The Admission of Younger Siblings As Legacy

Originally Published on November 7, 2017:

Do younger siblings enjoy an advantage when applying to highly selective colleges their older siblings have attended? Yes, with an important caveat: They must apply in the Early Decision/Early Action round rather than the Regular Decision round if they hope to benefit from their sibling’s ties to the school. If they instead apply in the Regular Decision round to the school their sibling attended, they lose the valuable sibling card.

Do Siblings Count As Legacy?

When elite universities publish statistics on the percentage of Early Decision/Early Action admits who are legacies (some schools, like the University of Pennsylvania for its Class of 2026, are now trying to keep even this figure close to the vest after releasing it for many years), siblings of students or former students are typically omitted even though they, too, enjoy an advantage. Sibling legacy is just not an official advantage. So, the figure that includes admitted students with strong ties to the university is even higher than the already derided figure.

And why do colleges value siblings? Because it further boosts a family’s connection to an institution, inspiring them to donate to one school rather than multiple schools. These siblings, after all, hail from families that are known commodities to the universities.

Also, if the sibling is applying to a school with an Early Action policy, which unlike Early Decision is not binding, offering the sibling admission is a way to boost the college’s yield since siblings are more likely to choose to enroll than are students with no familial ties to the institution.

A Brown Student Makes Case for the Admission of His Sibling

This is the logo for "The Brown Daily Herald," the newspaper of Brown University.

A few years back, a then-Brown University student, Mark Liang, penned a superb satirical editorial in The Brown Daily Herald imploring the Brown admissions committee to offer his sister a slot in the incoming class. The editorial highlights fundamental inequities in the elite college admissions process, including colleges offering preferential treatment to siblings of current students and alums in the Early round.

As Liang writes, “Please, pretty please, let my sister — Joyce Shao-Wei Liang, Aries, would-be Sagittarius and current high school senior — into Brown. Why? Just because. After all, since when does Brown need clear reasons to make their admission decisions?… I mean, it’s not like Brown ever considers legacy status, sibling or otherwise. Nepotism absolutely does not exist in any form within the hallowed halls of this university!… And we know that my sister’s decision to apply to Brown early won’t matter at all, because when has early decision ever affected people’s chances?”

Brown Student Did His Sister No Favor in Admissions

And while Liang’s sardonic editorial was a fantastic read, we at Ivy Coach can’t help but wonder why he wrote it while his sister was up for admission. The piece, in plain language, calls out Brown’s admissions committee for its hypocrisy in claiming students who apply in the Early Decision round enjoy no advantage, for favoring legacy students while purporting to want to admit the most diverse class possible, and more.

Surely Brown’s admissions committee doesn’t enjoy being called out in the university’s student newspaper. As such, if Mark’s sister, Joyce, were Ivy Coach’s client, we’d have never allowed her older brother to publish such a piece.

Over five years after the piece’s publication in 2017, we couldn’t help but notice that his sister’s name isn’t listed in the Brown alumni directory.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with Younger Siblings Navigating Admissions

Are you wondering if your younger child has a legitimate shot at the school your older child attends or attended? If so, it’s a component of Ivy Coach’s Strategy Session. If you want to learn about this session, fill out our free consultation form, and we’ll reach out.


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  • Nicole says:

    My oldest daughter is a junior at Cornell and my younger daughter just applied ED to the same college within the University. However, the common app clearly asks if the legacy is a parent,grandparent or great grandparent. There is no place to indicate sibling. She did mention visiting her sister at Cornell in her supplement but will they even see that if she doesn’t make it past the initial round?

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Take another look at the Common Application — under siblings ;). The Common Application does indeed ask where siblings attend or attended college. Contrary to your assertion, the Common Application does not ask anything of legacy status. Perhaps you’re referring to the Cornell supplement to the Common Application? And why wouldn’t they be reading her essays? What makes you assume there is an initial round in which her essays are not read? You’d be wrong to think as much.

  • Sid says:

    My elder daughter went to Cornell and graduated last year. My younger daughter is getting ready and would like to attend the same university. In order to get legacy advantage, will she need to apply under same school (i.e. Agriculture, A&S, or Engineering) or she can choose any school of her choice within Cornell?

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