Yale Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut. Photo Courtesy: Fishville
Fishville's Notes: If one of your parents graduated from a college in the Untied States, your chance to getting in the same school is significantly higher. The preference given to the alumni kids was called legacy in America. In many cases, only your mother or father's undergraduate schools count. Sometimes, faculty's kids were also given the similar preference. Experts stated that regarding college admission it is a unique policy for the United States to practice since similar system is virtually not existing in major countries in Asia and Europe. The common explanation to this difference is probably that from the beginning America's famous colleges were founded as the private schools in contrast to their counterparts in England or Japan which were mainly run by state. Legacy would be a perfect tool to attract alumni donations to their Alma Maters. This year Harvard enjoys its record low acceptance rate of 6.2% for the class of 2015 while its legacy acceptance rate was as high as 30%, almost five folds advantage over the regular pool. While they are cherishing the affirmative action for minority students, liberals argue that legacy preference is an another way of affirmative actions for the rich families since the students' parents at least one of them had a degree from the elite schools.
We can easily point out several famous legacy examples as George W. Bush enrolled Yale since his father and grandfather were all Yalies, Al Gore's son went to Harvard despite his several incidents with police on drug and alcohol and now Tiger mom's daughter goes to Harvard. Less famous ones would include that Yale President Richard Levin's daughter went to Stanford. Reported numbers showed that Harvard's legacy rate are the highest among Harvard, Yale and Princeton. The schools' counter arguments are that legacies are usually well prepared as they have been raised in an intellectually stimulated environment. Yale even states that their legacy applicants have higher numbers with regard to standardized testing scores or GPA than the regular application pool. This might be the case for Yale but Harvard refused to disclose their legacy's data, giving rooms for speculations. Moving to a positive direction, legacy preference was weighted much less significantly nowadays compared to several decades ago. One of our friends who was from Boston area told me that they were aware that some of the rich legacy kids at Harvard even hired private tutors to finish their home works, a not-positive image for a privileged son like Al Gore's who follows his father's foot step to Harvard.
Legacy Admit Rate at 30 Percent
Published: Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Harvard’s acceptance rate for legacies has hovered around 30 percent—more than four times the regular admission rate—in recent admissions cycles, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons ’67 told The Crimson in an interview this week.
Fitzsimmons also said that Harvard’s undergraduate population is comprised of approximately 12 to 13 percent legacies, a group he defined as children of Harvard College alumni and Radcliffe College alumnae.
Fitzsimmons’ comments came the week after a discussion at New York University on legacy admissions between Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel, senior fellow at The Century Foundation Richard D. Kahlenberg ’85, and Bloomberg News editor at large Daniel L. Golden ’78.
According to a New York Times story on the event, Brenzel said that Yale rejected 80 percent of its legacy applicants. Brenzel reported that Yale legacies comprise less than 10 percent of the class, according to Kahlenberg.
Brenzel also said that there is a positive correlation between alumni donations and legacy admissions. According to Brenzel, Yale fundraising suffers when fewer legacies are accepted. Still, he said, this year Yale rejected more children of top donors than it accepted.
Asked if the Admissions Office communicates with University development at Harvard, Fitzsimmons emphasized the copious amount of information he receives about each applicant. “There is no formal mechanism of communication,” he said.
Kahlenberg, who edited a book entitled “Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions,” has worked to draw attention to the issue of legacy admissions at highly selective colleges.
“There’s been so much focus on affirmative action in college admissions ... Here there is a very large affirmative action program for wealthy students that gets very little attention,” Kahlenberg said. “It’s really a relic of European-style aristocracy that has no place in American higher education.”
Fitzsimmons defended Harvard’s legacy admissions rate.
“If you look at the credentials of Harvard alumni and alumnae sons and daughters, they are better candidates on average,” said Fitzsimmons, part of what he sees as the explanation for the disparity in the acceptance rate. “Very few who apply have no chance of getting in.”
Because of the family background of legacies, he said, students are more likely to be aware if they are unlikely to be accepted.
“It does no one any good to have a student come here and have an unhappy experience,” Fitzsimmons said.
Fitzsimmons said that legacy status, in addition to factors such as place of residence, acts as one of many “tips” in the admissions process at Harvard. All other things being substantially equal, he said, legacy status can “tip” an applicant into the group of accepted students.
But Fitzsimmons emphasized that a number factors, beyond the “tip,” lead to this higher acceptance rate. He said the pool of legacy applicants is a self-selecting group.
“Some parents are particularly reluctant to push their own institution,” Fitzsimmons said. “They want to make sure that their son or daughter really wants to go.”
—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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