A Simple Way to Equalize the Ivies? Give Others the Legacy SAT Bonus

If lower-income students had a boost like those for children of alumni, selective colleges would be far less economically stratified, a study suggests.

Comments: 80

  1. There are legitimate reasons why legacies get consideration. Because of familial experience with the institution, those students come in understanding what will be expected of them in college. They understand the culture of the place, have accurate expectations. There's less risk of bad fit or maladjustment to college life. There's some assumption that the apple is likely to be somewhere near the tree--if a parent did well at the school, the odds are better that the child will share the traits that led to success. It may not merit as MUCH of an edge as it gives at some schools, but there are reasons to choose a legacy over a similarly qualified student.

  2. @Working Mama One of my kids is applying to the moderately selective college from which I graduated. I can assure you that she will not get an admissions advantage, as I can pay only about half the bill. I can assure you, its all about ability to pay.

  3. @Working Mama Sorry, the only reason schools admit legacy students is financial. Legacies (and their alumni parents) give much more in charitable donations over their lifetime. Nothing to do with "fit" IMHO.

  4. There's a lot here that is misleading or taken out of context. This is too important a topic for inaccuracy. For example..."At Ivy Plus institutions, there have been more students from families in the top 1 percent of earners than students from the entire bottom half of the income distribution..." To be clear: Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, MIT and U Chicago have more students from the bottom 60% (another inaccuracy - it is not 50%) of income than the top 1%. Yes, the other Ivy+ colleges do have a disproportionate number of rich kids. But Wash U, Colorado College, Colgate, Colby, Trinity, Washington & Lee, Kenyon, Bucknell, Tufts and Middlebury are the 10 worst. Second, ability to pay matters more to many of these schools than SAT scores. Even at Harvard, with a 40B endowment, 60% of the undergraduates pay full freight. Disproportionately, the students who pay full price are legacies and athletes. Yes, the middle class is getting squeezed. Yes, they apply with few advantages. Notably, middle class students, however accomplished, apply to Ivies having no idea that if their high school doesn't have a solid track record of acceptance and matriculation, their chances of admission are exceptionally low. At my urban public high school, from which 25 students matriculate at Ivies each year, it is mostly middle class kids who get in.

  5. Isn't the missing middle more driven by cost? If you are making a lot of money you can afford $300K for an Ivy, if you are very poor then the Ivy's essentially let you in for free. But if you are like my sister & her husband, who make $200K combined, an Ivy league provides nothing but loans which would basically drain their savings to zero, plus debt, leaving nothing for their other kids or retirement. Her daughter was valedictorian with multiple sports and could have gotten into any Ivy, she went to Oregon state instead.

  6. @Treven Cornwall But if you make $100,000 they are way, way cheaper than state universities. And you can walk away with little or no outstanding debt.

  7. @Treven Cornwall Harvard, Princeton, and Yale at least offer amazing financial aid. Princeton gives all undergrads grants, so their loan burden is zero. I graduated with less than 10K in loans and my parents made roughly 100K a year. Oregon State would still be cheaper for her parents, especially if they have a scholarship program for home grown talent, but Harvard/Yale aren't NYU.

  8. @Treven Cornwall EXACTLY. This happened to my niece. She got into several ivies and no, Princeton did not offer her grants to cover her tuition. They offered her less than $2,000/year in assistance because they determined her parents could pay the rest. Her parents have a small business. Maybe it looks good on paper, but they have employees depending on them and are at the direct mercy of the economy. I have no idea where the schools thought that money was going to come from. They're supposed to take out a second mortgage their house? And what about their other two kids who will be heading to college soon, too? These schools have massive endowments that could pay for all tuition for many years. Instead, they care more about maintaining their brand and their endowments.

