College Admissions Scandal: Legacy Admissions Don’t Matter Until they Do



In the admissions process, Pace doesn’t consider legacy applicants over others, but does provide a scholarship for them.

Sequoia Cumming, Editor In Chief

Recent allegations of Hollywood personalities’ involvement in potentially the largest college admissions scandal in the nation’s history has brought the inner clockwork of college admissions to light. While the scandal is centralized around larger Ivy League institutions, that does not soften the worry of every other college student around the country.

A large part of this scandal is the legacy applicant implications. Legacy admissions are often used by gold-plated institutions in order to foster the highly sought-after alumni community. However, this should not mean that students with at least one parent/relative alumnus should receive greater consideration than a student with similar test scores.

According to Inside Higher Ed, 42 percent of private colleges and 6 percent of public ones consider whether an applicant’s family members attended that school. Harvard officials defended their use of legacy admissions in court filings, saying the practice helps connect the school with its alumni, who are able to give necessary financial support.

At Columbia University, the legacy status may provide a “slight advantage” when similarly qualified applicants are competing. That’s also the case at the University of Virginia.

Pace University’s President Marvin Krislov gave a statement about the recent allegations, shaming those involved while also defending Pace and its admissions practices.

“I’ve worked in higher education for more than two decades and I’ve seen my share of parents trying to work the angles to get their kids into a top-choice school. That isn’t healthy for anyone,” Krislov wrote in a piece for the Westchester County Business Journal. “I hope these revelations will prompt an honest reckoning with the circus that the college admission process has become, how excluded many are by this process and the myopia of some parents’ obsession with getting their children into one of only a few highly selective schools.”

Krislov goes on to acknowledge the “dream school” haze that many college applicants and their parents often find themselves lost in.

“It’s great to have a dream school and it’s important to apply there. But it’s also OK not to end up at your dream school,” he said. “Part of life is trying new things and another part of life is learning to deal with rejection.”

Pace does offer a “Legacy Scholarship” to those applicants who have a parent who attended the university, but that is not the only criteria to receive the $1,000 annual gift. They also must reach the academic standard for the award of having a QPA of at least a 2.00 for annual renewal. Therefore, even though Pace does not specifically “consider” legacy applicants over non-legacy applicants, they still do get different financial consideration.

Salvatore Aulogia, the Associate Director of Undergraduate Admission at Pace, explained this more thoroughly.

“Pace Undergraduate Admission considers a variety of factors when evaluating applicants including academic record, contribution to the community, personal statement, and letters of recommendation,” Aulogia said. “There is no special consideration given during the application review for legacy students. However, we love seeing applications from students whose parents graduated from Pace.”

For Pace’s upcoming fall term, legacy applicants account for almost 2% of over 25,000 applications. Because Pace is a smaller school than the implicated Ivy Leagues, any scandalous activity would be more easily discovered, so any Pace students hurt by the national scandal should have nothing to worry about.

However, the Ivy League scandal does set an economic precedent for every single American involved in university admissions. The ultimate message sent is that the best education is given to those with the largest wallet.

While Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, and 48 others unethically paid upwards of $6.5 million dollars to have their children receive the best education, the vast majority of American college students are burdened by hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt.

Historically, celebrities are not the only people following these unethical precedents. Some of our countries most prominent figures have benefited from legacy preferences. When applying to Harvard, future president John F. Kennedy noted that his father was an alumnus. He was admitted to the Ivy League despite his rather unspectacular academic record.

According to the Guardian, George W. Bush was accepted into Yale, his father and grandfather’s alma mater, despite his “lackluster grades.”

Even in present-day politics, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner’s father pledged $2.5 million to Harvard in 1998. Kushner was described by administrators at his high school as a mediocre student but was admitted to Harvard shortly after that, according to ProPublica editor Daniel Golden.

Wealthy parents of college applicants must understand that they already are at a higher advantage than most. They are able to find a number of resources, whether that be pricey college preparation courses or professional college essay editors, that can help their child get into their dream school.

Plus, the college admission experience is supposed to help you to prepare and navigate the adult world. If you are feeding your child by a silver spoon, how are they supposed to find success themselves later? Will the Harvard title emboldened on their resume accurately replace the grit that it should take to get there?

Krislov said it best: “The deck is stacked against poorer students and students whose parents didn’t go to college because they don’t have the resources to even know how to navigate the system. This all puts first-generation students and less well-off students at a severe disadvantage. At Pace University, we make an effort to seek out ambitious, hardworking students from a wide range of backgrounds.”

The legacy title is always going to be present, but it must be watched and managed in order to level the playing field for less financially well-off students. The only answer we have been given is simply an excuse, that legacy students do not matter, until they do.