Legacy admissions, for those of you who don’t know, are the preferences given by some colleges in the admissions process to the children of alumni. I have reported in the past on some of the issues related to legacy admissions, Colleges have often defended legacy admissions by claiming that the legacy admits are generally stronger academic students because of the advantages they have been given by their parents. New research out indicates, at least at Duke, that this is not the case.
The research is discussed at Inside Higher Ed in an article entitled: Legacy Admits: More Money, Lower Scores. The study compared legacy students with other applicants whose parents had attended college. Among these students, the legacy students at Duke had lower academic qualifications and did poorer in their freshman year.
The study also found that the legacy students were more likely to be white, protestant and having attended private schools. Moreover, the family income of the legacy students was substantially greater than that of other students, even those students whose parents had attended college. The study found that being black, Roman Catholic or Jewish was associated with a substantial decrease in the odds of being a legacy student.
Although this study is limited to Duke, many of the same types of findings were addressed several years ago in the 2006 book “The Price of Admission”. If you are interested in the many under the table advantages in college admissions, this is a must read book.
Mark Truman says
I thought it was strange that legacy applicants only did worse during their first semester of college. To quote the article:
“In their first semester, legacies perform on average two-tenths of a letter grade lower than students with professional degree parents and one-tenth lower than other students whose parents have college degrees. After the first year, however, the legacies close this gap.”
What happens that gets these kids caught up? I’d be fascinated to look at some case studies.
Todd Johnson says
I wondered about that as well although you will note that the report says that legacy students, compared to other students, tend to major more in humanities rather than hard sciences. I suspect that is where at least some of the difference comes from.