Entering College Legitimately

I know this seems random, but I’m wondering: since 30% of students who attend top schools are legacy, do you believe that someone like Tiger Woods did not get into Stanford legitimately?

In a 1993 Los Angeles Tribune article, it says that “The dean, the athletic director and the business director said, ‘We’ll work with you. We’ll create you a major, " Woods said. “I said, ‘OK.’ ”

Woods was already a celebrity in the 90s. It would seem, given his skill in golf and his familial popularity, he did not get in legitimately.

Depends on your definition of “legitimately”. From Stanford’s point of view at the time, he did get in “legitimately”, even though others may disagree with some of the criteria used for Stanford admissions then (or now).


Tiger Woods is arguably the GOAT in golf. He had an astounding Junior career and was recruited for golf. And he’s Black.

An athletic recruit who is also a URM gets admitted. Which part surprises you?

Tiger did not take anyone’s spot other than other male golfers. The spots reserved for athletes are not spots that the gen pop compete for.

And he was an econ major but left Stanford to turn pro.

And it was the Los Angeles Times, not the Tribune

Whether there should be preferential admissions is a larger question.

Somewhat earlier John McEnroe also went to Stanford. He of course was one of the top tennis players in the world when he started there. He did not finish largely because his tennis career got in the way.

The way that I look at it both Tiger Woods and John McEnroe were one of the very, very best in the world at what they did well. They got that way by a lot of hard work, some talent, and a strong commitment to their sport. They did not get some relative to pay a lot of money to get them in. They got in due to their own hard work and talent.

A different student might get into Stanford due to their hard work and talent as a mathematician and chess player.

We each do what we do. To get into Stanford whatever you do, you need to do it very, very well. Both Tiger Woods and John McEnroe did exactly this.

I mean, from a wholly intellectual point of view, did Tiger Woods get in legitimately? Arguably, the answer would seem to be “no.” I know he is a legendary golfer.

I’m not trying to dismiss his extraordinary athletic career. But he DID have family connections. Stanford was basically begging him to enroll.

I think if a college is begging you to enroll, that is legitimate. Colleges need all kinds of students with different interests and strengths for many different reasons. If you have something to offer (a trait, a skill, a connection, a specific demographic) and a college wants it, you satisfy part of their mission. Nothing there is illegitimate.

From a wholly intellectual perspective though he may have not.

Someone is not a extraordinary intellectual simply because they are a extraordinary athlete.

Stanford is an athletic powerhouse in some sports. Talented athletes are recruited for a reason - they fill a university need, bring in revenue, good PR, etc… Not everyone needs to be of extraordinary intellect to fill an institutional need.

And we don’t know, he could have been a perfectly qualified applicant academically.

That’s true…

“Someone is not a extraordinary intellectual simply because they are a extraordinary athlete.”

That is true.

I would be happier if the academically top universities admitted primarily for academic strength. MIT and Caltech largely do exactly that.

However, whatever the top ranked universities in the US are doing seems to work for them, at least for now.

To be fair, both Tiger Woods and John McEnroe do seem to be very smart people. I have never seen their academic records, but I would not be surprised at all if both were excellent students.

The US college system is not “wholly intellectual”. If it was, there would be no recruited athletes and no legacy preference, and thousands of people would not have entered “legitimately” as you phrase it. If the system allows for athletes, legacy, hooks etc, as it does, then those are “legitimate” entrants. Whether or not this is how the system “should“ work is a different matter, but you can’t say it’s not legitimate when it’s an accepted avenue of admission.

Most top colleges make no bones about the fact that admissions is holistic. They are not looking for a group of academic drones.

I’ve heard a number of admission officers say that they work to create a well rounded class. That class will include some well rounded individuals as well as some individuals with special talents etc.

IMO being a recruited athlete is absolutely a “legitimate” way to help a student gain entrance into a top tier college. These students do need to have academic qualifications that allow the school to feel comfortable that they can make it through the academic program so there are no academic slouches. And FWIW many students create their own majors in college so that is no big deal.

These elite student athletes have most likely spent an enormous amount of time and effort at their sports … typically starting at a very young age. These athletes often come to campus having proven dedication, high achievement, and outstanding time management skills over a long period of time. Their skills at their sport add to campus life.

YET AGAIN I caution you to stop worrying about admission to elite colleges and to stop worrying about other people. You have over a half dozen posts about various elite universities which you will not qualify for at this time. Forget about these schools. Focus your time and energy on finding the right place to re-start YOUR education and on moving towards YOUR future goals

“wholly intellectual”? “Extraordinarily intellectual”?

I think you don’t understand the breadth of what universities do for society.

Colleges are primarily academic institutions. The NCAA is primarily an athletic institution.

Not sure why you seem to be assuming all athletes are not also academically talented. Many are.

Regardless of if you like it or not athletics are a part of college life at many schools and oftentimes athletics add to campus life. FWIW NCAA does stand for National COLLEGIATE Athletic Association.

I think this is going in circles already. Closing.