Ivy League admission and legacy. Parents often say to us that their student is a legacy at an Ivy League college. And that’s great to hear because our goal is to get our students into highly competitive colleges like those in the Ivy League and legacy status certainly aids a student’s chances! But then we ask a question or two that throws the parents for a curveball.
If the student is applying to Columbia, we might ask a father, “Did either you or your wife go to Columbia?” Often, they answer something like, “Yes, my wife did.” Great! We follow that up with, “Did she attend as an undergraduate?” Often, they answer something like, “No. She attended a master’s program at Columbia. But she has a degree from Columbia so that makes our son a legacy candidate, right?” Unfortunately, it just isn’t so.
At the vast majority of highly competitive colleges, legacy candidates are the children of graduates of the undergraduate institution. They are not the children of graduates of the graduate programs. They are not the nieces and nephews or cousins of graduates of the undergraduate institution. And why does only undergrad typically count for legacies? Well, people donate to their undergraduate alma mater much more so than they do to their graduate school alma mater. They take pride in the college where they spent their undergraduate years.
Does this mean that you shouldn’t put on your application that your grandfather and great-grandfather attended the university as well? No, you should put it on. It’ll show your family’s history at the university. You can even add an aunt or an uncle. And especially a sibling! But, ultimately, it’ll come down to the parents. Now keep in mind we’re talking about this as a general rule of thumb. If your grandfather happened to be a major donor…then that’s another card entirely!
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