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Duke University
Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
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When and Where to Identify That You’re a Legacy Student in the Application Process

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You have probably heard of the term “legacy” as it relates to college admissions. As you may already know, it generally refers to a student or applicant who has some type of existing connection with the school to which he or she is applying. This could mean that an applicant’s parent, sibling, aunt, or cousin has been a student there in the past, or it could mean that the applicant’s parent is a member of the faculty or staff. Whatever the case may be, at some schools, legacy status can give you a boost up in the admissions process.


While it’s not always clear to what extent this advantage exists, and it does vary widely between schools, there is usually a place to indicate on the application if you are a legacy. But is this enough? Should you also discuss it in your essay? Should you mention it in your interviews? What if there isn’t an obvious place to indicate this on your application?


Not to worry. We have the answers to these questions and more! To learn more about how and when to indicate that you’re legacy, keep reading.



Why Does Being a Legacy Matter?


The short and simple answer to this question is money. Many schools, especially small private ones, rely heavily on donations to build their endowment. These donations usually come from satisfied alums, and the more involved an alum is in the college, the more likely he or she is to donate money.


Generally, the closer your relation is, the more powerful your legacy status will be. For example, a parent alum is a more powerful relationship than an aunt or cousin. To learn more about legacy status, what it really means, and how much it matters, check out Legacy Demystified: How the People You Know Affect Your Admissions Decisions.

How Will Colleges Know I’m a Legacy?


There is a place on most college applications, including the common app, where you can indicate where your parents went to college. On some applications, they will even ask directly if you are a legacy and if so, to indicate your relation.


It is safe to assume that if a college cares about legacy status, they will ask. If there is no place to indicate that your dad attended the same school, it’s unlikely that the college believes this is relevant information in the application process.


When you list the relations who make you a legacy, try to stick to the closest and strongest ties. Colleges care most about direct relations, like parents. Siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandparents are also considered, but these are usually thought of as less important. Any more distant relatives probably won’t be close enough relations to help in the application process, but it doesn’t hurt to list them. Keep in mind, though, that if you have close relations you should definitely list these first so that they aren’t lost in a long list of more distant connections.



Should I Mention I’m a Legacy in an Interview?


The purpose of an admissions interview is to get to know you better as a person and as an applicant. It is not necessary to mention your legacy status during an interview unless it comes up naturally and you consider it an integral part of who you are as an applicant or person. For example, in some families, there is a deep sense of connection to a particular college. It may be someplace you’ve visited frequently and dreamed of attending since you were a child. If this is the case for you and the interviewer asks why you want to attend, your legacy status could be a relevant response.


If, on the other hand, your legacy status does not significantly contribute to who you are as an applicant or your reasons for wanting to attend the school, this response may not be particularly relevant for you. Interviewers are usually well attuned to your authenticity, so trying to insert your legacy status where it isn’t actually important will not come off as genuine. Instead, it’s best to discuss your actual reasons for interest in the school.



Should I Write About Being a Legacy in My Essay?


Again, essays are a chance to express who you are and to give colleges a glimpse into a side of yourself not otherwise apparent on your application. If being a legacy is an integral part of your identity, you might choose to elaborate on it in your essay, but it’s likely that there are more relevant and insightful aspects of yourself that you could discuss instead.


Your best bet is to not force the issue. If, after careful reflection, you decide that your legacy status is the most important aspect of yourself to elaborate on in your essay, then doing so is a genuine response. On the other hand, if you approach the essay with the intent to sneak in a mention of your legacy status, it’s likely that the admissions committee will see right through your motives. Ultimately, there are probably more valuable aspects of yourself that you could focus on.


Also, keep in mind that if the application does not ask about legacy status, it’s unlikely to play a role in admissions decisions, so if this is the case, your essay is almost certainly better spent discussing something more likely to impact your application.


Will Being a Legacy Get Me Into College?


Being a legacy on its own is not enough to get you into college, but at some schools, particularly small private ones that rely heavily on an endowment, being a legacy can certainly give your application a boost. Clearly identifying your legacy status on the indicated field of the application is the only way necessary to inform the admissions committee of your relation. If no such field exists on the application, it’s safe to say that the school does not weigh legacy status in their admissions decisions.


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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.