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Is being an URM or a legacy more influential in a decision?

ap012199ap012199 Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
I'm not a URM, but my mom went to Harvard, donates (not much though), and works for admissions as an interviewer. I was just wondering which is more influential... I do understand, however, that there may not be a definitive answer.

Replies to: Is being an URM or a legacy more influential in a decision?

  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,499 Senior Member
    edited February 2017
    Based on the below articles -- and assuming that Harvard and Yale's percentages are somewhat similar -- about 12% to 13% of an incoming class is comprised of legacies, while about 14% is comprised of URM's. According to the articles, Harvard rejects 70% of all legacies, while Yale rejects 80% of all legacies, however an overall acceptance rate of 20% or 30% is certainly higher than the overall admit rate. And FWIW: both schools do NOT publish a URM admit rate, so it's impossible to know if the URM acceptance rate is higher or lower than the legacy acceptance rate. That said, there's a quote from Yale that would seem to answer your question: “the trend is down for legacy and up for underrepresented minorities.”

    Mr. Brenzel made the case that low-income students represented an increasing size of Yale’s undergraduate class, even though they had less of a track record of success at the university. About 14 percent of the incoming class is supported by Pell Grant students, he said, saying that with respect to preferences, “the trend is down for legacy and up for underrepresented minorities.”

    Fitzsimmons also said that Harvard’s undergraduate population is comprised of approximately 12 to 13 percent legacies, a group he defined as children of Harvard College alumni and Radcliffe College alumnae.

  • sherpasherpa Registered User Posts: 4,633 Senior Member
    Harvard knows that its legacies generally have significant educational advantages due to coming from relatively affluent households where education is highly valued. Because of this, while legacies are slightly favored, they are held to a very high standard.

    I would expect an African American applicant from an underperforming inner city school with 750+ on SAT sections and Subject Tests would be more highly regarded than a legacy with the same stats.
  • ap012199ap012199 Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    @sherpa yeah, I've heard that. The problem is my test scores aren't exactly "legacy level." 34 super score & 32 single score between two tests. My GPA is 4.0 UW, though, and my teacher recs are great. Do you think my test scores will disqualify me from being brought to the committee?
  • sherpasherpa Registered User Posts: 4,633 Senior Member
    How rigorous is your course load?
  • ap012199ap012199 Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    @sherpa 4.0 most rigorous courseload possible. Although my school doesn't report rank, I am #1 out of ~100
  • sherpasherpa Registered User Posts: 4,633 Senior Member
    As a legacy with a strong transcript I'm sure your 32 ACT won't send your application straight to the circular file. I believe your application will receive serious consideration.
  • ScipioScipio Registered User Posts: 8,710 Senior Member
    I'm not sure about Harvard but we had an interesting test case of this question for Stanford from our local high school a few years ago. Two girls (who were best friends, BTW) were co-valedictorians with exactly the same UW/W GPA, very similar high test scores, same number of APs, very similar rigorous courses, both were talented award-winning musicians for the ECs, and the teachers loved them both, so I'm sure they both got great recs. I don't know about the essays because I didn't read them, but both were said to be top English students and good writers. Neither girl was poor. Both came from stable, upper middle-class families where both parents had advanced degrees. Both girls applied to Stanford.

    The main difference: one girl was a URM who applied RD and the other was a Stanford legacy who applied SCEA.

    The results: URM = accepted RD. Legacy = deferred in SCEA and rejected in RD.

    No two applicants are ever exactly the same of course, but this example was about as close as they come short of being actual identical twins. For this experiment of n=1, being URM beat out having legacy.

  • ap012199ap012199 Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    edited February 2017
    @Scipio thanks! I have heard, however, that Stanford doesn't weight legacy as much as it's peer institutions do. Also, do you know if that girl's parent was an active alum?

    I actually just found an article that said Stanford's legacy admit rate is triple its admission rate while Harvard's hovers around 30%.
  • ScipioScipio Registered User Posts: 8,710 Senior Member
    ^^Active alum, yes. Regular donor but not rich enough to donate the big bucks - similar to your mom I suppose.
  • ap012199ap012199 Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    @Scipio ah, ok. It seems like Harvard does accept its legacies at a higher rate. I don't know anyone who has Harvard legacy whose parent(s) are interviewers who have been rejected. I think I know 8...
  • Multiverse7Multiverse7 Registered User Posts: 551 Member
    @ap012199 While Harvard does admit legacies at a much higher rate, a few things to consider are the fact that legacy applicants to Harvard are likely a much stronger pool than the overall applicant pool. Most of the legacies accepted to Harvard are also accepted to peer institutions. Not going to dig up the sources to support this so you can choose to accept what I'm saying or not.

    Also, I suspect that most legacies are accepted in the SCEA round where the acceptance rate is nearly triple the overall rate and nearly quintuple the RD rate. I know that at Ivy schools that have RD, most, if not all, of the legacy advantage is lost if you don't apply early (why should they "show you the love" if you're not willing to show them it back. I don't know if this applies to Ivy SCEA schools but I could easily see this being the case. In any event, they get SO many highly qualified legacy applicants early, they probably will have filled much of the legacy slots early and deferred others that they want to give more consideration too (along with courtesy deferrals).

    I saw from some of your previous posts that you applied to Brown ED and another school ED II. You are certainly an interesting and qualified candidate but you may have lost much of the legacy advantage your mother being an active alum conferred to you. I hope I am mistaken about this because the RD acceptance rate is only about 3% which really makes things tough especially when you consider that kids who have already been accepted to schools like Y,P, S, M, UChicago etc might also be applying to Harvard RD.

    Best of luck to you! I hope the 30% rate still applies for you!
  • ap012199ap012199 Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    @Multiverse7 thanks! Did u get a chance to read over my essay?
  • ap012199ap012199 Registered User Posts: 1,624 Senior Member
    @Multiverse7 I do believe that most legacies are accepted SCEA. During my interview, I told the interviewer that I applied EA to a safety (which I did) so I wouldn't have to apply to safeties RD, thus saving money. My interviewer seemed to think that I would be admitted. All just children, like him, were accepted to Harvard. I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens!
  • bluewater2015bluewater2015 Registered User Posts: 563 Member
    Re the posts on Stanford above, one thing to be aware of is that Stanford and Harvard have different definitions of legacy - Harvard College alumni kids versus Stanford (undergrad or grad) alumni kids. So it's a smaller pool at Harvard due to the more restrictive definition.
  • swarleysswarleys Registered User Posts: 63 Junior Member
    Just something to think about-- Harvard does accept legacies at a higher rate, but they still reject the overwhelming majority. I'm a third-generation legacy with good stats, active family, and my mom interviews for admissions (so basically similar case to OP), and I was deferred EA, waitlisted, and ultimately rejected. I'm confident that my legacy is what got me as far as the waitlist in the first place, but basically, it's 100% not guaranteed. The other legacy in my school got accepted. It's a total crapshoot, and it sucks, but hang in there!
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