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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Admitting the Class of 2028: Admissions after affirmative action and legacy preference

Carleton released its Regular Decision admissions decisions for the class of 2028 on March 22. This year’s admissions cycle had the third-most applications in the college’s history. It is also the first admissions cycle since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action and the first in which legacy status was not considered as a factor in admissions.

Admitted students have until May 1 to enroll, after which waitlisted applicants will be considered for admission. Until then, the college will host programs for admitted students like Carl Days, formerly called the Admitted Student Experience, where admitted students and their families can tour the school in person and online, visit classes and attend information sessions.

To date, 1,405 applicants have been admitted from a pool of 7,869 in the Early Decision I (EDI), Early Decision II (EDII), and Regular Decision (RD) rounds, making the class of 2028’s acceptance rate roughly 17.9%. The incoming class had 22% more applicants than the class of 2027, which received 6,465 applications and whose acceptance rate was 21.7%, having admitted just one more student. Almost all of the 191 students admitted in EDI and 54 in EDII will attend, meaning only 25% of the 1,160 students admitted in RD are expected to enroll to fill a class predicted to be around 540 students in size. Carleton’s overall yield is predicted to be 38%.

Students were admitted from 49 states (all but Rhode Island), the District of Columbia, and 44 countries other than the United States. 56% attended public high schools, 56% are female and 44% male (based on legal sex), and 13% are first-generation students. 10% are international and 10% hold dual citizenship with the U.S. and another country. And 16% of admitted students qualify for Pell Grants, 11 were admitted through the Posse Foundation, and 18 are QuestBridge National College Match scholars.

The admissions office has not disclosed specific standardized testing score data. 62% of applicants submitted scores, meaning the college’s score data is inflated and unrepresentative of the whole incoming class. Carleton will decide whether it will remain test-optional in December 2025 after it researches whether students who did and did not submit scores perform differently.

Critically, however, this is the first class admitted to Carleton after the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited U.S. colleges and universities from considering race in admissions in a summer 2023 decision. Consequently, racial demographic information for the incoming class of 2028 will not be available until this summer. The college will be able to review that information, provided through the Common Application, only after it has completed its admission of waitlisted students.

Scholars across the U.S. have speculated that college diversity would decrease as a result of the national affirmative action ban. Art Rodriguez ’96, Carleton’s Dean of Admissions, sees it no differently: citing the outcomes of California’s 1998 and Michigan’s 2006 state-wide affirmative action bans, which saw a loss of diversity in those states’ public universities, he predicts that the racial diversity of incoming first-year classes will decrease at Carleton and colleges across the country. “Having that as the most sophisticated and developed research out there… I anticipate seeing a decrease in the number of students who identify as BIPOC or students of color,” said Rodriguez.

Still, “because we haven’t looked at any racial demographic information for who applied and who we admitted, time will tell whether not having this information deeply impacted the type of student body that we might be matriculating,” Rodriguez said. “Is that remedied by any processes that we put in place this year?… Are we able, through other mechanisms and considerations in the selection process… [to reach results that] align with seeing similar results to the past? We will do this research to understand what that will look like [moving] forward.”

In the oral arguments leading up to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Rodriguez said that “there was an assumption that if a student checked off a race box, that automatically implied some benefit… that’s not what we were trying to do.” When the college used race information in the past, it did so to glean a greater context of experiences described in applications, even if applicants did not explicitly outline a connection. Now, the admissions office can consider race only with an explicitly written-out connection to a lived experience. “We’re [now] much more reliant on whether or not a student shares that directly,” said Rodriguez. “When a student discloses their racial background but doesn’t tie it to a lived experience, essentially, we can’t use that information.”

As such, admissions officers had to train to adapt to “make sure that we were not having bias in our decision, trying to make sure that we followed the Court ruling, and maybe not reading too far into what a student may have shared,” he said.

But new hurdles to diversity may also arise from fewer students of color applying in the first place. College President Allison Byerly, who helped write an amicus brief in favor of affirmative action, said in a March 15 radio interview that she worries its ban “discourage[s] students from applying to certain schools; that it would make students feel like ‘well, I don’t know how good my chances are.’” And Rodriguez said that the ruling adds undue stress to applicants’ lives, forcing them to “make decisions that they thought represented who they were” in their applications more so than in prior admissions cycles.

“For underrepresented students [and] students of color,” said Rodriguez, “it meant having to decide: ‘Do I write to disclose my identity in a way [so] that colleges can use that information, even though that may not have been what I thought I would write about in my application, but [that I now] feel like I have to?’”

The college tried to address this hurdle, said Byerly, by dedicating effort to boosting recruiting efforts by “sending admissions officers out to different communities, [or entering into] a couple of… partnerships.” Carleton has recently expanded its list of partnerships with organizations dedicated to supporting historically underrepresented communities, including College Possible Minnesota, the New York-based Matriculate and the New Mexico-based College Horizon.

“What I hope we might find at the end of the day is that working harder at access at the front end of this pathway and helping students understand the value of this kind of education will lead to a diverse class, even if that’s not something we can consider at the moment of admission,” Byerly said.

To promote a greater sense of access following the ruling, Carleton also chose to eliminate any preference for legacy applicants. “We think that making it clear that [legacy] is not a factor that we’re going to consider is a way of saying that these kinds of preferences are going to be ruled out across the board,” Byerly said. “We’re really just looking at the characteristics and qualifications of the students.”

Even before the college’s decision on legacy, “we didn’t weigh it in a dramatic way [in] most of the decisions… [legacy] students who were admitted, were admitted for all the other reasons that other students were being admitted,” Rodriguez said. And though “there may be [legacy] families who received decisions… that were maybe disappoint[ing], I think that many understand why the college made the decision.” Most students apply for reasons “more than just whether they had a relative that attended,” he said, and “there’s a lot of reasons why we might be still choosing to admit many legacy applicants; it’s more because of what they’ve accomplished on their own.”

This admissions cycle was the first without affirmative action and the first after Carleton eliminated legacy consideration. It is one impacted by the still-being-researched effects of a global pandemic, and it came as college admissions are more selective than ever. An already unpredictable process has become unprecedented. For applicants to the class of 2028, describing the admissions process as nerve-wracking would be an understatement.

Rodriguez said that on the application side, “where maybe [college counselors] had an inkling of a decision that would be made at a particular school, that has become a little bit more inconsistent.” And just like it is for everyone else, on the admissions side, “it’s really a learning process for us. We’re trying to navigate a new space, and we’re thinking differently about steps we’re taking around selection, around recruitment, around outreach… we’ll be tested.”

“We still strive to be very intentional about our process. We know that it may come across as arbitrary, but… we’re admitting students to Carleton specifically [because] we see how that student connects [with] and can grow at a place like Carleton,” Rodriguez said. “We’ll have great opportunities [with] students saying ‘Carleton is the place for me.’ And I often describe [students who chose to go elsewhere] as ‘missed opportunities’ — who offered us something in their own way, an experience or viewpoint that could have [had] a positive impact.”

“I continue to think that it’s important to consider diversity as among the things that contribute to a student’s education,” Byerly said. “It’s a shame it’s become such a politicized issue. But I do think that the emphasis that we and other schools are placing on trying to offer as much financial aid as possible and looking very holistically at students across the whole application process will help us. And so I do feel confident that we’ll continue to build a strong class.”

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Ian Rothfeld
Ian Rothfeld, News Editor
Hi there! I’m a freshman prospective chemistry and international relations major who marginally likes the news. Feel free to talk to me about anything from sweaters to politics, space, and my conflict of interest in simultaneously being the student government Secretary.

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