What are my chances for Yale as a Legacy Applicant?

Type of School: highly ranked private school

Hooks: Legacy and donor at Yale

Intended Major(s): Engineering


GPA: 3.85/4.3 (top 10%)

UC gpa: 4.0/4.5

Rank (or percentile): top 100% (school doesn’t rank so I know that I’m top 100% lol)

School doesn’t have APs. Only honors. Honors Chem, Calc, Lit, US History, a bunch of others that you probably wouldn’t recognize. I’m gonna take AP Lang and AP physics next year.

Standardized Testing

SAT: 1510 (730RW, 780M)

SAT II: Haven’t taken any yet (COVID)


Built a bunch of things (drone, electric longboard, etc) and eventually worked with director of education of my city to educate young kids about mechanics.

Research internship for my city. Presented on issues with public policy and presented in front of city judges and employees.

Selective paid internship sponsored by city which provides interns with work experience in government buildings.

Summer Research at a hospital/lab.

1st Oboist for my school’s orchestra

Varsity soccer (2 years)

Varsity XC (2 years)

Varsity Track (4 years)

Leader of Asian affinity space.


National Merit Semifinalist

A few minor awards from local science competitions.

Essays: Not gonna try and convince you that my essays were good, but I worked with an AO on them. It’s impossible to judge them on reddit so just assume they were decent.

Recommendations: Again, I’m not gonna tell you that I had AMAZING LORs. I had pretty good relationships with my teachers but it’s impossible to judge on reddit.

Schools: CMU, USC, All UCs, Yale, NYU, Tufts, Vanderbilt

Well … you’ve done everything right and they should accept you. At issue is that many others are in your same place. You’ve listed why you are a shoo-in, and you should be a shoo-in if there were space for all qualified applicants.

I understand that at many schools, as many as 20% of spots are saved for athletes. I’m not sure how Yale’s sports recruiting works. They’re a less traditional school in many ways, but you might want to look into this angle if you want to increase your odds.

Otherwise, how much do your parents donate? Not to be cynical but Yale, for all of its wonders, and its wonders are many, is a school that is chintzy with its cash. It has a massive endowment and is tight-waddy about paying employees, for example, and its bureaucracy for accounting is Byzantine to account for every cent, and it created shell entities to purchase property from the impoverished neighborhoods surrounding it so that, by hiding its identity, it wouldn’t need to pay a single cent more than it had to (compare that to UPenn’s plan to create a fabulous public school nearby thus raising the property values for the community and providing a way for local families to get out of poverty). Yale could be much more helpful about making New Haven a workable city, considering that it’s the major employer there and takes up the City’s tax base–as a “nonprofit” it pays no taxes to New Haven even when it receives a multi-million-dollar donation. It does place greater value on apps from people whose families donate sizable amounts. Like if your parents donated enough to endow a building, then sure you’d get in. If maybe it’s $1000 per year, not so much, even though that’s a lot of money for other schools and might tilt the scales there. Yale is notorious about knowing where its alumni are, and constantly barrages them for donations. So donating per se is not rare. There’s a saying that goes something like, while the CIA may not be able to find a Yalie, alumni relations sure can.

You’re from California, I’m guessing, so you don’t have geographical diversity working for you compared to being from, say, South Dakota or Alaska. You headed up the “Asian affinity” group–which implies that you’re Asian–a group that is over-represented in apps compared to the number of acceptances in many overly-subscribed schools.

In other words, you’re a perfect candidate, but slots are few at Yale. If you get in, great, good for you. It’s a wonderful school and you should enjoy every moment.

Best of luck to you.

When you say “donor”, are you talking small or large donations?

Do your parents have a contact in the development office? If so what do the development people say? If the development people are being hands-off, it means that they won’t push your application through. And in this case, being a donor won’t have any added advantage. On the other hand if your development contact is rosy, then it means you’ve been added to their list and admittance is almost certain.

But lets just assume that your legacy and donor status doesn’t mean anything. How does your class rank stack up against recent admits from your HS? You should be able to pick that out from Naviance. Top 10% is good, but generally for Yale they want the top 1-3%.

Also - is your legacy status from Yale undergrad? or grad school? The difference matters.

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Athletes make up about 10% of admitted students (a higher percentage of entering freshmen). Legacies (Yale includes grad affiliation) accounted for about 12% of the Class of 2023. My understanding is that development will submit support letters for alums who consistently donate any amount. Huge donors, think 7 figures, are treated differently.

I am batting 500 with 2 kids with “competitive” stats. The one that did not get in graduated from a top NESCAC. I am a pretty active alum, involved in both interviewing and fundraising. Every year I have to handle upset donors whose kids did not get in (we are talking donors at the $1000+/year level) who have kids with great stat’s, so nothing is guaranteed.

Your chances are as good as anyone else’s, which really doesn’t say much, considering a 96% rejection rate. Do the best you can and don’t come in with any expectations. You’ve got a ton of engineering options available.

Hey. Just to clear things up, my family does not have any large connections with the admissions office, although one of my parents is an alumni interviewer (I don’t know if this actually helps in anyway). My family does donate annually but not 7 figures. If I were to guess how much, I would say that my family donates an average amount compared to other yale alumni so I would assume that even though my parents are donors, it won’t give me much of an advantage.

According to older reports, Yale accepts legacies at about 3X-4X the rate of non legacies. So if you apply SCEA, it is likely a low reach or high match.

So apply SCEA, but don’t start buying Yale merch just as yet.

Alumni interviewer will get you a small nod, but nothing more. At least your parent will know how to make you stand out during the interview process.

Overall, I think you have a pretty good shot. Just apply SCEA and hope for the best. Have a backup plan in case you get deferred.