Skip to content

Preferential admissions for children of elite colleges

Jenny Anderson reports on a discussion of the practice of colleges preferential admission of children of alumni:

[Richard] Kahlenberg citing research from his book “Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions” made the case that getting into good schools matters — 12 institutions making up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population produced 42 percent of government leaders and 54 percent of corporate leaders.

And being a legacy helps improve an applicant’s chances of getting in, with one study finding that being a primary legacy — the son or daughter of an undergraduate alumnus or alumna — increases one’s chance of admission by 45.1 percent.

I’d call that 45 percent but I get the basic idea.

But then Jeffrey Brenzel of the Yale admissions office replied:

“We turn away 80 percent of our legacies, and we feel it every day,” Mr. Brenzel said, adding that he rejected more offspring of the school’s Sterling donors than he accepted this year (Sterling donors are among the most generous contributors to Yale). He argued that legacies scored 20 points higher on the SAT than the rest of the class as a whole.

To which Daniel Golden, author of “The Price of Admission: How America’s Ruling Class Buys its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates,” pointed out that “the figure for the class as a whole was skewed by other preferences, including those for athletes and underrepresented minorities.”

Kahlenberg follows up on the discussion here.

It’s all a lot more competitive than when I was applying to colleges.


  1. Samuel says:

    Its sad to say but its almost the same in France, except we’re not that much on that “legacy” thing, but anyway the colleges are tending to admit always the same type of population, high-class and highly educated parents are pretty much essential for some student who wants to go in a first class college like l’ENA or Polytechnique !

  2. Eli Rabett says:

    There is another hidden issue here. A number of state schools in the south have alumni admissions preferences. No problem you say. Think again about who was allowed to be an alumni not so long ago

  3. Steve Sailer says:

    I’d like to see a study of how much _donating_ to your alumni fund matters.

    • anon says:

      Could anyone do such a study – credibly.

      Unlikley, or at least thats what a colleague found out when they suggested the effect of hosptital donations on quality of health care delivered at a Canadian (no medical care charges) teaching hospital be studied.

      If you show an effect, the hospital is in “ethical trouble”, if you don’t show an effect donations may fall off.

      Hmm, would be interesting to see how various University REBs handle such proposed studies…