According to a New York Times article, 75% of Americans are opposed to the idea of legacy preference in the admissions offices of colleges and universities.
And yet schools continue to give legacy students preference. Why?
The first thing that should be considered is that legacy students—I mean the regular legacy kids of the 99% of alumni who go on with their lives without ever donating anything significant to their university—don’t get that much preference.
Rather, being a regular legacy gives you the same edge that being president of a school club would give you. It’s not going to make or break your application, but it gives you a nice little boost and sets you apart, if only slightly.
If alumni have their children apply to a school, they have shown dedication to the institution not once, but twice.
These are the type of people universities can count on, and these people are the best bet when asking for money to build a state-of-the-art new stadium or science center.
I don’t feel like it is morally wrong to take advantage of the fact that my parents went to Boston College when I’m applying there, and I think that my family’s connection to the school makes me a stronger candidate.
The fact that I’ve visited my brother at school means that I have a pretty good idea of what to expect if I choose to join him. Logically, since I know that people genetically similar to me have already succeeded in that environment, I assume I have a pretty good chance of succeeding as well.
Now for the more controversial topic: the children from families who have made significant donations.
(I want to clarify that the following analysis does not apply to any DA students who are legacies, because for the most part they have already established that they are excellent candidates.)
When otherwise under-qualified students are admitted to top schools, universities are accused of corruption, of allowing families to buy their way into schools with lavish donations and contributions to the endowment, and of giving an elitist preference to the already privileged. Even though I see where the complaints are coming from, I don’t have a huge problem with this phenomenon.
Here’s why: universities depend very heavily on alumni donations. Having a large endowment allows some of the top schools in the country to instate need-blind admissions, meaning that any student who can meet the academic standards will be given as much financial aid as he or she needs.
It’s a sweet deal for a student to go to an Ivy on a free ride without ever having to worry about paying off student loans, and it seems about as democratic as an admissions policy can get.
There is no way that a school could afford to do this without the support of its successful alumni. If this means letting in the occasional student who doesn’t exactly meet the standards of the university, then I think it’s worth it.
Doesn’t having a variety of students from different backgrounds help the school more than then having a mediocre legacy candidate hurts the school?
In admissions, schools make endless calculations about what group of students would allow the school to be the best it could possibly be. Giving legacy students preference is just one gamble they have to make to ensure the university’s success.