Best of AP — Honorable Mention


AP offers all-formats look at the affirmative action ruling’s impact on college essays

Hillary Amofa listens to others member of the Lincoln Park High School step team after school, March 8, 2024, in Chicago. When she started writing her college essay, Amofa told the story she thought admissions offices wanted to hear. She wrote about being the daughter of immigrants from Ghana, about growing up in a small apartment in Chicago. She described hardship and struggle. Then she deleted it all. “I would just find myself kind of trauma-dumping,” said the 18 year-old senior, “And I'm just like, this doesn't really say anything about me as a person.” AP PHOTO / CHARLES REX ARBOGAST

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The Supreme Court ruling that ended affirmative action left the college essay as one of the few places where race can play a role in admissions decisions. To capture the impact on the ruling for students applying to college, Collin Binkley, Annie Ma and Noreen Nasir interviewed several students who spoke of how much was riding on the writing assignment.

Some changed their essays to emphasize race even if other experiences felt more central to their lives, and some described feeling pressure to exploit their hardships. Most powerfully, the students read their final essays on camera. In video shot and produced by Nasir, they shared intimate details about their relationship with their natural hair or the feeling of finding solidarity in a leadership group of students that look like them.

The story ran on front pages of newspapers in Decatur, Ill.; Mattoon, Ill.; Westerly, R.I.; and Chattanooga, Tenn., and AP member newsrooms accessed the story over 500 times.

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