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What is Legacy College Admissions?

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    Legacy admissions are currently under national scrutiny. But what are legacy admissions? And what do they have to do with the recent affirmative action ban? Before we get too far into the controversy, let’s start with a legacy admissions definition: Colleges that practice legacy admissions give special consideration to applicants with alumni parents. 

    Although legacy applicants are not guaranteed a spot, they are given a clear advantage. In fact, a recent study shows that legacy applicants are up to six times more likely to be admitted to Harvard than other, equally-qualified applicants. As college admissions become increasingly competitive, various admissions practices, including legacy admissions, are coming under public scrutiny. 

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    Why do colleges use legacy admissions?

    So to start, who uses legacy admissions? According to a survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed in 2018, 42% of private universities and 6% of public universities use legacy admissions. Now, why do these colleges use legacy admissions? There are a couple of different reasons. Mostly, though, they have to do with funding and alumni donations. 

    By admitting legacy students, colleges hope to secure greater alumni donations, which can be used to increase financial aid for lower-income students. Legacy students are also more likely to accept offers of admission, given their family ties to the institution. In other words, legacy students express clear “demonstrated interest.” 

    For non-legacy applicants, it’s important to keep in mind that there are other ways to signal demonstrated interest, including applying through Early Action and Early Decision. You may also want to consider other factors, such as Does Your Major Affect Your College Acceptance? legacy admissions

    Why do colleges use legacy admissions?

    legacy admissions So to start, who uses legacy admissions? According to a survey conducted by Inside Higher Ed in 2018, 42% of private universities and 6% of public universities use legacy admissions. Now, why do these colleges use legacy admissions? There are a couple of different reasons. Mostly, though, they have to do with funding and alumni donations. 

    By admitting legacy students, colleges hope to secure greater alumni donations, which can be used to increase financial aid for lower-income students. Legacy students are also more likely to accept offers of admission, given their family ties to the institution. In other words, legacy students express clear “demonstrated interest.” 

    For non-legacy applicants, it’s important to keep in mind that there are other ways to signal demonstrated interest, including applying through Early Action and Early Decision. You may also want to consider other factors, such as Does Your Major Affect Your College Acceptance? 

    Public opinions post affirmative action

    Critics have long claimed that legacy admissions unfairly benefit wealthy white applicants. Some even go as far as to say that legacy admissions are “affirmative action for rich kids” (NPR). Given this comparison, it’s no wonder legacy admissions have recently come under public scrutiny. 

    Critics of legacy admissions have become increasingly vocal since the recent Supreme Court ruling. As a result, public opinions have been shifting. As colleges scramble to adjust to the 2023 Supreme Court Affirmative Action ruling, many are reflecting critically on their various admissions policies. Some are choosing to discontinue legacy admissions on account of fairness and racial justice. 

    In order to understand the cultural context of the legacy admissions controversy fully, you’ll need to understand the 2023 Supreme Court Affirmative Action Decision and Its Effects on College Admissions.

    Which colleges have ended legacy admissions

    Legacy admissions practices have been falling out of favor in recent years. The 2023 Supreme Court Affirmative Action Decision, however, has hastened this trend. Less than a month following the Supreme Court ruling, several colleges and universities have already announced their plans to discontinue legacy admissions. These colleges include:

    • Wesleyan University
    • Virginia Tech
    • University of Minnesota
    • University of Maryland
    • Occidental College

    Prior to the Affirmative Action Supreme Court ruling, MIT, John Hopkins University, the University of Pittsburgh, Amherst College, and Carnegie Mellon University all voluntarily discontinued legacy admissions. Colorado also became the first state to ban legacy admissions practices in 2021. Other states are currently poised to follow, including the state of California.

    In a recent interview, Wesleyan’s president, Michael Roth, said that although legacy status had played a “negligible role” in Wesleyan’s admission practices, continuing legacy admissions after the Supreme Court Affirmative Action ruling would be “hypocritical.” Furthermore, Roth believes that legacy admissions has become “a sign of unfairness to the outside world,” asserting that it’s time to discontinue these practices. 

    Legacy admissions Harvard lawsuit

    Legacy admissions at Harvard University are currently under national scrutiny. Several days after the affirmative action ruling, Lawyers for Civil Rights, a Boston-based civil rights group, issued a federal complaint against Harvard University, asserting that the college’s use of legacy admissions favored wealthy white students at the expense of students of color. 

    The executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, puts the matter simply: 

    “Why are we rewarding children for privileges and advantages accrued by prior generations? Your family’s last name and the size of your bank account are not a measure of merit, and should have no bearing on the college admissions process.” 

    Source: Nonprofit files civil rights complaint challenging legacy admissions at Harvard | PBS NewsHour 

    According to a 2019 analysis conducted for the 2023 affirmative action cases, 43% of admitted white students at Harvard were legacy students, recruited athletes, children of faculty and staff, or affiliates of donors. Furthermore, 70% of Harvard legacy students and donor-related applicants were white. This same study states that legacy applicants are nearly six times more likely to be admitted to an Ivy League college. Needless to say, these statistics will play a crucial role in future legal proceedings. 

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    Following the Affirmative Action Supreme Court ruling, President Joe Biden promised the Department of Education would investigate “practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege instead of opportunity.” Meanwhile, Harvard University is being brought to court by the civil rights group, Lawyers for Civil Rights. Overall, public opinions regarding legacy admissions have become increasingly negative following the recent affirmative action ban, especially legacy admissions at Ivy League schools. 

    Given the many recent changes to college admissions practices, you likely have lots of questions. If you feel like you could benefit from professional guidance, reach out to learn more about our college counseling services. In the meantime, review our articles: College Admissions Officers Are Looking At Your Social Media Accounts and Is College Admissions Counseling Worth It? Breaking Down Costs and Services.

    Key takeaways and moving forward

    Following the Affirmative Action Supreme Court ruling, President Joe Biden promised the Department of Education would investigate “practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege instead of opportunity.” Meanwhile, Harvard University is being brought to court by the civil rights group, Lawyers for Civil Rights. Overall, public opinions regarding legacy admissions have become increasingly negative following the recent affirmative action ban, especially legacy admissions at Ivy League schools. 

    Given the many recent changes to college admissions practices, you likely have lots of questions. If you feel like you could benefit from professional guidance, reach out to learn more about our college counseling services. In the meantime, review our articles: College Admissions Officers Are Looking At Your Social Media Accounts and Is College Admissions Counseling Worth It? Breaking Down Costs and Services.

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