Legacy gives you undeserved leg up

Georgia Caras, Staff Reporter

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No matter which college someone is applying to, they should not be able to get in off of their parent’s connections.

It is no secret that New Trier is home to a bounty of affluent and successful families. It is also no secret that New Trier students are, almost unanimously, college bound.

According to the school’s website, “Approximately 98 percent of the Class of 2014 enrolled in college.” This number is impressive, but some of the reasoning behind it is not.

With money and power comes connections, which is perhaps what many New Trier parents use to assist their kids in getting into their preferred college when they fail to meet the school’s academic requirements.

Max Nisen, a reporter for the business insider said, “A 2011 study of 30 elite institutions found that the children of undergraduate alumni (“primary legacies”) were, on average, 45.1% more likely to get in.”

Nisen went on to explain, “An earlier study by Princeton’s Thomas Espenshade found that the legacy advantage was equivalent to a 160-point swing on an SAT score. That’s not a tiebreaker between equally qualified applicants… It’s a massive advantage.”

The reasoning behind this advantage is simple. “Despite what [colleges] might say about tradition and close alumni relationships, [the advantage] is clearly about money. An alum who encourages their child to apply to their alma mater likely had a good experience, and if their child gets into the school, they’re even more likely to donate. Wealthy families or heavy donors are likely to get additional preference.”

Rick Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation said legacy admission is a, “special privilege for the advantaged,” and I agree.

Legacy preference means two main things. The first is that you come from a family that has had access to high-level education for at least a generation, and the second is that your family has the money to fund its members to attend the same school they have for generations, even when those members don’t meet the criteria to be accepted into that given school on their own.

This means that so-called “legacy kids” are more often than not coming from wealthy families. So, legacy preference is essentially going to rich children.

Kahlenberg said that “this is fundamentally unfair. Selective college admissions is a zero sum game: every applicant admitted takes a space which could have gone to another student. Preferring a student whose parents attended a college not only takes away a spot from an equal or better student, it specifically takes away a spot from an equal or better student who overcame more by not having the advantages [built up] by prior generations.”

I will admit that I have some bias on the issue, but I believe that this bias is fair. It comes from my familial situation, which is one that doesn’t have enough money to donate to whichever school I wish to attend in order for me to receive an acceptance letter. I have to work hard to get where I want, as many other students do, and it’s hard for me to get past that I could get denied by my dream school as someone who’s significantly less qualified gets in because of their parents’ money and legacy.

We are taught from a young age that we have to work hard to accomplish our goals. A New Trier senior, who wishes to remain anonymous, worked extremely hard during high school. He took high-level classes while managing being a varsity athlete, and applied for a number of scholarship programs so that his parents wouldn’t have to pay as much for his college and could focus on supporting his three younger siblings throughout their college processes.

Although he was extremely qualified and worked incredibly hard, he got deferred from University of Michigan, his top school, while he watched at least 5 of his peers with legacy receive their acceptance letters. He alleges these peers were not as academically qualified as he was, yet got in over him because of the hard work and money their parents put into the school for them.

Although most schools place value on legacy, MIT is one of the few that doesn’t. By doing so, they are placing value where it matters and where it should be placed.

Chris Peterson, in an article for MIT admissions, said, “I personally would not work for a college which had legacy admission because I am not interested in simply reproducing a multi-generational lineage of educated elite. If you got into MIT, it’s because you got into MIT. Simple as that.”

I strongly believe that this is the approach every college should take. It’s incomprehensible to me that someone’s parents’ hard work and money can get them into a school over a student that did the hard work themselves.

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