How Much Does Legacy Help in College Admissions?

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Empowerly Team
Empowerly Team

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If my parent/s or grandparent/s graduated from a college, am I guaranteed admission there? How much does legacy matter in college admissions? 

It depends on the college. Whereas some colleges seem to admit higher percentages of legacies, other colleges do not consider legacy status. For instance, University of California (UC) schools do not look at legacy,  however many Ivy League and highly selective private colleges, admit higher percentages of legacies. Ivy League schools have been rumored to accept 10-30% legacy students each year. 

What is legacy in college admissions?

Legacy admissions has been considered controversial due to preferential treatment of applicants whose parents or other family members attended that same college. The definition of a legacy may vary by college. Legacy typically matters only if you have a parent or grandparent who attended that college. Siblings may count too. Legacy for college typically does not include cousins, aunts, or uncles.  

Why the preferential treatment for legacies?

Private colleges rely on private contributions such as donations from alumni as funding, and thus they are likely to increase donations by accepting legacy applicants. As a result, increasing family loyalty and ties to the university helps the school. A family with multiple members who attended that college may be more likely to donate. In addition, legacy students may be more likely to attend the school if offered admission.

When can legacy really matter?

If you are applying to colleges Early Action, you can be given special consideration if you are a clear legacy (your parent/s or grandparent/s attended that college).

Legacy may matter in the case that an admissions officer is reviewing two comparable applications and can only admit one applicant, admitting the legacy over the non-legacy applicant. However, there are always exceptions- many legacies have been denied admission for any number of reasons. 


In the end, most students applying for college do not have legacy status, so the question of, “How much does legacy matter?” doesn’t often apply. Whether or not you have legacy status, you only earn acceptance if colleges believe that you can succeed. You should instead focus on your  GPA, extracurricular activities, and SAT/ACT scores, which will be weighed more heavily in college admissions.  


Interested in college admissions help? Learning more about how specific colleges answer the question, “How much does legacy matter?” We offer college counseling to help you with college applications.

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