A Coalition Calling For Transparency in Legacy Admissions

Legacy Admission, Admission of Legacies, Legacy Status in Admissions

It’s time to end legacy admissions.

Legacy admission, the practice of offering preferential treatment in admissions to the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of a school’s alumni base, is a practice that we believe is one of the last vestiges of openly discriminatory admissions policies of the twentieth century. Now don’t get us wrong — there are other discriminatory admissions practices that remain (e.g., Asian American discrimination in highly selective college admissions) but legacy admissions is a practice that college admissions officers are quite open about, whereas Asian American discrimination is a bit more under the hood. From atop our soapbox in college admissions, we at Ivy Coach have called for an end to the practice of offering preferential treatment to the progeny of a school’s alumni base. But we have been in search of a chorus. That chorus might soon be on its way.

Student Groups Band Together To Oppose Legacy Admission

As reports Delano R. Franklin and Samuel W. Zwickel in a piece entitled “Student Groups Call for Transparency in Legacy Admissions” for “The Harvard Crimson,” “Harvard students and alumni, in conjunction with a number of organizations across 11 other colleges, called for greater transparency in the use of ‘legacy preferences’ in a Feb. 14 letter sent to university administrators across the country. The EdMobilizer Coalition, an advocacy group for first-generation college students, published the letter, signed by 13 student and alumni organizations from hailing elite universities from all over the United States. The document, titled the ‘#FullDisclosure Letter,’ calls for more transparency in the legacy-specific admissions process. ‘We are specifically asking our universities to make all internally written admissions policies and data about legacy treatment public and to charge a joint committee of students, alumni, and administrators to re-evaluate its use,’ the letter reads.”

A Word to Supporters of Legacy Admission

A number of folks supporting the practice of legacy admission love to write in when we write posts that oppose the practice of offering preferential treatment to the children and grandchildren of alumni. One of their arguments is that the sons and daughters of the alumni of, say, Harvard are going to be bright and motivated. After all, they were educated by bright and motivated parents. The logic is sound. And it’s true — legacy students are often very bright, high-achieving young people.

But should a sixth of University of Pennsylvania undergraduates be the children and grandchildren of legacies? Should a quarter of UPenn’s Early Decision admits to the Class of 2022 be legacies? Should Harvard’s admit rate for legacies hover around 30% when that same statistic hovers around 5% for the overall application pool? And are there not bright and high-achieving students who are not the children and grandchildren of a school’s alumni base who could not otherwise fill many of those slots? Of course there are.

As highly selective colleges get better and better at appealing to low-income young people, here’s hoping these students take the slots away from those legacy students who happen to be less deserving of admission. And to those folks who say that legacy status just gives legacy candidates a minor, tie-breaking advantage, we quote Marjory Stoneman Douglas student Emma Gonzalez: “We call BS.”


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