Can I Pull Strings At My Alma Mater?

If you attended a college, does your child have an advantage during the admissions process? How to navigate the world of legacy admissions.

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If your child is applying to a college and you’re a graduate of that school yourself, you might be able to help her get accepted.

How? Some schools have a special admissions policy for children of alumni.

Can you help your child? Find out here…

What Are Legacy Admissions?

Legacy admissions, or legacy preference, is a policy used by some colleges in selecting which students are accepted into their school. A student is granted legacy status if one or both of her parents are alumni at the school to which the student is applying. So, if you attended a certain college and your child applies there, he or she might be a legacy student.

The benefits of legacy admissions are obvious for the students who apply to their parents’ alma maters. The benefits for the school are twofold: the alumni whose children are able to attend are kept happy (and are therefore more likely to donate to the school), and the school admits students whose families have a history of academic success, thus hopefully increasing its graduation rate.

Although being a legacy might help your student get in to your alma mater, it is important to remember that it is not a guarantee.

How Do I Know if My Alma Mater Has Legacy Admissions?

Colleges aren’t always eager to reveal their legacy admission rates as the practice has proven to be somewhat controversial. Especially in recent years (as the number of college applicants have risen, causing acceptance rates to fall), students who do not have legacy status have seen the practice as unfair.

Many of the Ivy League schools, including Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Dartmouth, are known to have legacy admissions for children (or sometimes grandchildren) of alumni. Other major universities that grant legacy status include Vanderbilt, Stanford, Notre Dame, Duke, Middlebury College and others.

Often, if you ask an admissions counselor or consult the university’s web page, you can find information on legacy admissions. For example, the University of Michigan admissions evaluation page outlines the qualifications for admission and clearly states that applicants whose parents, step-parents, grandparents, siblings or spouse are alumni of the school will be given “discretionary consideration.”

How Much Will Legacy Status Help My Child?

Some schools that consider legacy students claim that legacy status is only used as a “tie-breaker.” However, research indicates that legacy students make up a much larger piece of the student body than non-legacies, and legacy status could increase a student’s chances of acceptance by as much as 20 percent.

Although being a legacy might help your student get in to your alma mater, it is important to remember that it is not a guarantee. Your child will still have to work hard in high school, get good grades, and turn in a solid application in order to be accepted.

The Debate over Legacy Admissions

Some people have argued that legacy admissions serve as “affirmative action for the rich.”

However, in a recent panel convened at New York University, the dean of undergraduate admissions at Yale, Jeffrey B. Brenzel, argued that legacy admissions are declining. Legacies make up about 10 percent of the 2010-2011 undergraduate class at Yale.

The debate goes on whether universities need legacy admissions to help bolster their financial bottom lines (the argument is that legacies and alumni families are more generous donors) or whether legacy admissions should be abolished because the policy hurts minorities and other under-represented student groups.

What Do I Need To Do?

Often, you don’t need to do anything in order to leverage your child’s legacy status. Your child will most likely have you listed somewhere on his or her application, and the school will check.

Most of the applications for schools that do grant legacy status will have a section where students can list any family members who are alumni of the school, so be sure to find out if any members of your family attended the schools on your child’s list. This can broaden the net you cast and possibly help your child.

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