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An Absolutely Ridiculous Question about Legacies....But I've nowhere else to ask it

whoobrwhoobr Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
edited October 2010 in Princeton University
Greetings! I am currently a Junior at Grinnell College in Iowa. I am already looking ahead to Grad School, and Princeton has a wonderful program for the discipline I plan on pursuing.

Ok. So I am adopted, and I at one point corresponded with my birth mother. At some point during this correspondence, she let it slip that my birth father had graduated from Princeton (Some pretty incredible news to a Southern boy like me with adoptive parents who barely graduated from schools that are...well...somewhat less prestigious than Princeton). So my question is this: Would I be considered a legacy? I know this sounds like a really silly and ridiculous question, but I just feel like I should have a concrete answer. I feel that my qualifications would put me on the bubble for admissions officers, and I definitely think that being considered a technical "legacy" would surely put me over the edge.

And also, I have a few other questions:

1. Are legacies even considered for graduate students? And is a student a legacy only if his parent did undergrad at Princeton...or would it also count if they were grad students?

2. Have any of you Ivy Leaguers who populate the Princeton CC heard of Grinnell? It's a fairly prestigious LAC, but many haven't heard of it. Do you think that Grinnell will look good, bad, or neither on my transcript?

3. I've heard something about there being a stigma for grad students at Princeton? What's that all about? Is it hogwash? Do any of you even know what I'm talking about?

Thank you so much!
-Puzzled Potential Legacy
Post edited by whoobr on

Replies to: An Absolutely Ridiculous Question about Legacies....But I've nowhere else to ask it

  • newest newbnewest newb - Posts: 751 Member
    1. Legacy is worthless for grad programs, unless you're talking about Academic Legacy, by which I mean your advisor was the advisee of the advisee of X famous academic.

    2. Obviously the high school students on this board haven't heard of Grinnell, but people in academia (aka the only people that matter in terms of you getting into grad programs) certainly have. That being said, it's not exactly MIT-esque rigorous, so don't expect brownie points.

    3. Of course there's a stigma against (note: check your English) grad students at Princeton, just like there is almost anywhere else.

    But certainly you're making the choice to go further in academia because you have a true passion for your field of interest, and not because you care about what a bunch of random passersby think of your status as "Graduate Student at Princeton" - as your questions not-so-subtley imply - right?

    Technically speaking, though, I'm sure you having a biological parent who graduated from Princeton would qualify you as a legacy. Though you must also remember that preferential treatment for legacy students is often highly related to the actions that the parents undertake on behalf of the university (donating, even small sums, for example), so you have to ask yourself - is your biological father going to suddenly feel more Princeton pride if you attended (which has a valid answer both ways)?

    On the other hand, the story that you have alone is probably more interesting than being a run-of-the-mill legacy anyway, so take that for whatever it's worth.
  • JHSJHS Registered User Posts: 18,015 Senior Member
    PhD programs don't care a whit about legacy. Law, business, medical schools -- which do substantial alumni fundraising on their own -- may care a smidge about their own legacies (not university-wide), but Princeton doesn't have any of those. The Wilson School, or engineering? I don't know, and it doesn't matter (see below).

    If you have no contact with your biological father, and have not been acknowledged by him, then how is Princeton supposed to consider you a legacy? Any adopted kid (or non-adopted kid) could say exactly what you have: "Oh, my mom told me that my real father went to Princeton. Or at least that's what he told her." Not only is that unverified, but giving credit to it wouldn't produce any of the benefits that legacy preferences supposedly foster.
  • AlumotherAlumother Registered User Posts: 6,233 Senior Member
    I think it's a great story. Much in life is only that, a great story.

    Actually one should say there is a stigma "attached to" in this case.
  • GrisamGrisam Registered User Posts: 2,007 Senior Member
    I'm not exactly qualified for numbers 1 and 3, but I can tell you that, in terms of LACs, Grinell is fairly well known.
  • BoondocksBoondocks Registered User Posts: 321 Member
    In the grad school, the department profs pick who they want. Legacy status is minimal, unless you are in the Frist family or something like that. Professors choose someone they want to work with (help with research, dump undergrad papers upon for grading, etc.).

    It's far more like applying for a job than it is like applying to an undergraduate school in most departments, which have fairly small graduate departments. The best way to get in is to get connected - can one of your professors help? If not with Princeton, with another school?

    And don't pannic over coming from Grinnell. It's a solid college. Hopefully your grades in your major are fantastic, and your advisor has some pull.
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