6 JULY 2023

Statement of Lee Coffin
Vice Provost of Enrollment and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Dartmouth College 

Re: The Supreme Court Decision on Race as a Factor in Admissions Decisions


Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down race-based affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina. Here at Dartmouth, we will ensure that our policies and practices for evaluating all undergraduate applicants, as well as the decisions we render on them, are aligned with the Court's ruling before the next selection process begins in November.

As we interpret and incorporate the Court's new guidelines into our admissions practices, let me underscore something that has not been upended: Dartmouth remains unwavering in its "fundamental commitment to building a diverse and welcoming community of faculty, students, and staff, as articulated in our core values."  Those words were shared by Sian Leah Beilock, the new president of Dartmouth, in her message to the College community on Thursday. That fundamental principle endures.

So, what does this ruling mean for prospective applicants for the Class of 2028, and beyond?

A student's race has long been included as one factor in Dartmouth's undergraduate admissions process. Historically, and legally, it has been one factor among many. Going forward, we will comply with the limitations the Court imposed Thursday on how higher education institutions can consider race in admissions. And as we look forward, Dartmouth's decades-long practice of holistic admissions review will continue. As Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his ruling, "nothing prohibits universities from considering an applicant's discussion of how race affected the applicant's life, so long as that discussion is concretely tied to a quality of character or unique ability that the particular applicant can contribute to the university."

That means we will continue to consider someone's academic achievements as well as academic passions and curiosity. We will value a student's accomplishments inside as well as outside the classroom, and we will note evidence of challenges someone may have overcome. Creativity, leadership, an impulse towards collaboration, independence, determination, and kindness, among many other attributes that shape a person's narrative and identity, all "count." That was true before the Court ruled against Harvard and UNC, and it remains true today.

To applicants: The Common App goes live on August 1 and, as always, it remains a multidimensional opportunity to tell your story in whatever way you choose to do so. Use it to convey to my admissions colleagues—at Dartmouth and more than 1,000 other colleges that share this application platform—all the elements and perspectives that make you who you are. Be, and celebrate, yourself. As Oscar Wilde once said, "Everyone else is already taken." As you introduce yourself to us, tell us about your achievements, your background, and your aspirations. Do not ponder how we will adjust our practices to meet the Court's requirements; we remain committed to holistic review. The principles of diversity, access, inclusion, and social mobility are part of our institutional mission. It stands.

We look forward to reading and hearing your narrative, and to getting to know you as our next class—and those that follow it in the years to come—takes shape. Opportunity abounds.

Last week, the Supreme Court established limits for how we can consider one factor in our admissions decisions. But each of you is indelibly more complex than one factor.


Admissions Beat

On the Admissions Beat, veteran dean of admissions Lee Coffin from Dartmouth College and a range of guests provide high school students and parents, as well as their counselors and other mentors, with "news you can use" at each step on the pathway to college.

Bonus Episode: The Supreme Court, Race, and Admissions

On June 29, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. In this special edition of the Admissions Beat, host Lee Coffin, the Dean of Admissions at Dartmouth, explains the practical implications of the decision for students—especially those who will be applying to college this coming fall—paying particular attention to application essays and other narrative elements. Joining him for the discussion are Rafael Figueroa, a former admissions officer at Wesleyan and Occidental who is currently the dean of college guidance at Albuquerque Academy in New Mexico, and Jacques Steinberg, a former New York Times journalist who is the author of two college admissions books: The Gatekeepers and The College Conversation: A Practical Companion for Parents to Guide Their Children Along the Path to Higher Education. Coffin and his guests also provide insight and advice for the parents and counselors who will be helping guide applicants this fall, and in the years ahead. 

Bonus Episode: The Supreme Court, Race, and Admissions

A transcript is available for this episode