A new study of admissions at 30 highly selective colleges found that legacy applicants get a big advantage over those with no family connections to the institution — but the benefit is far greater for those with a parent who earned an undergraduate degree at the college than for those with other family connections.
According to the study, by Michael Hurwitz, a doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, applicants to a parent’s alma mater had, on average, seven times the odds of admission of nonlegacy applicants. Those whose parents did graduate work there or who had a grandparent, sibling, uncle or aunt who attended the college were, by comparison, only twice as likely to be admitted.
“We did a paper that found that if you are an athlete, you have 4.2 times the likelihood of admission as a nonathlete,” he said. “The advantages for underrepresented minorities are pretty big, too.”
Mr. Hurwitz said applicants with the highest SATs got the biggest legacy benefits.
Among the 30 colleges, the legacy advantage varied enormously: one college was more than 15 times as likely to accept legacy applicants, while at another, the effect was insignificant.