, causing significant changes in college admissions practices.
  • Affirmative action has been a temporary arrangement that has made people of color uncomfortable but was necessary for progress.
  • Three individuals share their experiences with affirmative action and their thoughts on its future.
  • Dr. Richard V. Sims III, an Emeritus Professor of Medicine, discusses his background and how affirmative action helped him get into Harvard Medical School.
  • Sims' father faced racism when applying to medical school and had to attend Howard University instead of predominantly white institutions.
  • Sims excelled academically and believes affirmative action played a role in his acceptance to Harvard.
  • Despite facing low expectations from others, Sims acknowledges that the name of Harvard on his CV opened doors for him.

Personal Experiences with Affirmative Action

07:54 - 15:39

  • Tyler grew up in a rural part of central Pennsylvania and was raised by a single mother.
  • He didn't think much about race growing up, despite being a brown person in a predominantly white area.
  • Tyler's mother wanted him to pursue a four-year college degree, something she hadn't been able to complete herself.
  • Tyler had excellent scores on his PSATs and applied early decision to Haverford College.
  • During his interview for Haverford, Tyler's fishing hobby became a topic of discussion due to his racial background.
  • Affirmative action played a role in Tyler's college admissions process, which he has mixed feelings about.
  • After graduating from Haverford and starting his PhD program, Tyler began tutoring students and noticed the extent to which affirmative action influenced their mindset when it came to leveraging their identities for college admissions.

The Impact of Affirmative Action on College Admissions

15:12 - 23:03

  • Conversations about rigging the system were common during tutoring sessions.
  • Students felt that meeting expectations was important.
  • The Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action is expected to worsen negative externalities.
  • Race and value become intertwined in students' consciousness as they enter institutions.
  • Colleges will rely more on college essays to identify diverse students.
  • Students of color may feel compelled to emphasize their racial identity in their applications.
  • Asian Americans celebrated the Supreme Court decision due to its potential impact on college admissions.
  • Gia Shin's parents emphasized attending elite colleges for better opportunities and financial freedom.
  • Gia had a high-achieving high school experience with various extracurricular activities and a high GPA.

Personal Reflections on Affirmative Action and College Admissions

22:35 - 30:24

  • For me, applying early decision to my dream school felt like finding a home.
  • People around me were already celebrating my acceptance before the decision came out.
  • I was incredibly nervous and couldn't eat or sleep the night before.
  • When I finally opened my decision, it was a rejection, not even a deferral.
  • I was in shock and didn't know how to react.
  • To cope with the rejection, I stayed up all night working on other college applications and added more schools to my list.
  • I ended up getting rejected from most of the schools I applied to, only getting into two options: my state school and Boston University.
  • I felt horrible about myself and ashamed in front of others.
  • People made comments about affirmative action being the reason for my rejection, which affected my beliefs at the time.
  • The Supreme Court overturning affirmative action brought conflicting emotions for me. Part of me felt bitter because I felt wronged, but part of me also realized that there are different perspectives on this issue.
  • There is a misconception within the Asian American community that black and brown students are taking away spots from Asian Americans in elite colleges. However, legacy admissions and donations play a significant role as well.
  • I am still uncertain about where I stand on race-conscious admissions policies. It's a complicated issue with various viewpoints that need further exploration.


29:55 - 35:47

  • The speaker believes that race may have played a role in not getting into certain schools, but acknowledges other factors are at play.
  • The speaker supports the need for diverse classrooms and race-conscious acceptances.
  • Legacy and recruit athletes also receive advantages in college admissions, which can harm Asian Americans.
  • The speaker is excited to start Boston University but sees it as an indicator of potential rather than success.
  • The speaker's mom now values who the person becomes rather than focusing on elite schools.
  • College admissions are seen as arbitrary and putting all dreams into one school is considered silly.