If you are looking at your classmates in the fierce competition for admission to elite colleges, the following are the advantages conferred on applicants in approximate order of their importance:
1. Being a highly recruited athlete, not just in football or basketball, but in ANY sport including tennis, crew, golf, lacrosse etc, This holds for women as much as men.
2. Coming from an extremely wealthy family. If your family is willing to make a large contribution to the school immediately, this advantage may even exceed that accruing to a highly recruited athlete
3. Being a member of an underrepresented minority. Although this category is always shifting, it includes, at most institutions, being Native American, of African descent ( which encompasses African Americans, West Indians, and Africans), Latino, or coming from the Pacific Islands.
4. Being the child of an alumnus. At some schools, the importance of this can exceed being from an underrepresented minority, and some schools it doesn't.
The vast majority of the attacks on Affirmative Action, and most of the resentment of it, focus on category 3. However, at most elite colleges, the percentage of people admitted via 1, 2 and 4 far exceed the percentage admitted under 3.