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The Legacy Factor in College Applications

The Legacy Factor in College Applications

Find out more about the legacy factor in college admissions.

By Kristin Drew

January 01, 2007

As I relax during my deeply cherished winter break, I watched one of my favorite films, Gladiator. Not only do I love the film for its superb action sequences, but I also find the semi-accurate story of a power struggle quite compelling. At the beginning of the film, Emperor Marcus Aurelius chooses between a courageous general and his son, the legacy of the royal bloodline.

Legacies don’t just exist in historical dramas. The modern-day prospective college student is also up against legacies – students who sometimes receive priority admission if their parents are alumni of the school where they are applying. I certainly do not carry a grudge against those who carry a legacy. I won’t lie; if I had a legacy, I would use the influence to my advantage. However, I am slightly annoyed that I might be denied in favor of another student who lacks credentials, but has connections.

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I recently had a conversation with a teacher, and she told me about a former valedictorian at my school. He aspired to attend one particular Ivy League college and definitely carried the proper credentials. Despite his sparkling application, the school rejected him. On the other hand, the college accepted another legacy student of the same graduating class. This student didn’t even make the top 10 percent of the class. From what I’ve heard, he flourished at his legacy college, but I couldn’t help feeling sorry for the valedictorian.

However, do not let the previous anecdote frighten you. I know multitudes of non-legacies who entered their dream school. My two cousins enrolled at Harvard without the influence of a legacy. Furthermore, many of my friends who applied early received joyful acceptance letters without parental influence. In fact, many of my friends who do carry a legacy chose to apply elsewhere because they just didn’t like their parent’s college.

I came to a crucial conclusion: While legacies may give you a leg up on the application process, they are not the sole factor for the decisions of the college admissions counselors. We no longer live in ancient times where your blood determined your place in life. You must carry drive, talent and inspiration to stand out as an exemplar student. While I really can’t read the minds of those college admissions counselors, I think that they just might agree with my assertions.


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