College students on affirmative action, race and admissions: In their own words

ABC News speaks with Harvard, UNC students ahead of key Supreme Court cases.

As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the future of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education across America, ABC News asked a group of current students from public and private universities for their views on affirmative action, race and diversity on campus.

What follows is an edited selection of their responses, in their own words.

David Lewis, Harvard University junior, Michigan

"Schools are not admitting test scores. They're not admitting GPA. They're admitting full human people with a whole experience and a whole life. And we can't just look at singular, individual numbers to determine who is most qualified or who should belong. We have to look at what adversity that they faced, what opportunities they have, how did they use those? Taking race into account is very important to ensure that we have a fair representation of people."

Chelsea Wang, Harvard College sophomore, New York

"I support affirmative action because I see it as a part of my heritage. I am Chinese-American, and the most important thing about my culture to me is collectivism. It's seeing everyone around you as part of your community, as part of your own being. It's trying to put the greater good above your own individual benefits at all times."

German Ortega, Fordham University freshman, New York

"I got my scholarship because I'm Hispanic. It's called the Hispanic Recognition Scholarship. It's sad that I got a full right because I'm Hispanic, because they needed to give that scholarship to Hispanics. It's good for me, but it says a lot."

Sarah Zhang, UNC Chapel Hill sophomore, Pennsylvania

"When you take away race as a factor in considering people's admission to the university, it is going to really harm diversity on campus, and UNC has had a long history of racism."

Muskaan Arshad, Harvard College sophomore, Arkansas

"I can't imagine writing a college application that didn't include my race, that didn't involve my Asian American identity. I couldn't imagine getting into Harvard without my race being an essential part of my essays and my activities. I refuse the narrative that affirmative action discriminates against Asian-Americans."

Yariel Ortega, Baruch College graduate, New York

"When you check off all the boxes – in terms of grades, extracurriculars, resume, cover letter, recommendations – I don't think race should be a factor now. If the student has met all the requirements, I believe that everyone deserves an opportunity to be there. I come from poverty. I come from a low income family. And I know the preparation that I received here in my local community [compared with wealthier areas] is not at the same level. So that's a systemic issue. But should the pencil be on race? I really don't think so."

David Lewis, Harvard College junior, Michigan

"To overcome those opportunities and to still be part of this small group of people who are being considered for these institutions shows that you do have incredible merit. Affirmative action isn't reducing the consideration of our merit or hard work, it's actually amplifying it and looking at the merit of overcoming adversity as well."

Joy Jiang, UNC Chapel Hill sophomore, North Carolina

"I'm a first-generation college student and my parents are immigrants. They both never received a college education. So, for me, it's really important to make sure that we have equitable opportunities for all students of color and all. Anyone who is interested in achieving a higher education should have the opportunity to do so."

David Spicer, M.I.T. senior, Louisiana

"Prior to Brown v. Board of Education, race was used as a negative thing, as a tool or metric to block people from education, to prevent opportunities for people traditionally excluded from them. I think affirmative action is the opposite: providing benefits, whether it's access or whether it's benefiting from a diverse community."

Chelsea Wang, Harvard College sophomore, New York

"Theoretically if we all stopped using race – theoretically if we were completely race blind – that line of logic could work. However that just isn't the reality."

German Ortega, Fordham University freshman, New York

"If you don't include race, it's a more holistic review. You kind of get to see the student academically, what they really are. You read a personal statement, you see their SAT scores. I think that in itself should say more about the student than the race. We will make it in because there's talent in us."

Yariel Ortega, Baruch College graduate, New York

"Once we remove that [race] factor from the equation, I think it'll be more of an even playing field."

Christina Huang, UNC Chapel Hill freshman, New Jersey

"I haven't been on this campus for that long, but I really appreciate coming on to a campus where there's a wide range of different cultures and racial groups. UNC is the oldest public institution in the country, and we need to make sure our student body represents the real world and that we are properly training students to adapt and learn how to work with people that are different from them."

David Spicer, M.I.T. senior, Louisiana

"How do you know affirmative action is benefitting you? I think we see it in the classroom – the combination of classes and community. I don't think there's enough knowledge about what exactly it means to benefit from a diverse campus. I think it's something that the general public doesn't have awareness of but should."