The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

The student news site of Woodbridge High School

Golden Arrow

    Legacy Admissions: An Outdated Continuity of American Disparity

    With ongoing debates surrounding merit in college applications, the continued use of legacies fuels debate on its unfair advantages
    Catherine Lee
    The upholding of legacy admissions continue to serve as a favorable advantage, prioritizing alumni rather than fair competition.

    Although once deemed the pride of American universities, legacy admissions are an archaic system that is both shameful and an absurd excuse
    for corruption. Legacy admissions provide a favorable advantage to applicants with a parent or relative who attended the university. This practice is prevalent among the eight Ivy League colleges and a select few prestigious universities worldwide, including Vanderbilt University and Emory University.

    In anticipation of going into life beyond high school, many Woodbridge High students choose the college pathway. The truth of legacy admissions must be uncovered as it is a betrayal of supposed equity among applicants, resulting in a direct effect on our diverse student community.

    Senior and Chinese immigrant Crystal Sun, for example, was ineligible for legacy admission.

    “My mom didn’t go to school in the United States so [legacy admissions didn’t] benefit me,” Sun said.

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    The United States is the only country in the world to use legacy admissions. According to National Geographic, the reason for its foundation in the early twentieth century was an attempt to exclude Jewish people and other minorities from attending these highly esteemed schools. Today, legacy admissions disproportionately favor white applicants, perpetuating inequality.

    “If you come from a high-ranking background and have generations of your family [who went] to that specific school, that takes up a spot [from] someone else who could be more deserving that doesn’t have a legacy,” senior Pragya Sharma said.

    According to the New York Times, children of alumni are nearly four times more likely to receive that college acceptance letter than students with similar test scores. Giving advantages to these alumni guarantees the cycle of preference will continue for future generations.

    Supporters of legacy admissions often argue that alumni may cease donations to their alma mater if their child is not admitted. However, a study conducted by researchers Chad Coffman, Tara O’Neil and Brian Starr found no significant effect of legacy status on donation amounts. So if that’s not the reason, why do legacy admissions still exist?

    It is a tradition that is perceived as a way to honor alumni. However, this act of deception perpetuates the cycle of wealth to continue within the same

    Harvard University researchers found from data over the last 16 years, Ivy League schools in addition to Stanford, Duke, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago, showed that one in six students came from the richest 1% of American families. Not only that, but children from the top 1% of American wealthiest families were 34% more likely to be admitted than middle class students with the same SAT or American College Test (ACT) scores.

    The Supreme Court recently ruled against affirmative action, a law intended to repair the results of past discrimination on minorities by making race a part of college applications. The recent ruling sparked debate on legacy admissions as well. In July of 2023, the United States Department of Education opened a federal civil rights investigation into Harvard University’s legacy admissions and found that 30% of Harvard’s class of 2023 were legacy admissions and of those, 70% were white. The case is still pending.

    In light of the abolition of affirmative action, Wesleyan University has banned legacy admissions, setting a hopeful precedent for other institutions to follow. If college admissions genuinely prioritize academic qualifications regardless of race, they cannot claim to be race-blind while maintaining systems that primarily favor wealthy white students.

    This does not mean that students are undeserving simply because they are children of alumni, but rather demonstrates the need for consistency in admissions policies if choosing students purely based on merit is truly the goal we are aiming for.

    “Someone might say it’s unfair to give that advantage to people, especially if the previous generation and someone else’s family didn’t have the opportunity to go to the school,” junior Alexia Tatoulian said. “I could see that [but] I think that applies [to] a lot of things.”

    Eliminating legacy admissions will not immediately halt the cycle of wealth or somehow lead to skyrocketing diversity in schools, but letting go of them is the first step in creating a more equitable education system. Tradition alone does not justify the necessity of legacy admissions.

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    About the Contributors
    Rebecca Sanchez
    Rebecca Sanchez, Copy Editor
    Hi! My name is Rebecca Sanchez and I will be the copy editor as well as a general writer for my first year in Golden Arrow. I am also a soccer player and track runner for Woodbridge High and in my free time, I love watching movies with my family and playing with my two dogs. I am so appreciative of the opportunity to inform my peers of new interesting topics in both webstories and on paper and to edit the Golden Arrow right before it goes to print! I look forward to a great year!
    Catherine Lee
    Catherine Lee, Photographer
    Hi Warriors! I'm Catherine Lee and this is my first year on Golden Arrow as a photographer and writer. I am so excited to meet new people who are involved with our community as well as helping others develop interest in events. I like to nap and get 15 sweetener pumps for my boba :)