The College Application Advantage: Legacy Status

November 09, 2016

In contemplation of the November early action and early decision deadlines, we took a look at how different factors affected an applicant’s chances. Legacy status seemed appropriate since legacy candidates are more likely to commit early to a parent’s alma mater (12% more likely, to be precise). We shared a few of our findings with Business Insider in the article Here’s where to apply to college to increase your chances of getting in - no matter where you live

If you ever suspected that legacy applicants get a leg up in the admissions evaluation, our data confirm your suspicions… mostly. Of the nearly 3,500 profiles that ticked ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for parental legacy, the standardized test score criterium was relaxed for legacy candidates. If you had the good fortune to be a legacy applicant, your average score to get accepted was 1870, a full 73 points lower than the average of 1943 needed as a non-legacy applicant.

Business Insider found that this trend was also reflected amongst students accepted to the top 25 schools (as ranked by the US News & World Report) – that data set saw average scores of 2133 vs. 2156.

However, SAT score was not the only differentiating factor. When we look at GPA differences between the two groups, we found that, contrary to SAT scores, legacy students had a higher average GPA than non-legacy students. There are several ways to explain this discrepancy, but we dug deeper. Since GPA scales can vary significantly from school to school, we decided to look at class rank as a more reliable method to assess academic performance. When we looked at class rank, the results were in line with SAT scores. Non-legacy students granted admission were 26.8% more likely than legacy students to be ranked in the top 1% of their class.

So what does this tell us? Well, it shows that not being the first in your family to apply to college has its advantages beyond just access to resources: the system grants an advantage to familial ties.

Is this inherently unfair? It depends how you look at it. Universities have their legitimate reasons to give a boost to the offspring of alumni. The practice is justified by alumni financial support, strong alumni networks, and student loyalty that translates into better rankings. The legacy factor is unlikely to ever be disavowed, but what we can do to counter the effects of nepotism is to find other ways to increase college access for first generation applicants.

About The Author

Stephanie Shyu
Stephanie Shyu

Steph is our founder and the most prolific consumer of Easy Mac™® within a 3-mile radius of our office. She attended Duke where she was a Div 1 fencer, then picked up a J.D. and a Wharton Certificate focusing on Entrepreneurial Studies from UPenn plus an LL.M. from the University of Hong Kong. She founded an educational charity in rural China and was once an aspiring journalist (as is clearly evident from this artfully crafted author bio). Named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, she gives interviews and talks about startups and education – email her at steph@admitsee.com.




Browse Successful Application Files

DanThePotatoMa…
Pomona ‘20


Accepted to Pomona, Swarthmore, Bowdoin, Middlebury, WashU, Vassar, Emory, Kenyon, Wesleyan, Hamilton

Salutations person! My profile includes the awesome details of the ridiculously goodlooking man in the above picture! Plus, a bunch of essays!
kltaylor96
Duke ‘19


Accepted to Duke, Northwestern, Elon , William & Mary, Centre, Campbell

I am someone who always shoots for the moon so that if I miss, I will land among the stars.
Lia_Columbia
Columbia ‘19


Accepted to Columbia

I'm a student at Columbia. I love writing, activism, terrible jokes, and binge-watching Netflix. Aspiring PhD students/teacher.
Serena2020
Harvard ‘19


Accepted to Harvard, UChicago, Northwestern, Swarthmore, Emory, Oklahoma U, UKentucky, K College , OU, Alma

Premed on track to graduate a year early. But I love my school! National merit scholar, into surgery, arts & community…

New Posts

Common App Writing Prompt #5 (2018-2019): Personal Growth
Common App Writing Prompt #5 (2018-2019): Personal Growth
December 05, 2018

The Common Application asks students to choose from 7 essay prompts, each asking for a different type of essay. Prompt #5, which was the most popular prompt amongst applicants from last season, focuses on personal growth. Read...

Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
Dartmouth College 2018-2019 Supplemental Essay Prompts
September 17, 2018

Drafted your personal statement and ready to get started on your supplemental essays? Here are the supplemental essay prompts for Dartmouth College.Dartmouth College requires two additional pieces of writing on top of the Common...

What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
What You Need to Know about Athletic Scholarships
September 14, 2018

For many families, the only way to afford a college education is for their student to receive some financial aid. An athletic scholarship is one way that can help lower the price. Here’s what...

Load More Posts