  9. These proposed artificial boosts in scores of poor and middle class students who get low SAT scores will disadvantage poor and middle class students who already get high SAT scores but are not admitted to the top-tier schools. There are many high-scoring poor and middle class students who do not get into the top-tier schools for a variety of reasons, including the preference of top-tier schools for jocks, legacies and, in recent years, blacks and Hispanics admitted under affirmative action. Giving an artificial boost in scores to poor and middle class students who perform sub-par on the SATs will also result in dumbing-down of curricula, creating a need for remedial classes for those receiving the artificial score boosts, promoting grade inflation, etc. The answer is not to fudge the test scores but to focus on identifying and admitting those who get high test scores without artificial inflation. In a nation of 350 million people there are plenty of these students for the Ivies Plus to consider. By the way, one reason this proposed inflation of SAT scores is unlikely to occur is that, as the authors note, it is likely to result in the admission of fewer blacks and Hispanics to top tier schools.

  10. Please top focusing on the 'Ivies.' Enrollment at just the University of California, Berkeley campus was half again as large as Harvard’s total enrollment. Not including the other UCs, not including the second tier (where I went) ‘state’ universities. I don’t really care what Harvard does. Look at real kids, going to real schools. No legacy admissions, no paying to get in, no racial preference. Looks like it’s working pretty well. “Overall, UC admitted 108,178 freshmen among 176,695 freshman applicants. It also admitted 28,752 transfer students . . . (including from) California Community Colleges. First-generation students made up 44% of those admitted and low-income students 40%. Asian Americans remained the largest ethnic group at 35%, followed by Latinos at 34%, whites at 22%, African Americans at 5% and American Indians at 0.5%.) https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-07-22/uc-diverse-diversity-class-student-admissions UC Berkeley graduation rates in 6 years, in 2013 Asian 94% White 91% Chicano/Latino 82% African American 74%

  11. @Michael Haddon Your statistics are incorrect. According to Berkeley's own 2018-2019 Common Data Set, there were 30,853 undergraduates, which is four times that of Harvard. Amazingly, only 570 out of those 30,853 are Black. What has happened to Berkeley is awful. For decades it was a top destination school for our high school. No more.

  12. In what way, specifically, did the UC system, or anyone in it discriminate against Blacks? And please also explain exactly how and why UC discriminated in favor of Asian-American students, in presumed preference over any other group?

  13. @Cousy Do you pay CA state taxes? If not, then why would UCs accept your kids? There are plenty qualified CA residents who should have a priority.

  14. Wow let's make a corrupt system even more corrupt. Going to an Ivy League school is, for the most part, just a badge you can wear if you want to. It confers relatively little extra success. I can testify to at least two Ivy graduates who are no better than you'd get from, say, Syracuse. Low income students would be better served by good teaching and free tuition at State universities. This might mean clearing out the deadwood in the form of the population that is only there for a four year extension of high school.

  15. Aren't we assuming that the Ivy League schools would WANT to have greater economic diversity? Consider that they raise massive amounts of money every year...from their wealthy alumni and/or families of students. What incentive would they have in actually making a change? It would almost certainly, over time, mean that their endowment was reduced...would almost certainly mean that significant gifts to fund a school or dormitory would also be reduced. Higher education is a noble and worthwhile pursuit. It is also a business. Harvard, despite anything that might be said, must have money--and lots of it--to attract world-class professors, have cutting-edge laboratories, and maintain standard-setting instruction. But the Harvard (et al.) brand WILL be protected. Yes, they can afford to allow a few more poorer students in. But you can be sure that they will never do it based on percentages alone (i.e., only 1% of students are from the 1%, etc.). There is too much cache in a Harvard diploma to just allow anyone in, willy-nilly. Of course, I have learned that it is not the school, it is the STUDENT that determines the quality of an education. Alas, a great education from a generic institution is not worth as much as a poor education (due to the student) from a great institution. When that changes, the game is on, and the fix is out.

  16. @Aaron MIT does not consider legacy, and its endowment seems to be doing fine.

  17. @Geoff Thompson MIT has enough funding from its patents so that it does not need legacy donations.

