Group of five diverse students with books and bags sitting on outdoor steps

You Belong in College: How to Find Your Best Fit and Thrive Post–Affirmative Action

A recent change in college admission affects countless students of color. Here's how you can still thrive and gain acceptance to your best-fit college.

The Supreme Court decision banning affirmative action based on race in college admission is a setback to educational equity but not a roadblock that will stop your success. If you’re a student of color, the first in your family to go to college, or from a lower-income family, you have just as much a right as anyone to the higher education you need for a fulfilling and successful career.  You belong in college—and with a few strategic moves, you will still have a wide range of opportunities.

Despite the Supreme Court’s decision, most colleges and universities are committed to building a diverse student body. You just need to pay attention to which ones are more proactive in recruiting and connecting with minority students while asking themselves the hard questions about whether their institutions foster belonging and inspire success.

Take advantage of the holistic admission model

Most colleges practice “holistic” admission, meaning each student is evaluated as an individual on a case-by-case basis. Standardized test scores and grade point averages are factors that still matter but don’t define you—just pay attention to opportunities to become the best student you can be. Show admission officers how you excel through an unusual interest, volunteer work, sports, or creative talents as well as persistence, overcoming adversity, or other qualities. Give some consideration to how you will keep expanding how you see the world and how you think. Be bold, original, and expansive in your thinking—the world wants to hear from you.

A good fit is not just academic—it’s also cultural and social. Ultimately, a good college is one where you’ll do well. Don’t pick schools based solely on impressive names, great sports teams, or popular locations. Think about the kinds of spaces where you are most successful and where you are going to thrive.

Related: Seeing the Big Picture: An Insider Look at Holistic College Admission

Become a higher education “smart customer”

While it might seem as if you’re making a big ask of admission officers when you’re applying to college, in reality, you are the customer. This includes being a smart shopper and looking for a good fit at the best price. You should not be burdened by paying for a bachelor’s degree long after graduation—or maybe at all. Primarily seek out financial aid that doesn’t have to be paid back, whether it’s from the federal government, the state, a college/university, or an independent organization. Also be aware that, in some cases, a private institution can be just as affordable as a state school; it all depends on the need-based financial aid available at the institution. If your family income meets financial aid requirements, you can get a bachelor’s degree at minimal cost.

Express your assets through strong essays

When writing your admission essays, create an engaging narrative to tell your own story. Remember to speak to colleges as the radiant, thriving student you are and will be on campus. Approach your college essays by highlighting the qualities and unique perspective you will bring to the school and get specific for each institution you’re applying to. Focus on how you excel and have become stronger even amid difficulties and roadblocks. Focusing on assets and aspirations will make your essays stand out to admission officers and potentially play a major factor in their decisions.

Connect with a partner and find allies

College admission is inequitable by design—the process is flawed. But you can connect with an organization that sees you for your whole self and helps you show that to schools! Find an organization you can trust to help you go for that college degree. College admission support organizations can help you navigate the changing landscape of higher education before you submit your applications.

At Bottom Line, we partner with degree-aspiring students of color to get into college, graduate, and go far in life by providing individual support to earn a degree and launch their careers. We offer collaborative relationships with admission offices to build strong pipelines to admission, notice trends, and advocate for students. If you’re interested in our free programs, please visit

Related: Q&A: Promoting College Success for Students of Color

The end of affirmative action is frustrating for many students, but it isn’t the end to your college dreams. You’re an incredible student and can still gain admission to college based on all your academic and personal merit. And remember, while the college admission process is challenging, you do not have to go it alone!

We’ve got all the college admission support you could possibly need with Our Best Advice for Tackling Your College Applications. Check it out!

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About Michael LeeYow

Michael LeeYow is Bottom Line’s Managing Director of Programs, New York. For 25 years, Bottom Line has been fighting for educational equity by ensuring the right to a quality college education is accessible to the many, not just the few. The organization's vision is to create a far-reaching ripple effect, launched by the transformative power of a college degree and a mobilizing first career. 


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