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Be sure to read my Key Posts on the admissions process. Topics include essay analysis, resumes, recommendations, rankings, and more.

February 20, 2008

Legacy Admissions Versus Merit-based Admissions

I strongly suggest reading Shikha Dalmia's excellent essay, "Legacies of Injustice: Alumni preferences threaten educational equity--and no one seems to care." As someone who believes that university admissions at both the undergraduate and graduate level should be based on the merits of the applicant, I hope that the preferential admissions of applicants who are the children of alums is ended. This unfair practice was eliminated by the University of California in 2000 and I hope that we see it happen elsewhere. All applicants deserve a fair shot at the admissions process.

World-class institutions of higher learning should be required to operate transparently when it comes to all administrative processes, but especially those concerning admissions. These institutions play a core role in a world increasingly based on merit, not inherited position. We should demand of them at least the same level of accountability we expect from publicly traded corporations and the government. If the Ivy's, in particular, don't regulate themselves, expect to see American politicians doing it. I think the day is not far away when the educational equivalent of the Securities and Exchange Commission is established to regulate university admissions and financial aid practices. If these schools can't regulate themselves, they should be regulated by the state or lose all US government funding.

Access to institutions of higher learning should not be subject to outmoded old boy networks and the dead weight of tradition. No doubt some will claim that is this will impact alumni giving, but I sincerely doubt it will have any significant impact on major contributors who expect no such quid pro quo arrangements. Ultimately the alums who really give over the long term will do so anyway. Alums who have deep pockets can take care of their children. We should have institutions that establish a legacy of fairness, not ones that offer legacies a back door into institutions for which they would otherwise not qualify for.

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-Adam Markus
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