  18. Enough with this nonsense! NO MORE SPECIAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR ANYONE! Make admission decisions double-blind with respect to any factors beyond a student's control--race, sex, family SES, location, etc.

  19. @Jason I have two kids applying to college next year. I would not allow them to apply to any college that didn't take those factors into account. There is too much bias in the world to pretend those things don't exist.

  20. This would be a welcome step in the right direction. I doubt that universities will adopt it. If they were interested in a level playing field they'd have come up with plans long ago. Anti-Asian quotas should go, too. And the current indictments and trials over the admission of bogus "athletes" whose parents bribed university employees are only the tip of the iceberg of pay-for-admission. There is a lot to do.

  21. The ivies are Trump types of schools. They are all reputation and no substance. Any place that is endowed by old oligarchs cannot be a place of truth. They will always be schools that preach exploitation of others because that is all they know. Their accomplishments are largely propaganda spread by their PR machines. It's true you will prosper if you get an education there, but you will have to deny reality and go along with the exploitation game, and you'll never really know if you can really do your job because your success will be so fake. Perfect for the typical American, just as Trump is exactly the president that represents the average American. They just keep repeating what they want people to believe. The more you repeat it the more people will believe, without evidence.

  22. @Chris Really, "no substance?" They may have reputations beyond what they deserve, but they are certainly good schools.

  23. Nothing you wrote is true, and you’d do yourself a favor to visit a campus and meet some of the students who are among the best and brightest in the world.

  24. @Chris I have two names for those who consider Harvard the best of the best: Ted Cruz and Alan Dershowitz. Try to find similar names from elite liberal arts colleges.

  25. Ahh yes, time for another screed on the scourge of legacy admissions. The authors are stuck in the time of "Talented Mr. Ripley," when wealth and status begat Ivy League admissions, and Ivy League degrees begat status and wealth. My Dad attended an Ivy; I in turn attended the same Ivy. A midlife career change and other circumstances left my Dad (and our family)at best middle class. I went to public school, never had an SAT tutor, and worked hard to get the grades, test scores, and "well-roundedness" to qualify for admission. I would put my application up against anyone's. Our shared love for the school, and my experience attending sporting events from a young age, led me to contribute my whole heart, soul and being to every day I spent on campus. I attended sporting events, joined clubs, a sorority, and had a work study job that afforded me the opportunity to promote our athletic programs and the remarkable scholar athletes that filled them. I cringed when kids who attended the school just because it was an Ivy, and "couldn't get in" to Harvard refused to participate in anything school spirited and took nothing from the culture or identity of the school. After graduation, I did off-campus interviews for prospective students. I still attend games and events on campus, try to make small donations to the school or programs that are near and dear. I'm teaching my stepson to love my alma mater as well. I believe I have more than covered the "price" of my admission.

  26. @PennGirl24 "I would put my application up against anyone's. " I believe that is what most people want. For your application to be put in the same pile as everyone else's and only be admitted if your grades, test scores and "well-roundedness" were SUPERIOR to the applicants who are not admitted. That's the way other students are admitted. You seem to be saying as long as you are "qualified", your application should be chosen over students who are MORE qualified! Whereas many of us believe that the students who are MOST qualified should be admitted. Not the "qualified" students who are most connected or whose parents have the most money to donate.

  27. @RJ I'm sorry were you unclear on the fact that my family is NOT wealthy? Trust me, when they evaluated my parents' "ability to contribute" to the cost of my education, they knew the campus library would never have our name on it. And I said nothing about my application versus students who are "more" qualified. What I said was that being a "legacy" who was committed to more than just having any old Ivy on my resume contributed to the campus culture just as much as when they admit the kid from North Dakota because "Hey, we don't have too many of those!"

  28. Schools should be for learning. There should be no special consideration for anything. Admission should be based on academic performance. That includes athletics .

