Amherst College Axes Legacy Admission

Amherst has done away with legacy admission (photo credit: Kenneth C. Zirkel).

For years, we at Ivy Coach have been calling for an end to legacy admission from atop our soapbox in elite college admissions. We believe offering preferential treatment to the children and grandchildren of alumni is an anachronistic practice that has no place in our twenty-first century American meritocracy. It’s why we cheered on Johns Hopkins University when in January 2020 the school announced, thanks to the generosity of Michael Bloomberg, that legacy status would no longer be a consideration in JHU’s admissions process. And it’s why we cheer today when Amherst College, one of our nation’s finest liberal arts colleges, announced the elimination of legacy admission, which seems to take effect immediately. Hey hey, ho ho. Legacy admission has got to go.

Amherst Broadens Access with Elimination of Legacy Admission

As Melissa Korn reports for The Wall Street Journal in a piece entitled “Amherst College Drops Admissions Advantage for Children of Alumni,” “Amherst College is abandoning its policy of giving preference to applicants whose parents attended the Massachusetts liberal-arts school, placing it among the first elite private colleges to ditch legacy admissions. Selective schools like Amherst have been under intense scrutiny in recent years for putting a thumb on the scale for legacy applicants, with critics arguing the programs do little more than cement the privilege of students, and leave fewer slots for applicants from less-represented backgrounds. ‘We’re doing what we can to examine where the barriers are and change what we can change’ as the school pushes forward on efforts to broaden access, said Amherst President Biddy Martin.”

Amherst Joins JHU, MIT, Caltech in Stance Against Legacy Admission

We salute Amherst College’s administrators for showing the door to legacy admission and joining the small group of elite universities — Johns Hopkins, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the California Institute of Technology — that will not consider legacy status in admissions. That being said, President Ronald Reagan knew what he was talking about when he said, “Trust, but verify.” We trust that Amherst will no longer consider legacy status in admission. But we’d like the school to show rather than tell. In mid-December when Amherst releases Early Decision results and in the spring when the school releases Regular Decision results, we hereby call on the admissions staff to release the percentage of students admitted who are the sons, daughters, and/or grandchildren of Amherst alumni. We want to make sure these numbers really do drop from previous years.


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  • Bobby Pterinas says:

    Not sure if lots of legacy kids want to even go to Amherst, do they? I think the Ivies (and a few others) are really the big draw for legacies- and not even MIT or JHU, those 2 being so specialized in STEM they would not appeal to most kids. My point is that I don’t think the schools are making much of a sacrifice by eliminating legacies since there aren’t that many in the first place at the aforementioned schools, unless coach has some data showing otherwise?

  • Byron Nix says:

    I think the poster meant small liberal arts schools in cold remote pockets of America are no longer as popular as they were 40 years ago. That is a fact. This site is called ‘Ivy’ Coach for a reason. They know everyone wants to attend an Ivy, not a liberal arts college. Nobody is called ‘Liberal Arts Coach’, or ‘Potted Ivy Coach’, which Amherst and Williams are considered. Sorry, Amherst is now an Ivy Safety- or even below that, because fewer and fewer people want to study liberal arts unless it is at an Ivy or top 30 university. NYU or BC would be chosen by most students over Amherst nowadays because they appeal to a much larger demographic. If legacies are going to an Amherst or Williams, it is likely they did not get into their first, second or even third choice.

  • Cara Li says:

    You can find your friends group at an Ivy or any of the top universities or state universities. Is that possible at a tiny school with a very distinct and unique culture like a Williams or Amherst? I don’t think so- at least not enough to make your college years enjoyable. Not to mention smally LAC’s have very limited curriculums and their lack of extracurriculars are further limiting. These schools appeal to a narrow demographic which today is considered almost eccentric. In short, they are fighting a popularity contest that was probably lost in the early 90s due to shifting demographics among college-aged kids, a much faster-paced culture, and the lure of large urban centers.

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