The Legacy Advantage in Admissions

Penn Legacies, Legacy Admission, Legacies in Admissions

Penn loves its legacy applicants — and the school is not alone (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

Do legacy applicants have an advantage in the admissions process at the University of Pennsylvania? You bet they do. Among Early Decision admits to the Class of 2022, 25% were the sons, daughters, and grandchildren of Penn alumni. That’s a quarter of all ED admits…that’s a whole lot! And why do these students have such an advantage in the admissions process? Andreas Pavlou answers that query in his piece for Penn’s “34th Street” entitled “Born This Way: Legacy Admissions At Penn” when he writes, “Today, cracking the code to legacy admissions—and college admissions in general—is on the minds of millions of Ivy League hopefuls. Brian Taylor, the Managing Director of college consulting service Ivy Coach, doesn’t think that decoding legacy admissions at Penn is rocket science. Like what Yale saw in the 1960s, it all boils down to one thing: money.”

Legacy Admission Boils Down to Money

Think the practice of legacy admission isn’t just about money, that it’s about a school forging a deep relationship through multiple generations with families? Well, you’re not wrong. But ultimately, the school is invested in forging that deep relationship through multiple generations so as to encourage donations. As we’re quoted in the Penn publication, “‘By admitting the children and the grandchildren of people who attended that university, it inspires alumni to donate to their alma mater,’ Brian explains. ‘They donate to their alma mater in many cases for years, and for many cases in large sums and it’s not just that it’s out of the goodness of their heart.'” No, no it’s not only out of the goodness of their heart. Not when their children receive preferential treatment in admissions on account of their generosity.

One Drawback of Ending Legacy Admission

And while for many years we have been among the most vocal champions of ending the practice of legacy admission, we ourselves recognize a certain irony here. As Andreas writes, “Legacy admissions benefit white students more than others—historically, alumni of elite schools like Penn are disproportionately white, so legacy admissions policies will disproportionately benefit their children, putting first–generation low–income students and Black and Latinx students at a disadvantage. But Brian thinks there is room for legacy admissions policies to benefit underrepresented groups in the long run. ‘The interesting thing is, we are all in favor of ending legacy admission. [But] the children of underrepresented minorities who graduated from schools like Penn are coming of age. So to end it just at the time when they can finally benefit as their Caucasian peers have for decades, well, some might not like that.’ Brian says. ‘Why shouldn’t Black and Latino students get the advantage their Caucasian peers have for decades?'”

What do our readers think of legacy admission? Let us know your thoughts and questions by rambling away in the Comments section. We look forward to reading your rambles.

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