  29. Instead of focusing only on "legacy", the focus should include "ultra rich" regardless if the parents are alumni of the college. FYI, the answer to this is very simple. Consider each applicant without regard to who his or her parents are or how much their family has donated. Don't flag their applications or have a special "deans list" where an applicant merely has to be "qualified" to be admitted over students who are superior in every way except for who their families are. Top colleges seem to admit a much higher percentage of the applicants from so-called "elite" private high school than they admit from specialized high schools even if their average SAT scores are not as high. The real study would be to compare applications and admits of students from NYC's private high schools to applications and admits of students from Bronx Science and Stuyvesant. In a system based on merit, admitted applicants with the advantage of up to 13 years of the best education money can buy (private schools) should be expected to have higher SAT scores than admitted applicants from Stuy and Bronx Science. But it would not surprise me if the exact opposite is the case, and successful applicants who are admitted from Stuy and Bronx Science have to meet a much higher bar to be admitted. Which is exactly the opposite of a meritocracy where the students who are most advantaged are not expected to be the most excellent.

  30. @RJ I have real world data from Massachusetts and Harvard, and it is more complex than you are assuming. Harvard matriculates far more students from public schools than private. Last year, 16 students from my urban public high school were accepted at Harvard, and 12 matriculated. At Boston Latin, 26 matriculated, which is slightly more than average (99 over 4 years). Some of the suburban schools - Brookline, Winchester etc. send 5 or so per year. The private schools in the Boston area have a strong but declining presence at Harvard. BB&N, Winsor, Nobles etc. send 6 or 7 students per year. When I attended BB&N a million years ago, the numbers were much higher.

  31. This is interesting, but in practice I suspect impossible to properly implement: it will lead to all kinds of gaming of the system. Let's take some hypothetical issues: Imagine we look back at, say, the last 4 years of income for computing who counts as "low-income". Now that multi-millionaire executive can do all sorts of fun things here. Perhaps 4 years of compensationare deferred,coming in a lump sum (along with interest) during his kid's freshman year after admittance with an SAT boost because dad will have 4 years of tax returns showing low income. After all, he can afford to have "no income" for four years in order to get his wastrel kid into a top school. Want to look at a longer income period? What below-the-poverty-line families keep, say, 10 years of tax data Or everything is paid into a trust, or some other accounting shenanigan. Countless parents were willing to spend well into six figures to get their kids into college. Imagine how many will be willing to engage in income manipulation to do so. The parents who will end up getting hurt, I suspect, are NOT the wealthy but the middle- and upper-middle-class who don't have the assets or the income flexibility to engage in any kind of income manipulation: one parent is a software engineer making $150k, and the other is in marketing making say $90k. They do just fine for themselves, but not enough to either qualify as "low-income" OR to do anything to artificially game the system to claim low-income status.

  32. @ethan f. Highly selective private schools (and some publics, like UVA) not only request the FAFSA for financial aid, but also the CSS Profile. That form is tailored to each school's financial aid formula. You must disclose trusts, deferred compensation, family farms, investment income, and more. It would be difficult to game the CSS Profile, but I agree it can be done on the FAFSA.

  33. The college essay consultant near the end of the article highlighted a problem that tacking on added SAT points will not solve. That is, once all the institutional priorities are met in admissions, there's precious few slots left for the middle class applicants. Not to mention that SAT scores are but one factor in weighing an application. (I've heard of students at our local science & math high school with perfect SAT scores getting turned down at Duke, for example.) Johns Hopkins has the right idea with dropping legacy as a criterion for admissions; if you're going to admit more "others", you're either going to have to increase the size of the student body or cut someone who is currently a member of "the 'in' crowd'' as an institutional priority.

  34. @Mary You are from Va. and the high school you refer to is probable the Thomas Jefferson HS with around 68 % of Asian students. Are not Asians suing Harvard for discrimination in admissions?

  35. @Mary Uh, "perfect" SAT scores are not as desireable as you think. I have known dozens of students who have gone to Ivy League schools, and none of them had perfect scores. My brother went to Duke - he broke 1400 but barely.

