Legacy provides unfair advantage

February 4, 2013 — by Rohan Hardikar and Rohan Rajeev

Colleges want a well-rounded class. They want the science fair winner, the well-decorated musician, the 16-year-old entrepreneur, the Eagle Scout and the published author. They also want the hefty donations that they often receive from proud alumni.

Colleges want a well-rounded class. They want the science fair winner, the well-decorated musician, the 16-year-old entrepreneur, the Eagle Scout and the published author. They also want the hefty donations that they often receive from proud alumni.
Many college application supplements on the universal Common Application require that all applicants fill out information about parents and siblings and their affiliation with the school. Imagine the discomfort applicants experience when they leave the entire section blank because their parents and siblings had never studied and received a degree from the institution. 
Students whose relatives have attended certain universities and have donated significant sums of money will have a higher chance of being admitted. This idea of “legacy” is practiced by many private schools and a select few public schools.
While these students are not guaranteed admission, their applications are put in a separate category than those in the common pool. In the private Ivy League schools, 10-30 percent of the incoming class is admitted with the assistance of legacy, according to The Harvard Crimson. These students have probably worked hard in high school, but they also have a built-in edge.
A study in 2005 done by Princeton University showed that being a “legacy child” was the equivalent of scoring 160 points more on the 1600 scale SAT. This boost could potentially place the “legacy child” over a more qualified applicant with no legacy ties.
Legacy admissions not only unfairly punish students for not being born to parents with big-name credentials, but it also limits the economic diversity of the incoming class. Adults who attended first-rate universities like Harvard and Stanford are generally more prosperous than adults with, say, only a high-school diploma.
 These successful parents send their children to first-rate high schools, and these young college hopefuls are further aided by the fact that they have “legacy” at prestigious universities, which increases their chance of admission.
Colleges like Stanford and Harvard may pledge to provide financial aid to any admitted student that requires it. However, to even be admitted, students from underprivileged backgrounds need to stand out over other unattached students and outshine the legacy applicants, which is by far the more difficult feat. 
This is not to say that poorer students are the only ones hit hard by the policy of legacy. Talented, deserving students from all economic backgrounds are rejected when legacy applicants take up available spots.
While it is appropriate to thank graduated alumni in some way, it is not OK to allow their children into universities through special criteria. In the end, legacy seems to be nothing more than a form of bribery that stains the entire admissions process.
 
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