Every college application season, legacy admissions, or advantage in admissions based on family alumni bring about conversation among prospective students hoping to get into the elite college of their choice. Long integrated into the system, legacy admits are the epitome of elite American universities’ populations: in the top 2.5 percent of the U.S. economy and usually white. Although legacy admissions are financially advantageous to private universities and colleges, they continue a social and economic split between students with and without legacy. College-bound students should be more aware that legacy still plays a weighty role in admissions and therefore understand a possible factor of their rejection or acceptance.
While recent years have brought upon a wave of multicultural diversity, there is still no denying that those who have legacy already have the advantage of a higher socioeconomic status and will continue to stay in that position with the boost their possible legacy admission. Children of long-lasting legacy families enjoy their privileges over those of equal or more merit, but likely lower status in the American hierarchy.
“[Discrimination] based on parentage and ancestry is an aristocratic and deeply un-American practice,” Richard D. Kahlenberg wrote in his “Should Colleges Consider Legacies in the Admissions Process?” Wall Street Journal article. “Would anyone seriously argue that it acceptable for Yale to discriminate against applicants who are black or Muslim because, after all, they can attend another good university?”
On the other hand, the pro-legacy admissions side argues that such practices have declined greatly in elite colleges since the 20th century, from 70 percent admission in 1958 to approximately 30 percent today, according to Business Insider. Therefore, the logic is that legacy preferences are now a minute factor in deciding between students’ applications. However, another problem has surfaced. When colleges narrow down to two almost identical candidates, the applicant who has legacy is more likely to be chosen.
“[It’s] not about ‘tradition’ ― it’s actually about money,” Forbes contributor Josh Freedman wrote in “The Farce of Meritocracy.” “Applicants are not just given preference because they are children of alumni, but because they are children of alumni who donate money.”
Continuing legacy families brings back graduates to not only involve themselves again in their alma maters, but also maybe dedicate more money to the universities. If this, along with school spirit, is the only remaining rationale for legacy admissions, schools should consider further reducing the current 30 percent advantage to extend their hand and incorporate greater diversity within the campus. Students who want to learn and eventually incur great success with their alma mater education will likely want to give back to their schools; these students should not all come from the top of the American socioeconomic ladder.
Of course, there is still the bias of being on one side or the other; those with legacy advantage are not so keen to give it up. Those who do not have it frustratedly beg for its elimination.
The legacy advantage is an archaic and anachronistic tradition among elite universities, and despite all the financial glory the technique sustains, it needs to be terminated to pave way for the students of the greater merit-based generation.