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Legacy Admissions: Where They Count

Legacy Admissions Where They Count

What is a legacy student, why does it matter, when does it matter and what should you do if you aren't one? Read on to learn more about this traditional method of admitting students.

What Legacy Means

Legacy refers to a student whose family member attended a college or university. Some schools only consider parents when assessing legacy status, while others consider grandparents or siblings. Legacy typically is associated with preferential treatment by an admissions office. Aunts, uncles, cousins and distant relatives do not count.

Where it Counts

Ivy League schools and other top private schools take legacy status into account when assessing applications. Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth, Cornell, Georgetown, the University of Southern California and the University of Virginia give legacy applications preferential treatment or reserve a small percentage of each incoming freshman class for legacy students. Others like MIT and UC Berkeley do not take the legacy factor into account. 

Schools consider legacy status for a number of reasons. Families with multiple students and/or alumni might be more likely to make a donation. Additionally, legacy students who are accepted are more likely to commit to that school, incrementally increasing the number of admitted students who accept offers.

How Much It Matters

Though many schools have a certain number of spots for legacy students, the percentage of incoming legacy freshmen is small, typically between 10-20%. Smaller campuses with extensive and generational alumni networks (such as Ivy League) can admit more legacy applicants.

Of course, most legacy students still need to have competitive applications to be considered. It’s rare for legacy students to be admitted with a sub-par application. That being said, because their family attended a prestigious institution, legacy students often benefit from additional resources, making the admissions process bearable. 

Not a Legacy? Not a Problem.

Many students without a legacy connection are admitted to prestigious colleges and universities every year. A majority of every student body isn’t legacy, anyway.

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