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Towards a Fairer Future

Legacy Students Prevent Equal Admissions


Photo by Rajiv Perera on Unsplash


Applying to college is an extremely stressful experience for students in general. A student must be academically successful, well-rounded in their extracurriculars and produce an original application package that sets themselves apart from other applicants. However, it is common knowledge that not all students are created equal. Legacy students may have an express ticket to the admissions door.


A legacy student is a person whose relative previously attended or graduated from a university to which that student is now applying. This familial connection to a school can include a parent, grandparent or sibling. Many private institutions place significant emphasis on the admission of legacy students and legacy status very often provides advantages during the college admissions process. It is being brought to attention that legacy students contribute to the continuation of privileged students and hinder a schools ability to allow for equal admissions. Meanwhile, others argue that legacy students contribute to tradition and preserve the sense of community within colleges and universities. The discussion around legacy students overall explores the impact on the diversity and equity of college admissions and the multiple perspectives to consider.


There are many factors that contribute to a student’s application. These factors include test scores, GPA, service activities, extracurricular activities, college essays and other details that shape a student overall. Legacy status is another contributing factor to a student’s application along with providing the students gender and race. The Supreme Court established a law that prohibits the admissions process from basing their decision on affirmative action. This means that colleges are unable to accept a student based on their gender or race. Colleges should not be permitted to consider legacy status as a factor within college admissions if they are eliminated from using affirmative action. The admissions process should be solely focusing on a student's achievements, skills and potential. Additionally, basing the admissions process solely on the material within the application allows for less intentionally biased admissions and provides opportunities for every student.


It is no secret to the public that schools are businesses and because of this fact, schools are always trying to make money behind the scenes. Legacy students, from a financial standpoint, are a solid bet for fundraising. Legacy students are more likely to have wealthy parents who will donate more money to the school, providing financial incentives for schools to accept students with a legacy status. Legacy families often already have recurring gift agreements with colleges and maintain close relationships with a college’s development office, thus deepening their “relationship” with the school through financial strings. The funds that schools could receive from legacy students and their families, cause them to be much more likely to admit a legacy student over any other student even with the same test scores.


Legacy students are more likely to come from wealthy families. Because of the generational wealth, legacy students inevitably have more opportunities and have most likely received a higher education in comparison with the average student. It is common for legacy students to have advantages over other students. These advantages include better educational resources, financial support and networking opportunities. Students with these extra advantages are already more likely to be admitted into a college over other students. Being a legacy student allows for an even further advantage over the other students who have been forced to work harder to achieve the same test scores and grades. Allowing legacy status to further the privilege of these students creates an even further unequal balance within the admissions process.


Despite the many negative aspects associated with legacy students, there is no doubt that they carry on school traditions and allow for a greater sense of community within schools. Many families become extremely involved in the schools, maintaining  a sense of loyalty and demonstrating their pride in their school and education. Although legacy students do affect college admissions, some people believe that it is not a major effect. Contrary to that belief, legacy students do have a significant impact on college admissions. Legacy students are found to be four times as likely to be admitted compared to other students. The acceptance rate for students at schools they are legacies is 37% whereas at other elite schools it was 11%. Legacy students are much more likely to be accepted into elite schools and create inequity within the application process.


Although legacy students may contribute to schoolwide community and pride as well as the continuation of school traditions, there are other aspects of a school that can create a sense of community. Many qualified students are denied access to schools because a legacy student was chosen over them. Being a legacy student should not affect the likelihood of being accepted into a certain institution because it prohibits equal admissions.

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