There’s an op-ed in today’s “Columbia Spectator” by Laura Salgado entitled “A legacy status, not a leg up” that we just had to opine about. Of course, we have an opinion about the title of the piece along since by any measure, a legacy status is — without question — a leg up in college admissions. The piece, while well written, is quite defensive in nature. Ms. Salgado, an undergraduate at Columbia, writes about how many folks at her public high school that doesn’t send many students to great schools believed she only earned admission to Columbia because her parents happened to go there. And, of course, she didn’t believe this to be fair. It undercut her hard work. It undercut her grades and test scores. It undercut her extracurricular involvements. It undercut everything she felt she had earned.
As Ms. Salgado writes, “Some claimed my ‘legacy’ status was a factor. This critique hurt me the most, even though it isn’t entirely applicable in my case. My parents are graduates of Teachers College, and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions defines ‘legacies’ solely as the children of Columbia College and School of Engineering and Applied Science graduates. I don’t meet these criteria, but the office also notes that being the child of a Columbia University graduate from any school or college ‘may be a slight advantage in the admission process.'” If it makes Ms. Salgado feel any better, what she’s written here is correct at Columbia. So why is she so defensive in her piece? Even if her parents attended as undergrads, there’s no need for such defensiveness.
Ms. Salgado may well be from an underprivileged background. Her father may well be an American immigrant, her mother a registered nurse. Not all legacies are wealthy. She’s right. Ms. Salgado has described a middle class upbringing. And not all legacies are white. She’s right. Ms. Salgado happens to be of mixed race. But who suggested that all legacies are wealthy and that all legacies are white? Nobody. Are many white and wealthy? You bet. Ms. Salgado, we get that you don’t want to be perceived as someone who only earned admission to Columbia because your mom and dad happened to go there for graduate school. It’s certainly not the only reason you got in — especially as your parents attended as grad students. So maybe stop complaining about how you’re perceived and just own it. Who cares. You got into Columbia. That’s something you can be proud about for the rest of your life. So live it up.