A Letter From the Editors

The Legacy of Legacy in College Admissions Should be Ended

Alycen Kim and Aidan Sun, Editors-in-Chief

When we enter high school, we’re taught that our actions alone control our chances of getting into top schools.

Our investment in extracurriculars, working for high GPAs and writing insightful essays — all things that college admissions officers “love,” can be molded out of nothing but pure motivation.

But, there is one factor outside of our academics, personal accomplishments and self-discipline that may dictate one of the most important decisions of our lives: legacy.

“Legacy” applicants are students who hold some kind of familial tie to a university.

Depending on how a school defines “legacy,” having a parent, grandparent or other family member who graduated from the school can significantly increase the chances of admission.

After so much reform in the past few decades moving towards making the college admissions process more equitable, many are skeptical that legacy admissions is still a prevalent issue.

But the fact is, legacy still does, quietly, impact admissions, especially at America’s most elite schools, creating distinct inequities between the white, affluent class and their poorer, minority counterparts.

Most universities, especially Ivy Leagues, argue that legacy is only “considered” during their holistic review process.

However, statistics show just how much of a discrepancy exists.

At Harvard, for example, America’s oldest university, the average acceptance rate for non-legacy applicants between 2013 and 2019 was 5.4%.

The acceptance rate in that same period of time for legacy applicants was more than five times that, at 33%.

According to their admissions statistics, Harvard essentially accepts more legacy students per year than African American (15.9%) and Latino (12.5%) students combined.

It’s worse at other schools.

The University of Virginia (UVA), for example, during the 2018 admission cycle, accepted 50% of all legacy applicants into the highly selective university.

Further adding to this disparity, UVA created a separate Admission Liaison Program (ALP).

This exclusive program specifically caters to the children of UVA graduates only, supplying them with application consultations and special webinars.

It’s safe to say that most of these children of alumni come from primarily wealthy, white families who had the means and privilege to attend such a prestigious, costly university at times when perhaps many top schools remained highly segregated.

Many of today’s top schools claim to be havens of free-thought and egalitarianism — representations of what a progressive and representative society should look like.

“Our community is strengthened by the diverse perspectives, interests and identities of its members,” Harvard’s admissions website states.

But when your school is supplying a more than five-fold advantage to legacy applicants, the only thing that is being strengthened is the perpetuation of elitism and privilege from one generation down to another.