  36. Why don’t we start by dropping legacy preference is all together, along with athletic preferences.

  37. @MainLaw Voice recognition failed again. What I meant to say was Why don’t we start by dropping legacy preferences altogether, along with athletic preferences.

  38. If your parents are upper middle class or wealthy, you went to a prestigious high school, you had SAT tutoring and you *still* can't crack 1400, you don't belong in an Ivy League school, period. The test is the least of the Ivies' problems, but let's at least acknowledge that middle class and working class kids start at a huge disadvantage.

  39. I don't even have to read this article -- just the headline -- to see the fatal flaw in the argument it presents: that artificially inflating the SAT scores of lower-class college applicants would allow these applicants to displace upper-class applicants in the entering classes of the elite colleges. The flaw in this reasoning is that colleges can admit or reject anyone they want -- and for any reason they want -- because there is no law that says a college must admit the most academically-qualified students. And colleges most assuredly do not admit such students. Instead, colleges selfishly admit only those students whose admission will help the college. Even the children of alumni receive only the amount of special privilege -- including none at all in some cases -- that the colleges want to give. Grades and SAT scores are little more than smoke screens in that colleges ignore them whenever they want to do so. For example, colleges ignore these credentials in favor of bribes, children of politically-influential people, "diversity" interests (which the colleges define for themselves), and anyone who can pull strings at the college (such as the children of politicians and the college's own employees). Given the corrupt nature of college admissions, at a minimum tax-exempt status and government grants to private colleges should be abolished.

  40. People keep harping about legacies, but the big boost is given to athletes. While legacies get a 17% increase in the likelihood of admittance given mean criteria, athletes get a 51% leg-up over mainstream students. Why not get rid of athletes, and give the boost to low-income students?

  41. A more accurate analysis would explore what percentage of the admitted less affluent students received SAT boosts from being athletes, non-Asian minorities or politically connected. I suspect that excluding those groups would reveal far fewer less affluent students have been admitted--and that athletic admits receive MUCH greater SAT boosts than legacies, especially those whose parents have not been major donors.

  42. This misses SO many realities that it is virtually meaningless. There are a number of colleges that already do this. EOF in NJ and HEOP in NY specifically mandate that colleges that participate admit "economically and educationally disadvantaged students". And most elite colleges already admit and fund many low income students of color. I do know of one elite college that received a gift specifically for funding low-income students of any race. But there is no groundswell to start admitting more low income students, particularly those who do not add to the schools perceived diversity. Why? Follow the money. It would require the schools to specifically target students who will, by definition, bring in less tuition, a move the bean counters would never countenance . Let's look at what should be done: *Eliminate recruiting budgets except for revenue sports *Eliminate all recruiting at Division III schools *Eliminate legacy admissions *Give all students extended testing time *Double the Pell Grant *Provide a middle-class Pell Grant *Make community college free *Treat paying for public colleges like Obamacare: tuition and room and board based on family income

  43. @Scott White It's disorienting to see reasonable, well thought out policy proposals in this comment section. The reality is that the program most people believe is designed to enhance diversity at these schools does nothing of the sort. Affirmative action today almost exclusively benefits high income students of color from privileged backgrounds. Those who come from low income schools often struggle in these environments and have better outcomes at public institutions. The proposals you've put forth would to the most for the students who need the most. Too bad no one will listen.

  44. @Ariel We can only hope that SOMEONE is listening. Hopkins got rid of legacy admissions; UNC told students that anything more than 5 college level courses (IB, AP) will not help them; MIT does no athletic recruiting; almost 1000 colleges are test optional; interviews, the writing section of the SAT and SAT and the subject tests are all falling by the wayside- VERY small steps but its progress.

  45. @Scott White from personal experience I can tell you that MIT does in fact do athletic recruiting. I think what you meant to say is that the coaches' input at MIT weighs less heavily than it does at most other schools. However, for high stats kids being recruited by an MIT coach will set them apart from every other "average excellent" MIT hopeful with a 1560 SAT and a 4.0 UW GPA. In other words, yes you have to be really smart to be accepted to MIT, but there are more really smart kids who apply than they have room for, so having a hook still does help - even an athletic hook.

