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Legacy Admissions

In Speak Up, JeffZ linked to an interesting op-ed piece in today’s NY Times, which I thought was worth its own post. One of the key sections of the article says:

Among selective research universities, public and private, almost three-quarters employ legacy preferences, as do the vast majority of selective liberal arts colleges. Some admissions departments insist they are used only as tie-breakers among deserving applicants. But studies have shown that being the child of an alumnus adds the equivalent of 160 SAT points to one’s application (using the traditional 400-to-1600-point scale, and not factoring in the new writing section of the test) and increases one’s chances of admission by almost 20 percentage points.

At many selective schools, legacies make up 10 percent to 25 percent of the student population. By contrast, at the California Institute of Technology, which has no legacy preferences, only 1.5 percent of students are the children of alumni.

My impression, based on previous posts/discussions here in EphBlog, is that simply being the child of an alum is of little help in gaining admission to Williams. But I don’t know if my impression is correct, or if there is any way of quantifying the admissions advantage conferred by being a legacy applicant, but its a topic in which I have some interest, as college is at least on the distant horizon (my oldest son is almost 9). This has been a topic has been previously discussed on EphBlog; previous discussions can be found here.

Apparently between 12-15% of each Williams class is made up of students who have either a parent or grandparent who went to Williams. Is that a good thing? And should legacies get any admissions advantage?