What do Boston University, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Dartmouth, Fordham, Harvard, Princeton, the University of Virginia, and Stanford have in common? They all consider legacy to be a factor in admissions and reserve a small percentage of spaces for qualified legacy applicants. On the other hand, Baruch, UC Berkeley, Brooklyn College, Cal Poly, Cal Tech, MIT, and the University of Washington do not. Of the thousands of colleges and universities in the U.S., the advantage of legacy status depends upon the policy of each individual school.
What should you know about legacy?
1. If you are a rising senior who plans to apply to a college or university that considers “legacy” candidates, there is a good chance that your application will be viewed with more interest by admissions officers. You are considered a “legacy” student if one of your parents graduated from a particular university. Sometimes, depending on the school, grandparents, siblings and other close relatives provide some legacy status.
2. Colleges that take legacy into consideration do so for several reasons. They may assume that dedicated alumni maintain close connections to the college, participate in alumni association events and might be counted upon during fund-raising efforts. They are aware that families with a strong history at the college reinforce its positive image, and if you choose to apply and are accepted, you will most likely commit to that school early and immediately. It is also likely that you will continue your family connection with the school, both personal and financial, upon graduation.
3. However, be aware that legacy is not a guarantee of admission! You must also meet the university’s admission standards. You still need to be a competitive candidate in terms of grades, standardized test scores, and your potential “fit” into a college’s academic and social community.
4. To find out whether your parents’ attendance at a college will make any difference in your application, you can visit The College Transitions Dataverse which lists schools and notes whether legacy is important, considered, or not used as a factor at all. Often a school’s supplement on Common App will ask specific questions including whether you are related to any alumni, their names, year of graduation, etc. You can also read articles and blogs written by university admissions officers that clarify their policies and reasons, such as MIT, which does not take legacy into consideration at all.
5. If legacy is a factor and you want that status to be considered, it is advisable to apply Early Decision or Early Action to demonstrate your interest in the college and to indicate your absolute commitment to attend if accepted. Some schools like U Penn and Cornell will only consider legacy status if you apply early; otherwise, the advantage is lost.
6. Applying to a school because your parents went there has some benefits, no matter what the college’s policy may be. Most likely, you have already accompanied them on many nostalgic visits, sporting events, the campus and the surrounding community. This gives you an excellent perspective of what the school has to offer and whether you would be comfortable there. Many schools ask in their supplement how you got to learn about the school and often ask an essay question about why you want to attend. Having personal knowledge of the school can only help you write a convincing and detailed answer. You can also mention your family connection in the Additional Information essay on Common App.
7. Finally, since there is an expectation that a legacy applicant will commit to a school if accepted, be certain that the school is right for you, both academically and personally. Think about your own expectations, interests, and goals. Do you want a small liberal arts school in New England but your parents went to a very large Midwestern university? Are you interested in a particular area of information science which your legacy school does not offer? Have an honest and open discussion with your family as you move forward with your application process.
8. And please feel free to contact College Essay Whiz for guidance!