The Ivy Coach Daily

January 13, 2020

Legacy Status at Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt considers legacy status in admissions (photo credit: Dansan4444).

We came across an article today that Vanderbilt University is bringing back legacy admission. It raised our eyebrows because we don’t believe that Vandy ever stopped considering legacy status in admissions. So how exactly could they “bring it back”? While there are a couple of elite universities that are in the minority and truly don’t consider legacy status in the admissions process — including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Vanderbilt has never by any measure we’ve ever seen been among these schools. So allow us to stare perplexed at the computer screen as we read an article published today by Zoe Light for Vanderbilt Hustler entitled “Vanderbilt brings back legacy admissions preference.” Huh?

Journalist Alludes to a Time Vanderbilt Eliminated Legacy Admissions

As Light writes, “After Vanderbilt began considering alumni relation as a factor in admission after previously dropping the practice, one alumni has begun a public campaign for Vanderbilt to stop considering legacy admissions, pledging $5,000 if Vanderbilt agrees to end legacy admissions.” First, $5,000 is this alum’s best proposal for a major research university to end a practice that brings in millions of dollars to the university on an annual basis? Say what you want about legacy admission — and our regular readers know where we stand as we’ve repeatedly over the years called for an end to the practice, too — but let’s make reasonable, not laughable proposals. Second, Light again alludes to Vandy having once dropped the practice of legacy admission but in her piece, she cites no evidence of the elimination of legacy admission at Vanderbilt and its ultimate reinstatement. In fact, she never returns to that point again. It’s bad journalism if you ask us!

But Vanderbilt, By Our Records, Never Eliminated and Reinstated Legacy Admissions

In fact, Light only references how information on legacies at Vanderbilt isn’t readily available. As she writes, “At Vanderbilt, legacy status is considered at the same level as other non-academic factors, such as geographical residence, volunteer experience, work experience, first generation status and racial/ethnic status, according to the website for Vanderbilt’s Office for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness. This makes it more important than demonstrated interest and religious affiliation, factors which are not considered, according to the Office for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness website, but less important than extracurricular activities, personal qualities and talent/ability. While legacy status is considered in admission, there is limited public information on the extent that legacy status helps an applicant, and statistics on the demographics of each year’s legacy class aren’t made publicly available.”

Journalist Fails to Scrutinize Vanderbilt’s Marketese

Of course, Light’s reliance on propaganda posted on Vanderbilt’s Office for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness is another sign of some lackadaisical journalism. Does Light really believe that Demonstrated Interest is not considered by Vanderbilt in the admissions process? Puhleease. Vanderbilt of course cares about admitting students who have intentions of attending. Vandy admissions officers do indeed care about the school’s yield. Just like every other highly selective university, Vanderbilt seeks to admit students who intend to matriculate — irrespective of what their Office for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness says to the contrary. But Ivy Coach…are you suggesting that Vanderbilt’s Office for Planning and Institutional Effectiveness isn’t telling it like it is? You bet we’re suggesting that!

Don’t Accept All Articles on College Admissions at Face Value

A core objective of Ivy Coach’s college admissions blog is to correct misconceptions — misconceptions perpetuated by college admissions officers, by high school counselors, by parents, students, grocery store clerks, and, yes, journalists. When reading an article on college admissions, including the elimination and reinstatement of legacy status in Vanderbilt’s admissions process, we find it’s important to not just accept what a journalist writes at face value because doing so will only lead to confusion and further stress surrounding the highly selective college admissions process.

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