Does "legacy" help if parents are not involved in the college or donate significant money?

For colleges that take “legacy” into consideration, is there any acceptance boost if the parents have not significantly contributed to the college in either time or money?

I have a few friends who are legacy at some ivies and while they do the occasional alumni interviews, they do not contribute any $$ to the college as they want to spend their charitable contributions in others ways. Coincidentally, their high stat, quality kids have never been admitted to these ivies, only wait-listed.

Any correlation to legacy giving (time/money) to alma mater making a difference in acceptance rates for their kids and if so, who has that list, the executive admissions committee once the applicant comes to them? Is it a tie-breaker?

If you look at top colleges as a business, why would they want to give preferential treatment to legacy families who don’t “give back”?

It depends on the school. They all differ in many different ways.

Some schools track and score donations and involvement. Other schools don’t care. Some schools value involvement (for example doing admissions interviews) as much or more than the donations.

And when it comes to the money, many schools really aren’t looking for big donations. Instead, legacy admissions is more about admitting/enrolling kids whose parents will be likely full payors. Most of the time, the parents will send much more money to the school in the form of tuition checks than they ever will in donations.

Just like how some schools treat grandkids as legacies (Penn) and others limit it to just children.

Or how some schools treat a grad/professional degree as counting for legacy undergrad admissions while others limit it to just undergrad degrees (Harvard College).

Or how some schools require legacies to apply ED to get the tip (Penn) and others don’t.

Or whether the school earmarks more seats (ND is double the T20 average at 20-25% of the class) or fewer seats for legacy applicants.

Or whether the legacy tip is reserved only for out-of-state applicants (UVA) rather than in-state applicants.

Or how strong the legacy tip is.

Etc etc etc.

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That is a great question @socaldad2002. Admissions officers and development officers may work closely together at some schools, yet at certain schools they may not even talk to one another.

Let’s discuss a hypothetical case here. If I were the decision maker, and I happened to evaluate a kid who is double legacy. Somehow, the parents have neither donated to the school, nor are they involved in alum events or offered alum interviews/career counseling, etc. In this case, I would probably question the applicant’s willingness to attend the school and discount my evaluation accordingly.

Just my two cents, as usual.

I suspect that very large donors would see a significant acceptance increase and the average alumni (which is probably 80% of all) see a smaller increase in acceptance rate. Admissions probably doesn’t investigate the donor history of every applicant, but they likely hear of/know about the large ones. The others may just have a generic “alumni donate more with admitted children” assumption bonus.

For schools with single digit acceptance rates, I wouldn’t read much into anecdotes about legacies not being admitted. “High stat” applicants have maybe a 10-15% acceptance rate, compared to 5-10% overall. Legacy maybe 15-20%? Or not. It’s certainly no guarantee and even at a 20% rate, three applicants have a >50% chance of all being rejected.

But even such a generous boost doesn’t guarantee admission based on legacy preference.

“At a place like Harvard, you’re more likely to be rejected than admitted,” Warikoo says.

As the study led by Duke shows, more than two-thirds of legacy applicants were not admitted to Harvard despite their connections.

Interestingly, the data from Johns Hopkins and others who have discontinued legacy preference don’t support the “we would lose donations” assumption.

(fwiw, I kept up my annual small CMU donation, and will until next year, just in case…)

Different schools have different policies on this. Stanford, for example, guarantees all legacies that their application will have 2 readers as insurance against a single reader in a bad mood. Imho, that’s not much of a boost and it makes it easier to tell a disappointed alum that junior got fair consideration.

Many schools will only give a legacy edge to ED applicants.

LACs, with smaller alumni #s and defined cultures, often value legacy. But remember too that this will be the deciding point between two equally qualified applicants. It’s not the finger on the scale that gets a mediocre student admitted over an excellent one.

One thing a lot of people forget is that the parent who went to xyz has probably stressed educational values and achievement that will make their kid a good applicant for xyz.

Major donors are a different class. Few alums can give at this level, and yes, if the kid will be able to do the work, they’ll probably be admitted over more stellar candidates. And fwiw, it is unlikely that such an application will suddenly appear at admissions. The donor will usually let the major gifts officer who handles the relationship know that their kid is applying and they may visit together and be shepherded to their AO. In some cases they may visit a few times over high school so that the student also understands what kind of application is required. (These kids should have nothing that makes the school say no.)

At most schools, if you are a legacy of any sort, admissions will let development know and they’ll provide admissions with guidance on level of giving and involvement so that admissions knows if this should be a factor. They often send the parents a letter thanking them for their vote of confidence.

At a very broad-brush level, I would say that plain old legacy can move a strong applicant to the accept pile but that you would need to be in a different and rarer group in the development office to get your kid (or grandkid) moved from meh to yes.

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I attended a large urban university and my roommate’s BFF attended another large university in the same town. BFF was a third generation legacy, dad was a big kahuna on Wall St (pre-financial meltdowns). When she was a freshman in high school, her dad gifted the university the funds for a new dorm with the stipulation that the top floor be a self contained apartment with laundry, full kitchen and walk in closet for his daughter. It was completed the summer before she arrived on campus. My roommate used to take a taxi with her laundry every week and stay over. Building is named for the family and I have heard the apartment was recently renovated for the grandkid who arrived on campus this past fall. I doubt they have to do a lot to secure spots for future generations…