There’s an article in “The Crimson” today that cites legacy admission at Harvard to “hover around 30% – more than four times the regular admission rate.” So if you’re the son or daughter of at least one Harvard College or Radcliffe College alum, you have four times as good of a chance at gaining admission to Harvard. In fact, Harvard’s current undergraduate classes are comprised of 12-13% legacy admits. If it comes as a surprise to you that legacy admission at Harvard is still going strong today, it shouldn’t.
Legacies are important to a university because they continue a family tradition. If a parent continually donated money to a school and maybe even made a major endowment or two, it would make sense financially for a university to pay extra attention to that alum’s son or daughter. What if a parent gives a half million dollars every year to Harvard and then the admissions committee denied that parent’s child admission. If that were the case there is a strong possibility that parent will then stop donating. And Harvard, with its gigantic endowment and all, likes money in this tough economy, too.
The Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Harvard, William Fitzsimmons, is quick to point out that Harvard’s legacy admits do indeed have a four times higher admission rate but one reason is that these candidates tend to be stronger. These children, after all, are the sons and daughters of smart Harvard students so it doesn’t seem implausible that their children, whom they raised, would also be smart. Their parents knew what it took to succeed and instilled this in their children. It’s no coincidence that a number of Intel Science Talent Search finalists every year are the sons and daughters of science professors at SUNY Stony Brook just as it’s no coincidence that Barry Bonds or Cal Ripken, Jr. followed their fathers into baseball or that Gary Hall, Jr. followed his father into swimming. Cal and Barry were good baseball players in their own right — and many would argue much better than their fathers. And the younger Hall was certainly more accomplished than his father in swimming, despite a late start, as he won ten Olympic medals – 5 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze.