Right now, many high school students are already thinking ahead to college.
The application process can look a lot different for some of those students since the United States Supreme Court made a major change to college admissions.
In June,the high court effectively ended race-conscious admissions programs, also known as affirmative action, at colleges across the country.
The decision is already making an impact with some colleges, like the University of Missouri, indicating that they will no longer offer scholarships that take race or ethnicity into consideration.
Race-conscious admissions allowed prestigious schools to consider race as one of many factors— but not the deciding factor— of whether a qualified student could be admitted.
Civil rights attorney Edward C. Hopkins Jr., a partner at Rathod Mohamedbhai LLC, has advice for students navigating the new path.
"Treat these last couple of semesters that you have as if they were the most important sports events that you've had in your entire academic career," Hopkins said. "If you're coming from a middle class or working class family. It's smart now to try to secure resources to get things like tutors, things like test prep courses."
Ose Okihan, a recent graduate of Rangeview High School in Aurora, took a similar approach. He's now preparing to start his first semester at Stanford University.
"I made sure that the classes I took were the hardest classes that were offered it at my high school," Okihan said.
Okihan balanced tough classes with sports, mentoring with Big Brothers Big Sisters, and SAT prep.
He utilized practice SAT courses at his school, and then found extra resources online in his own time.
Okihan said Khan Academy was one of his go-to test prep resources. It even gave him an SAT study schedule.
"If I wanted to do the writing section on one week, I can do that," he said. "And then take a practice test either every two or three weeks leading up to April taking the SAT."
Hopkins also suggests that applicants at elite colleges emphasize their diverse backgrounds (racial, financial, regional, etc.) in admissions essays because the Supreme Court's decision still allows colleges to consider that.
Organizations that are committed to diversity can also provide free and low-cost test prep services to help students boost their scores.
The Big Brothers Big Sisters of Colorado Big Futures program offers those resources to some schools in the Denver metro.
Hopkins said that he expects to see fewer BIPOC students at elite universities in the coming years, but he expects that to change over time.
"I think we're going to initially see a decrease in the number of what I'll call BIPOC, Black, Indigenous, People of Color, Black and brown students— I think they're going to be a slight decrease over the first couple of five to 10 years," Hopkins said. "But after that, when society adjusts, households adjusts, and they understand the new rules of the competition... there's not going to be a significant impact."
Some advocates are concerned that the ruling could lead to a long-term decrease of minority students being admitted to elite colleges.
Regardless of the overall impact, Hopkins said that qualified students will have the greatest chance for admission if they work hard to outscore the pack.
"Now you know that your grades are going to have to be top notch, your test scores are going to have to be top notch," Hopkins said.
Free test prep resources can be found here: