Legacy Admissions: Where They Count

on August 31, 2017

When does legacy status count, and what should you do if you aren't one?


What Legacy Means


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


Where it Counts


Ivy League colleges and other top private universities take legacy status into account when assessing applications. Colleges like 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. Some colleges, like MIT and UC Berkeley, do not take legacy into account. 


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


How Much It Matters


Though many colleges have a certain number of spots for legacy students, the percentage of incoming freshmen classes is small, typically between 10 and 20 percent. Smaller colleges or colleges with extensive, generational alumni networks (such as Ivy League colleges) 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 said, because their family attended a prestigious institution, legacy students often benefit from additional resources, making the college admissions process easier for them than first-generation or low-income applicants. 


Not a Legacy? No Problem.


Many students without a legacy connection are admitted to prestigious colleges every year. A majority of every college’s student body isn’t legacy.

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