According to a recent New York Times article, the University’s enrollment of low-income students is substantially lower than several similar universities. Though there are many factors contributing to that fact, one, legacy status, stands out for its role in the admissions process. How the Office of Undergraduate Admissions uses legacy status while making decisions isn’t readily apparent, though it does collect that data. Other schools have released admissions data for legacy applicants, and some have even gone as far as dropping legacy entirely from their admissions process. The University should follow both of these examples — legacy status is a dubious category to include in an application process. At the very least, admissions should clarify its policy towards legacy admissions and make information about the acceptance rate for legacy students available to the public.
A “legacy” student or applicant is someone whose sibling, parent or grandparent went to the University. At some schools, whether or not an applicant has legacy status gives that student special consideration in the admission process. One study looking at over two dozen universities found that a parental legacy connection to a school increased a student’s chances of getting accepted by up to 45.1 percent. For an applicant to the University, however, it’s extremely difficult to judge how legacy factors into the admissions process. Admissions uses the Common Application, which collects information about siblings and parents who went to the University, but the Undergraduate Admissions website doesn’t mention legacy as one of the factors in the admissions process. The presence of a question on last year’s Common App supplement asking applicants to name any grandparents who went to the University further confounds the issue.
Students planning to apply to the University in the coming years deserve to know exactly how legacy status factors into their applications, and it’s primarily for their sake that the University should clarify their policy. If it is a factor, the University should abolish this practice. Consideration based on legacy status is a form of nepotism and has no place in the University admissions process.
Other universities such as Texas A&M and Massachusetts Institute of Technology have eliminated legacy considerations in admissions. The University should follow suit with these schools if it uses legacy status in a similar way, as those programs make it harder for other students to get in. They also tend to cut down on diversity, as past generations of college graduates have had a higher proportion of whites than the current generation. Examining how the University uses legacy status in the admissions process is a vital step towards ensuring all students have a fair shot to get into this University.