Importance of kids of connected/famous parents

Legacy admissions have been discussed a lot here lately. One population that I don’t see talked about often are kids whose parents are either famous or well connected. What type of value do the highly selective universities put on them? Is it a hook?

My kids’ private school had a very famous singer who wanted to go to their school. The school turned her down because they said the school’s security couldn’t support her. The school didn’t want her security people to disrupt other students either.
It may be different for colleges.

FWIW here’s an article from 2009 on this subject. “What makes Duke and Brown, among other institutions, stand out, is the way in which they ramped up and systematized their pursuit: rejecting stronger candidates to admit children of the rich or famous, regardless of their ties to the university.”

I worked at an art school that a celebrity wanted to attend. They were not accepted, based on a number of factors related to their suitability for the program. While some schools may be eager to get the publicity that a celebrity or celebrity’s child brings, others are not inclined to bend rules to accept them if they would not otherwise be accepted.

Thinking about this, I would like to keep the discussion away from the possible future financial gain for the university.

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It’s not about financial gain, at least not directly.

It’s about positive media attention, increased fame and popularity. Fact is that it’s a pretty open “secret” that the kids of the powerful are accepted to whichever college they want (with a few exceptions, like MIT and Caltech). So when Malia Obama decided to attend Harvard, everybody knew that it was because she chose Harvard instead of Yale or Princeton or UPenn, etc.

As sad as it is, the same way that an article of clothing becomes more popular wen a celebrity is spotted wearing it, or a car becomes popular because it is the choice of a different celebrity, when the kid of a powerful/famous person chooses a college, that college becomes more popular.

And yes, no matter how popular Harvard becomes, they will always seek to become more so.

The more powerful and influential a person is, the lower the acceptance rates of the colleges which will accept them automatically. So the kids of presidents, vice-presidents, powerful senators, billionaires, or movie superstars will be offered admissions to HYP and all other ivies. Further down the power and fame scale, they will be accepted to Duke, Brown, Dartmouth, and such. Kids of famous movie stars, but not really superstars, will be courted by USC and NYU.

Not all kids of media stars will even want to attend one of these colleges, and you can find them in other colleges. But generally, that is because they (or their parents) chose to attend a different college.


In terms of mechanics, my understanding is such kids are usually placed on a “Dean’s list” or such along with big money donors, to the extent that college wants to give such a preference of course.

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I think sometimes it is the student who is famous and they don’t want it known until they are in. Brooke Shields to Princeton, Jodie Foster to Yale. They slipped in, hung out for 4 years, back to Hollywood. Was there a risk of them not getting accepted? I don’t think so (they were top students).

Big fanfare for some, a few photos with mom and dad and then nothing for others. I don’t know if we can separate their admissions were because of the famous parents or because of all the advantages they had in life that gave them high stats. The Varsity Blues scandal showed the money can get you into your favorite school - unless you happen to be in the group that got caught.

Of course, some kids of celebrities are safe from anyone even knowing they exist. I’ve been watching Claim to Fame is it is pretty clear no one knows who Chris is. He’s not the son of Elvis, Elton John or Billy Idol (who weren’t born in Utah by the way) as people have guessed. I’d hope some 60 yea old in admissions would recognize the name, swoon a little, and admit him for old time sake.


In the ALDC acronym popularized by the lawsuit against Harvard, such applicants could fall under the D (dean’s list) category.

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I think it’s a hook for certain colleges. One could almost create a drinking game over the number of celebrity kids that head to NYU and Duke. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have a special celebrity-kid application portal :smiley:

Mark Wahlberg’s daughter going to Clemson is a refreshing outlier.

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My nephew went to school with Harrison Ford’s son at Amherst. He attended the parent functions just like a regular guy, including graduation.

I went to school with Matthew McConaughey, Owen Wilson and Renee Zellweger at UT, obviously before they were famous.

Julia Louis Dreyfus son went to Northwestern but played basketball. Her Alamater.

Arnold’s son went to Michigan.

Sasha Obama went to Michigan for Freshman year. But easy transfer to USC

Kelly Ripka son is on Michigan wrestling team but was highly recruited by many schools

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I’m sure that their celebrity status is part of what makes them attractive for both the financial and media attention reasons mentioned above. But many of these kids have lived very different and interesting lives as a result of their parents. Whether it’s been traveling with parents on assignments or having dinner or spending vacation with a casr of characters most of us know only through media, they have had an different upbringing.

It’s another form of diversity, albeit a privileged one, and they bring another viewpoint to campus. In most cases, they aren’t at much risk of performing poorly.


I will say that kids of connected/famous parents can also have the type of stigma that was often associated at schools with affirmative action practices. People think they got in because they had a famous relative, rather than that they were extremely strong candidates who got in on their own merits. And I think there are those who definitely earned it on their own.


I’m really enjoying this season’s Claim to Fame and I think the fact that they can’t figure out Chris’ celebrity relative, is a large part of it. He has the Osmond smile. :grin:

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Obviously, that is for those who are recognizable as kids of connected or famous parents… those who are not so recognizable may avoid such stigma, like ordinary legacy admit students at colleges that prefer legacies.

Probably all the more so in the post-Varsity Blues era…

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Even though it doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal on campus and students just go about their business, it’s still kind of cool when your kid gets to go into a dorm room on move-in day (as a student orientation leader) and meet an A-list actor (mom) and rock star (dad).

Say Elon Musk’s kids - all 10 of them.

Do you think they’d automatically be accepted to Harvard/Yale/Princeton if they wanted then?

I think this is one of the allures of some universities. It helps the upper middle class parents justify some of the cost. At least the parents can tell their friends that Jimmy has a class with the daughter of the Prime Minister of XYZ.

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