Saturday, January 8, 2011

Meritocracy? Not So Much

From a NYTimes article, Study Finds Family Connections Give Big Advantage in College Admissions:

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 ...

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.

... Mr. Espenshade pointed out that legacy status is just one of many possible advantages.

“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.”


  1. Does it make any difference in financial aid or scholarships? Otherwise, unless you're very rich, it doesn't make much difference who's accepted where.

  2. Happy Elf Mom, I'm sure it makes a difference for financial aid.

    Anyway, if you don't even get accepted, financial aid is a moot point.

  3. Yup, definitely chicken and egg.

    My kids aren't there yet, but what I've heard is that the elite colleges are getting much better about financial aid. If you can get through the brutal competition for admission, and you really can't afford the tuition, I think your chances for financial aid are quite good.

    It's just that the competition for the elite colleges is harder than it's ever been before. It's not enough to be smart, compliant, and hard-working; you need an extra hook, like an unusual sport, or musical instrument, or geographic location, or you published a best-selling novel at the age of 12, or whatever. Or you can just have parents who went to the elite college, apparently.