  46. Enough with the Ivies. One should not have to go to an Ivy or Duke or Stanford to have a decent life. The issue is societal/economic income/wealth inequality - not whether a few people get to go to the most competitive/elite schools. The NYT does a disservice with the constant focus on access to an Ivy League school.

  47. Seems it's only acceptable to discriminate against Asians. No breaks for them.

  48. Let’s see...bury our collective heads in the sand with respect to K-12 educational infrastructure and outcome, then pretend we can make it all better by social engineering in college? Seems nuts to me.

  49. It's not about SAT scores - it's about MONEY. They're talking about enrollment rates being down in the middle class, not acceptance rates. That's because even if a kid who's parents make $50,000 - $100,000/year gets accepted, they still have to pay most of the tuition and most middle class families don't want to take on that kind of debt. The rich parents can pay for it, the poor kids get most of their tuition waived, but those in the middle are the ones who get stuck having to make a hard choice. Decades of debt just to rub elbows with some kid who's parents bought their way in (either directly or indirectly through years of advantage)? No thank you.

  50. Why does access to an elite school have to happen in one generation? Why can't we fix the 12 years of public money we commit to educating our youth? Why can't elite schools continue to cultivate donations from rich families by giving admission to their children? What is wrong with all the other schools that are out there? Access to the Ivy League is not the fix.

  51. Has anyone bothered to ask the Ivy Plus schools if they want to reduce economic stratification among their student bodies? If that is what they wanted they could easily have jiggered their admission criteria decades ago (and for some of the schools, centuries ago). The issue, of course, is that private colleges and universities depend heavily on donations from students’ parents and from graduates after they have reached high levels of income. Tuition alone simply does not cover the cost of staffing and operating these schools.

  52. My impression is that legacy preferences exist because they elicit more donations. That Johns Hopkins has abolished legacy preferences has something to do with Michael Bloomberg having given approximately $3.3 billion to the school. I would strongly advise any school who has received over $3 billion from a single donor to consider the same course. I'd like to see an article about who donates the most. Somebody who crunched the data for a university's admissions and development departments told me that the biggest donors tend to be the kind of people who are otherwise most hated on campus: white male legacy conservative jocks. For example, David Dornsife, who gave $200 million to USC, is the son of two USC grads, is the parent of another, and was the shotputter on a USC national championship track and field team. Colleges definitely have this information on who gives to the endowment, but academics seldom publish it.

  53. Private colleges and universities are private clubs where people of wealth want their children to meet other children of wealth. Let them. Who cares? Just don't give federal support to them. The journalists and the authors of the report should turn their attention to the problems of public universities and stop wasting time on a problem that isn't a problem.

  54. @Le You have an interesting idea, but would you really want to exclude my Pell and SMART grant recipient son from being able to afford to go to Vanderbilt? Should he have to go to a mediocre state university because he can no longer afford an excellent private university? That hardly seems fair.

  55. Boards of trustees of colleges and other non-profit organizations are held accountable for managing their finances—and endowments—prudently. Spending down endowments in a way that will unduly deplete them over time is considered imprudent, and can result in government penalties, removal and other legal actions against trustees and entire boards. So, no, colleges can’t simply spend down their large endowments to provide full or partial tuition-forgiveness to students.

  56. @Mon Ray I think you are ignoring that over the past few decades college endowments are BALLOONING. In fact, my alma mater Princeton is at least rumored to do things like spend excessively on gardening just to make sure they spend enough on the returns of the enormous endowment to maintain their non-profit status. So actually it would arguably be very healthy for institutions to spend down these endowments. (there are a host of other reasons that people have argued that large endowments are out of control and produce the wrong incentives. you can find a lot on this topic i you look)

  57. @Helene Princeton is a beautiful campus but Harvard has a better art collection.

