The Ivy Coach Daily

July 10, 2024

Vanderbilt University Legacy Admission: Everything You Need to Know

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

Previously Published on January 13, 2020:

Legacy admission, the practice of offering preferential treatment to the progeny of a school’s alumni base, is more befitting an aristocracy than our American meritocracy. Yet the practice is alive and well at most colleges across the land. Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, is no exception. However, a widespread cultural change has been shifting the terms of the legacy admissions conversation in the wake of Affirmative Action’s downfall. Will Vanderbilt University heed the collective calls to phase out the practice? Only time will tell, but until the Ivy League schools and other highly selective universities take a stand on the issue, Vanderbilt will likely continue to drag its feet. 

How Vanderbilt Considers Legacy Applicants

According to Vanderbilt University’s admissions office:

 “The admissions process at Vanderbilt uses a holistic approach to review applicants. Our process primarily includes review of applicants’ academic achievement, community engagement and leadership, personal essay, short answer, and letters of recommendation. An alumni affiliation is merely one data point out of many data points considered during the application review process. Vanderbilt does not hold spots for students who have an alumni affiliation. Legacy applicants are held to the same standards of admission and are part of the same process as all other applicants. At all times, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions is looking to enroll the most highly qualified class who bring a wide array of talent and perspectives to campus, and who will foster a welcoming and highly engaged Vanderbilt community.”

At Ivy Coach, we can see this statement for what it is: a load of institutional equivocation. Many questions remain unanswered to the general public, including: just who counts as a legacy applicant? Is the legacy admissions boost only given to those students who apply during Vanderbilt’s Early Decision rounds (as is often the case at elite colleges and universities)? We at Ivy Coach have answers to such questions: only the children of alumni of the school’s undergraduate program can lay claim to legacy status and the admissions boost is most pronounced in the two Early Decision rounds.

Beyond the shroud of secrecy surrounding Vanderbilt’s legacy policy, a misleading 2020 article published in The Vanderbilt Hustler seemed to imply that legacy status was only recently phased back into consideration following many years of no consideration. Ivy Coach called out this inaccuracy, and soon the article was changed to reflect the fact that legacy admissions were only out of the picture during a brief period in the mid-2000s before being completely reinstated.

Why Legacy Status Should be Phased Out at Vanderbilt

The only way to ensure that those applicants with family ties to Vanderbilt don’t continue to be admitted at the expense of deserving applicants is by phasing out legacy admissions altogether. This is even more crucial as increasingly competitive admissions cycles continue to drive Vanderbilt’s acceptance rate downward (a mere 5.1% of applicants were accepted into the Class of 2028). There is no excuse for this outdated and un-American practice! The simple fact of being born into a household composed of Vanderbilt alumni is enough of an advantage — any more consideration is totally unnecessary!

The Path Forward for Vanderbilt’s Legacy Admissions Process

Ivy Coach has just the solution for Vanderbilt’s legacy admissions woes: do away with the admissions boost given to children of alumni, but protect the admissions boost given to the children of major donors. Children of major donors, i.e. “development cases,’’ only make up a slim proportion of each admitted class at Vanderbilt, but giving them an admissions boost ensures that Vanderbilt’s financial aid program will not be jeopardized by disgruntled donors who pull funding because their child was denied. Under no circumstances should the university’s accessibility to low-income students be gambled with a policy that doesn’t enshrine a development admissions preference.

This path forward will allow Vanderbilt to proudly tackle future admissions cycles without facing more scrutiny, all while sustainably ensuring that students from all walks of life can call campus home.

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