How to Get Into the Ivy League: Be a Legacy

How do you get into the Ivy League?  Be a legacy applicant.

A friend of my blog, Lee Bierer, an education columnist for the Charlotte Observer and an independent college counselor, writes about Ivy League legacy chances in her latest column. Here’s where you can check out her take on Ivy League admissions for legacies.

It’s clear that legacies enjoy a better shot at getting into Ivy League schools, but it’s no a sure thing. A lengthy article in Yale Daily News a few years ago said that 30% of legacy applicants got accepted. In comparison, the Yale acceptance rate is only 9%.

What legacy applicants can usually count on is that admission officers will give their applications a closer read. That’s especially true if a teenager’s family has been a donor.

A story a few years ago in The Wall Street Journal concluded that  40% of Harvard legacies, 35% of  Princeton legacies and 41% of University of Penn legacies are accepted.

Obviously this practice is affirmative action for wealthy kids. Is this fair for everybody else? Heck no, but it’s never going to go away.

Lynn O’Shaughnessy is the author of  The College Solution and she writes a college blog for

Further Reading:

What’s the Matter With Harvard?

The Secrets of Getting Into Harvard

Are Elite Universities Discriminating Against Asians?

Playing the College Admissions Game

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  1. In my mind, offering preference to legacies is the absolute insult to supporters of Affirmative Action, or anyone who recognizes that access to higher education is available to certain groups of people over others. How is it that we can debate about the validity of Affirmative Action and ignore the preference given to legacies? Where is the merit in that? IF meritocracy actually existed in this country; if EVERY student regardless of race, socioeconomic status, first generation status, etc. had an EQUAL shot at accessing an Ivy League education; had EQUAL access to a quality education, then maybe, MAYBE we could talk about preference of other kinds. But as things stand, in this inequitable society, offering legacies preference in admissions is the opposite of equitable. I say this as a Harvard graduate myself. I remember clearly thinking about the tiny chance that I would be admitted even if I had the “numbers and qualifications” to get in. Imagine my shock as I was completing the scholarships portion of the application to not only wonder “hmm, I wonder how many legacy kids get into Harvard,” but to then see scholarships that had requirements like “You qualify if you have the following last names representing prominent Harvard families…” Those were not the exact words, but you get the idea. Absolute SHOCK.