  58. The point of the SAT is that it's an independent evaluation of a student's readiness for college. It's also the hardest metric to game, especially compared to GPA and essays. Colleges should go back to being academic institutions and get rid of all preferences, whether legacy, athletic, or racial. The SAT and other standardized tests are the key to making a good school, and messing with it is most likely to result in under-prepared kids going to a school they can't handle.

  59. @KM When, precisely, did colleges NOT have legacy, athletic or racial preferences? Not too long ago, the Ivies admitted their students largely from a handful of private boarding and prep schools.

  60. Why NOT just level the playing field? Everyone is measured by the same yard stick, eg SAT or whatever. NOBODY gets a shorter or longer one.

  61. @b But b, that is so racist, misogynist, paternalist, white privilege-ist, and SO RIGHT! Thank you for concisely stating what everyone who does not benefit from affirmative action believes.

  62. @b, Because equality is a myth. There's no such thing.

  63. @b So you're saying something who grew up in a poor household and attended terrible schools should be assessed in precisely the same ways as an advantaged student who went to excellent schools, received SAT tutoring, etc? Environment matters. When I was growing up my Ph.D. father routinely used SAT words in everyday conversations -- that gave me an advantage on the verbal portion of the test over someone else whose parents might never have attended college. It's grossly unjust to think that my SAT score should count the same as someone who came from a less educationally advantaged household.

  64. There are other schools out there, besides the Ivies.

  65. Instead of artificially inflating people's SAT scores, how about not inflating any of them?

  66. @Karen I do find it comical that the offered solutions include seemingly anything and everything, except for making it a completely fair process in the first place!

  67. Instead of trying to create new privileges and messing with SAT scores, why not just eliminate legacy admissions?

  68. Nice, what about middle class white kids like my son who had 35 ACT/3.9 UW GPA, international science awards, and was rejected by every top 20 private school he has applied to? What "boost" should these kids get?

  69. @DL Apparently, he doesn't get to go to a "Top 20 Private University." Try applying to others. Contrary to popular belief, there ARE others. He might be very happy at a Top 20 Public University. TBH, 35 ACT/3.9 GPA is lower-middle of the pack for top universities. When you see perfect SAT/ACT scores and 4.0+ GPA by a large proportion of the applicants, the scores becomes completely meaningless.

  70. The article proposes "a 160-point SAT boost — the advantage given to legacy applicants by some elite colleges." "Some elite colleges" is the operative phrase here, because although many seem to believe their admissions standards are the same, in fact they are quite different from one institution to another.

  71. In trying to make college admissions more equitable, I hope we can retain some elements of the idea of the university as a meritocracy. Americans seem uncomfortable with the fact that while we are all born with equal rights before the law, we differ sharply and measurably in ability to benefit from advanced intellectual training. Moreover, although there is no universally accepted definition of "intelligence," scientists have demonstrated that some aspects of our cognitive abilities are biologically heritable. Wiki summarizes the evidence and reports that "...the heritability of IQ [is] ...between 0.7 and 0.8 in adults and 0.45 in childhood in the United States." [note: A value of 1.0 would represent a situation in which some variable trait correlates perfectly with variations in genomes]. Yes, environmental factors affect one's IQ test results, and the link between one's parents' IQs and one's own IQ involve over 50 specific genes. No matter how coarsely standardized tests measure cognitive aptitudes, however, most of them measure some part of one's intellectual potential and abilities. I'm not suggesting that students be sent to this or that university only on the basis of standardized test scores, The optimal situation might be to match students with faculties that have the best potential to help them make the most of their abilities.

