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Legacy in College Admissions

College admissions has become competitive and every factor matters. How does legacy come into play? Should legacy admissions continue to have an impact in the college process?

With so many factors influencing the college admissions process, how much impact does legacy impact on someone getting into their dream college while someone else doesn’t?

About three-quarters of the top 100 universities give legacy applicants a boost in admissions. Richard Kahlenberg in his article A New Call to End Legacy Admissions wrote, “Research from the Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade of 10 highly selective colleges suggests being a legacy provides a boost equivalent to scoring 160 points higher on the SAT (out of 1600 points)”. In this passage, Kahlenberg suggests that colleges should disclose how heavily such preferences are weighted. Giving legacies a boost in the admission process serves no real purpose; if anything, it encourages a “donate to admit” policy.

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Offering a prospective applicant a boost in admissions just because their parents or grandparent is an alumnus there is rather pointless. More specifically, just because their parents/grandparents attended that college does not mean that the applicant worked at the same rigor to attend there. This privilege is a slap to the low income, first generation students who work so incredibly hard to even have the mindset to potentially apply to colleges. For example, at the University of Pennsylvania, only 12.4% of students who were accepted first generation. On the other hand, legacies make up 25% of the incoming freshman class, more than doubled of the first generation.

Instead of giving legacy such a huge boost in college admissions, colleges should uphold their holistic approach to accepting students. It’s not to say to disregard the legacy factor but instead, not give them such a big of a boost. Legacy admissions simply hinder the social mobility for the students who don’t come from those types of background. In addition, it gives off the effect that low-income students are less wanted compared to students who have parents that graduated from a particular institution.

Although legacy admissions do sometimes come with alumni donating more sums to the institution, the percentage of donations that are made are very small. The donations to top colleges, in fact, consist of billions of dollars from one or two people. These donations are usually why elite colleges want to refrain from this policy from slipping away.

It is now a prudent time to eliminate a practice that blatantly rewards lineage over merit, especially considering how the acceptant rates for many top colleges are plummeting. 


  1. Kahlenberg, Richard D. “A New Call to End Legacy Admissions.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 14 Feb. 2018,
  2. Gutenmacher, Yoni. “A Letter against Legacy Admissions Leaves Penn’s First-Gen., Low-Income Students Divided.” The Daily Pennsylvanian, The Daily Pennsylvanian, 12 Mar. 2018,

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