How Much Do Schools Use Legacy In College Admissions?

Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

Our collaborative team of content writers and researchers stay up-to-date on the latest news to help you ace your applications. We hope you enjoy the blog.

Many students wonder, “How much does legacy matter?” Legacy is a controversial term in college admissions. At some universities, if your family went to the university, legacy can legitimately help you in the admissions process. But often we get questions about how much it helps, what legacy is defined as, and how you can maximize your chances given legacy. In this article, we will go over these questions using data that we have extracted at Empowerly over the past years to shed light on the importance of legacy in college admissions.

What is Legacy?

Most people define legacy in college admissions as having a family relation who attended the university in the past; family, in the most flexible sense. In practical terms, the strongest legacy connection are your parents and grandparents. Those outside of the immediate family (like cousins and uncles) can be considered legacy, and should be listed on the application. But understand that these relations are not as strong as direct family connections.

Legacy proves to colleges that you have a certain interest in the school and that you have a familiarity with the culture and value system. It also proves that your family is probably more likely to commit funds to the university. Both of these statistically help universities increase their yield rate and their financial metrics on average.

How Much Does Legacy Matter?

There is a lot of debate around how much legacy helps in the college admissions process. Instead of jumping head first into this debate, we will use data we have uncovered about preferences. We have found that colleges rank legacy on a scale of 1-4, with 4 being the most important.

Schools like Notre Dame, Carnegie Mellon, and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill mark Legacy as a 3. Among the Top 50 universities, not one has marked it as very important. Only 3 mark it is as important.

About 40% of colleges in the Top 50 mark legacy as considered but not important and these include several of the Ivy League colleges like Harvard and Princeton.

What Can I Do if I Do Not Have Legacy or if I Do?

If you do not have legacy at any schools do not worry. Many students who get into the Top 50 schools do not have legacy. In fact, more than half of the students we help at Empowerly do not have legacy and they have received acceptances from all of the Top 50 universities.

On our portal  we have 18 variables across the Top 50 schools. Other variables like GPA and SAT are actually weighted as very important by the majority of universities and you should be focusing on these in any case.

If you do have legacy, include schools who consider legacy but also make sure that you are competitive on the other 17 metrics that they consider in the college admissions process.


Interested in learning more?

Questions? Let us know!