  72. I went to an Ivy during the years studied, and I feel the years studied were much too long ago. My parents were solidly middle class but older. Quite a few parents of kids there were older. I think more recruitment needs to come from the lower middle class, working class, and even lower. And more diversity. There were legacies, but all but 2 I knew were quite intelligent with high SAT scores. They did not go into professions that make tons of money, but many went on to graduate or professional schools. My father took out a loan for me to go to a Ivy. Also at that time Duke was not considered as near to an Ivy as it is now -- I was interested in the humanities, and warned by Duke that I would probably not like it. Duke has changed since then. It also recruited a lot of top basketball players then. Not that they weren't intelligent. There's more that goes into getting into an Ivy than top SAT scores, although they certainly do help a lot. The ability to have SAT tutoring (which I did not), public service during high school, GPA, etc. The main problem with people getting into the Ivies and other top schools from high school is the very poor state of the American educational system from kindergarten through high school. I was lucky enough to go to private school in the South, which had notoriously bad public schools at the time. There really aren't tpns of magnet schools. Finland is so much better. Now many good colleges, like Marlboro, are squeezed out!

  73. For those of us who have gone through the college admissions game recently, we already know that disadvantaged students get greater leeway in SAT scores than perceived affluent students. Your run of the mill, high SAT scoring, high GPA candidate from a well to do area (can be a public or private school) has no advantage whatsoever in the admissions process. Unless they were an outstanding athlete, musician, etc., then they are an "unhooked" applicant because they look like all the other high SAT scoring, high GPA candidates (having numerous extracurricular activities doesn't count). However, being from a disadvantaged background with a SAT and GPA that somewhat comes close to the aforementioned group is a "hook."

  74. "The proportion of middle-class students on Ivy League-caliber campuses could be increased to 38 percent from 28 percent simply by enrolling more of those who have the same high SAT scores as wealthy applicants, the research suggests." I assume the real issue here is that "wealthy applicants" with scores similar to middle class students can "pay full" for tuition . The Ivies ( and probably all selective colleges) are looking for as many full pay applicants as possible, no matter what their policies state. My bet is that particularly with foreign students but legacies as well, all other factors relatively equal, full pay students get the nod. Money is the core value of our society and almost always dictates social or educational decisions and outcomes.

  75. lol - to paraphrase soooo very many of the comments - why jury-rig the system to favor one group over another yet again - let's just eliminate legacies and rely on colorblind GPA and ACT. People want to desperately believe that the combination of your marks and your std test scores are not an outstanding predictor of smarts - but they are. And no - the distribution of really smart folks is not fair or subject to fine tuning. Sorry - only a very few kids are in the top 2% or 3% [it is a tautology - and if you don't know what that is then you proby aren't] and it has little to do with the color of their skin or the Zip Code of their parents.

  76. Standardized test scores and GPA only part of the factors for admission. No schools, even the elites, want cookie-cutter brainiacs. They want a combination of already high academic achievers with those who show potential for growth or interests/accomplishments not quantified in numbers. The only number all schools should be interested in is EQ—research shows that high emotional/social intelligence the best predictor for success in life.

  77. They really ought to look at people approaching 50. Gen X who graduated during the Bush I recession was NOT catapulted into the top 1% of income by attending a fancy school. SO MANY of my peers were chewed up and spit out by Carnegie Mellon University. We graduated with staggering college loans into the worst recession since The Great Depression (until the Bush II recession). Instead of jobs as engineers, scientists, and everything else, we were waiting tables, managing video stores, and being unemployed. Everyone in my major lost at least a year. Most of us lost 3-5 years off our careers. Some of us lost 10. Many of us lost the ability to work in our field *at all.* Our $80,000 degrees fro a top 20 Private University was... completely worthless. I never worked in the field where I got my degree. My pal who graduated in Mechanical Engineering. He didn't either.I knew SO many people out of work. It was like a tsunami.

  78. @Dejah It's a cyclical issue - attending a big name school like Carnegie Mellon is sold as an investment, but as tuition rises (and tuition today for 4 years at CM comes to $220k!) that fancy educational pedigree doesn't do enough for today's students either to outweigh the heavy debt burden.

  79. I'd like to see someone study students who are "successful" (grades/activities/scores/etc) but whose parents actively work against them leaving home for a "good" school. I've seen this happen for a variety of reasons. It can't be fixed by offering more money or a boost to scores. It is parenting which should be looked at and understood.