A Chronicle article, “At Elite Colleges, Legacy Status May Count More Than Was Previously Thought,” discusses a study that examines the impact of family connections at 30 highly selective colleges.
The study, which was conducted by Michael Hurwitz, a Harvard University researcher, concludes that when all other things are equal in a college application, legacy applicants receive 23.3 more percentage points towards acceptance than someone who lacks family ties to the institution.
An applicant with “primary legacy,” that is, someone whose parent attended the school as an undergraduate, increases his or her chances of acceptance by 45.1 percentage points. (This means that if two equally qualified applicants have a 15% chance of getting in before legacy is taken into account, the applicant with the parent alum would then get that percentage boosted up to about 60%.)
The study shows that primary legacies received a greater advantage than secondary legacies, and that the advantage was seen most at the most selective colleges and at the least selective colleges, but not as much at the middle-tiered schools in Hurwitz’s sample.
“Some colleges may think this admissions advantage is justifiable or they may use the findings to reshape their policies,” says Hurwitz. He continues to point out that in the large applicant pools of top colleges, legacy applies to a very small percentage of students, and therefore does not alter admissions criteria dramatically. Of the 290,000+ applicants that Hurwitz studied, only about 6% reported a legacy status.
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