Leaving legacies in the past

Colleges should not use legacy status as a factor of college admissions, as it unproportionally and unfairly tilts the scales in those students’ favor.

It’s that time of the year again when college applications are being submitted, early decisions are coming out, and others are putting the final touches on their applications. It’s that time of the year when students anxiously await the decision that reveals whether or not all of their hopes and aspirations will be for naught. Yet, for some students, this process of anxiously awaiting results from elite colleges is made slightly less frightening by the knowledge that their parents went to that school. It’s that time of the year when everyone asks the inevitable question: should elite universities continue allowing legacy admissions?

The short answer? No, they should not allow legacy admissions. The long answer? There’s a lot more to the deeply rooted cycle of legacy students; in order to entirely abolish such an ancient practice, there will need to be serious changes in America’s society as a whole.

According to “AdmissionSight.com,” the “prospective legacy students [at Harvard] have acceptance rates that are five times higher than those of other applicants.” This is especially concerning when you take into consideration that Harvard only has an averaged “5.1% acceptance rate from the years of 2014 to 2019.” Those numbers are insane when you put it into perspective; I mean as someone who has a much higher chance of getting into Princeton due to legacy status, I would feel absolutely horrible knowing that I could get that spot over someone who deserves it more than me. The fact that just being related to someone who went to a well-established college gives me (or anyone else) five times the amount of other well-deserving students seriously rubs me the wrong way. 

And unfortunately, Harvard and Princeton  are just two of many Ivy League/elite colleges who favor legacy students over non- legacies. Schools like Stanford and Columbia are other examples of top tier schools that take into consideration a student’s legacy status during the admissions process (however there are tons of other colleges that also take legacy status into consideration). Both Stanford and Columbia along with Harvard and Princeton are ranked as a part of the “top ten universities” according to CNBC, meaning that 40% of the world’s top ten colleges are filled with nepotism, hence, an unfair socio-economic bias. This once again leads me to a conclusion that elite universities should not factor legacy status into a college application. Even though having a well-known college on a job application isn’t necessary, it is often incredibly helpful; shutting down opportunities for non-legacy students leads to a constant cycle where the same branches of families are accepted into elite universities, given good jobs, and are then able to work their way up to the top of the economic industries. So, as I said, legacy admissions directly relate to unfair nepotism and bias in professional work environments.  

However, when you look at this in the context of “top ten schools,” CNBC also says that the other top six universities—MIT, UC Berkeley, Oxford, CalTech, Cambridge and University of Washington—are no longer taking legacy status into consideration.

In fact, Oxford and Cambridge have rejected the practice of legacy admissions for an incredibly long time. According to “The Chronicle of Higher Education,”  in an article written by British academic, Nigel Thrift, “most people from Britain are genuinely shocked to find that elite U.S. universities reserve places for the children of the rich and well connected.” This poses a more focused question: Are elite universities the problem, or is America and its school system the problem? 

As we have seen time and time again, American universities are not only privy to adding “legacy status” as a part of their admission process, but they also get into bribery related admission scandals almost every year. I mean, there was Lauri Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, Rick Singer and tons of other rich/famous people who used their power to bribe elite schools into allowing their children in.

These bribes and use of legacy admissions are perfect for elite colleges, and it really allows for the colleges to live up to the definition of “elite.” After all, they’re participating in elitist culture and making it five times harder for people to actually earn their spots in these colleges. The legacy and bribery issues are truly living up to the definition of elite; they are making it so that it is virtually impossible for newer people with promising stats to even have the opportunity to beat out a legacy student with a far less impressive application. 

So, if you have the potential to apply for legacy status at an “elite” college, then go ahead, there’s nothing stopping you. And if it’s your dream school, then there is no reason for you to not take all possible resources to get into said school. However, in general the process of taking legacy status should come to an end and the ideas of elitism and elitist social status should not be factored into a college application.