Here are some updates on legacy admissions. (Read our archives for background.)

1) Director of Institutional Research Chris Winters ’95 reports on the numbers for the class of 2013. There are 69 students (13%) with at least one alumni parent and another 10 (2%) or so with no parent but at least one grandparent. (Some people restrict “legacy” to mean the children of alums, others include grandchildren.)

2) Here are my notes on Morty’s remarks about legacies from reunion last June.

Many schools (not naming names but mentioned Amherst at 9% in this context) seem to want to keep legacies to single digits. That seems stupid to Morty. We are at 13%-15% legacies defined as mom or dad (or both) at Williams. Add another 3% for grand children. Legacies are good kids, more likely to be JA. Williams gives 1/2 the advantage to legacies that it did 15 years ago.

It is not clear to me what it means for Williams to give 1/2 the advantage that it did 15 years ago. Half of what? My guess would be that this refers to the difference in Academic Rating between legacies and non-legacies. But recall what he said in 2008:

Morty noted that a decade or so ago [or perhaps when he arrived?], the average legacy was a 3.3 on the 1-9 scale of academic ranks while the average non-legacy was 2.3. Morty did not seem to be a huge fan of this gap, or of giving legacies such a preference. He then noted that the latest statistics show that legacy and non-legacy are now equivalent (both at 2.3). Morty confirmed, consistent with all the analysis I have done, that being a legacy is not a meaningful advantage in getting into Williams.

3) How can both these claims be true, that legacies get an advantage (if only half as much as they used to) and that the average legacy has the same Academic Rating as the average non-legacy? Easy! The key is whether you are comparing legacies to applicants that are like them (rich, mostly non-URM and non-tip, from good schools, and with college educated parents) or to all applicants. The second group includes many more URMs and athletic tips, both with substantial admissions advantages, than the former. So, legacies are, on average, the same as all students but not (quite) as qualified as the more elite pool which has many fewer URMs/tips.

4) There is still an amazing senior thesis to be written about legacy admissions at Williams. You should write it.

Summary: Legacy status counts for much less at Williams then it did 10 or 30 years ago. The doubling of the number of students in the 70s meant that the (fewer) children of 50s graduates had (proportionately) more open spots. The dramatic increase in student selectivity in the 80s meant that Eph children were becoming smarter and coming from families with more of a focus on elite education. All those trends are continuing. Within a few years, being a legacy will count for, essentially, nothing when you apply to Williams. Till then, the main advantages are: 1) The Admissions Office will give you a secret wink if you really have no chance, thus saving them (and you) the awkwardness of a formal rejection and 2) AR 1 legacies are always (?) admitted.

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