As a rule, all college applications are reviewed without regard to race, gender, or ethnicity. Admissions officers look at the merits of your application. Your merits are reflected in the different parts of the application, such as standardized test scores, extracurriculars, and essay. That being said, a diverse student body provides a richer learning environment both in and out of the classroom. So, how do universities find balance?

Perhaps you have heard a story about someone’s [non-white] friend getting in to a school with a 1950 on their SATs while another white applicant scored a 2300 and got rejected. It may seem like that decision was based on race rather than merit at first glance. The truth is, there are many factors other than standardized test scores that come in to play in admissions decisions, so it may be true that a person with a 1950 was accepted over a person with a 2300, but the reason was not because of race or ethnicity. The reason was that the non-white student’s application as a whole was better and was a better fit for the university than the white student’s.

It is true that universities are looking for balance in each incoming class. This means they want balance in gender, geography, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and student interests. After universities have accepted the majority of their incoming class, admissions officers check to make sure the class is balanced. In order to best explain what I mean by this, I will use an example.

X University accepts around 4,000 students per year out of 30,000 applicants. Admissions officers have made three piles: yes, maybe, and no. The yeses they accept immediately, roughly 600 students. The maybes are reviewed again, and some turn into yeses and are accepted as well, 3,200 more students. Now they have accepted a total of 3,800 incoming freshman. All of these students had outstanding applications in all areas. A pile of 500 maybes, all with equal merits, remains. However, there are only 200 open spots left.

Scenario 1: Admissions officers realize that they are severely lacking in students interested in student government. What this means is, come junior year of this class, the student government is likely to suffer. This is not good for the students or the school. A university wants their groups and clubs to be full of passionate students, or else they are a waste of time and resources for everyone. If the student government does not have enough students interested in filling the positions, the environment of that group will not be as enriching. On top of that, the rest of the student body won’t be well represented when it comes to their needs. So, of those 500 equally qualified maybes in the pile, admissions officers will be looking for students interested in student government and accept them.

The same example can be used for race.

Scenario 2: Admissions officers realize they are severely lacking in African American students in their incoming class. What this means is the environment of the school will be less representative of what the real world is actually like, full of people of all different colors and backgrounds. This is not good for the students or the school. If the school does not have enough racial diversity, it will unconsciously teach students that the world is a homogenous bubble. It will not allow the students to see the spectrum of brilliant and talented individuals across all demographic lines. A racially (and culturally, and geographically) diverse student body engenders young adults that embrace each other’s differences instead of promoting narrow-mindedness and intolerance.

The same example can be used for lots of factors: basketball players, writers, social servants, pianists, actors, students from Alaska or Chile or India or China, and on and on.

The fact is, the more variety in a student body, the more opportunity there will be for students to not only grow intellectually, but expand their minds in all sorts of ways through their interactions with others that are different from them. A classroom filled with this kind of variety is rich because it opens the door to understanding and learning beyond what can be offered in lectures and books.

So, if you find yourself feeling frustrated about your chances of admission because of racial or ethnic concerns, then you might as well start getting frustrated about all the dancers and violinists and journalists and chess players and swimmers that could also be highly underrepresented at any given school and thus be accepted for admission instead of you. Or maybe you are one of those people. Let’s say you’re a painter in a pool of 500 maybes, and X University realizes they need more artists, so they pick you over the applicant who was class treasurer, because they already have enough students who have shown interest in student government.

To be in the pile of 500 maybes at the home stretch of a university’s admissions process, means you have already been classified as equally worthy of admittance as the rest of the students in that pile. As such, no student with an application cumulatively worse than yours will beat you.

What can you do about this? In order to get into your Dream School, you have to make your application stand out!

Feel free to check out BeatAdmissions if you’re looking for a way to ensure you are in the original group of 3,800 instead of one of the maybes where demographics are used as a tiebreaker.

BeatAdmissions has your back!