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Wednesday February 1st

How does legacy status factor into UNC admissions?

Kamryn Sain, a legacy student, smiles by a UNC campus map on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Both of Sain's parents attended UNC.
Buy Photos Kamryn Sain, a legacy student, smiles by a UNC campus map on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Both of Sain's parents attended UNC.

Cheering for North Carolina seemed to have always been a part of daily life for Kamryn Sain, a first-year student and daughter of two UNC alumni. Every time she was on campus, her parents would tell her about a memory they shared, making her want to attend the University as well.

“I think a big part of my decision to come to UNC stems from both my parents coming here,” she said.

Sain said she didn’t feel encouraged or pushed to apply, because she thought it went without saying that UNC was her top choice.

“I was applying to other schools just in case I didn’t get into UNC,” she said.

Sain said she didn’t know legacy status really existed until she told people her parents attended the University. She said she’s proud to be a legacy student and to have conversations with her parents about how the University has changed.

Kate Luck, a Media Relations manager for UNC, said the University evaluates each student individually and holistically based on multiple factors, including academic performance, test scores and class rank, among many others.

“We do not use quotas or formulas, and we do not discriminate against any applicant or group,” she said in an email.

Luck said there is no legacy preference for North Carolina applicants, who, under a 1986 UNC system policy must make up 82 percent of the incoming class.

For out-of-state applicants, Luck said legacy status is only one of many factors considered in admissions. In 2018, this demographic accounted for about 3 percent of the incoming class.

Peter Arcidiacono, a Duke economics professor and an expert witness for the Students for Fair Admissions vs. Harvard, found legacy plays a negative role in terms of race-conscious admission policies.

In the data he found from Harvard admissions, an Asian-American male with a 25 percent chance of admission would see their probability of admission rise to 79 percent if he was a white legacy and 87 percent if he was a white double legacy.

The University sends a letter to alumni parents of applicants, unless the child indicates on their application they don’t want this, to acknowledge their relationship to the University and thank them for their child’s application.

The letter, provided by UNC Media Relations and signed by Vice Provost for Enrollment and Undergraduate Admissions Stephen Farmer, thanks families for their continued effort to remain connected to the University and explained some of the aspects that are factored into admissions considerations.

In the letter, Farmer writes that the University offered admission to 48 percent of the in-state and 40 percent of out-of-state legacy applicants for the incoming class in fall 2018. In the class of students coming to UNC in fall 2018, 21.9 percent of applicants were admitted, including 41 percent of in-state students and 13 percent of out-of-state students. 

“To those we could not immediately accommodate, we shared support and guidance about how they might best seek admission to Carolina at some point in the future,” the letter said.

Alexandra Stanley, a sophomore biology major at UNC, said she thinks she doesn’t enjoy her status as much as others because she feels that people assume her admission came from her legacy status.

Like Sain, Stanley said she knew she wanted to attend the University from an early age and didn’t know much about the legacy concept. After she got to UNC, she went from enjoying the concept to not liking it.

“The instant people hear that you’re a legacy, they automatically assume that’s the reason you got into school,” Stanley said. “I definitely feel like my academic achievements, my athletic achievements, my extracurricular achievements are instantly put on the back burner when people hear that I’m a legacy.”

Duke University addressed legacy status on their Alumni Association admissions page, saying Duke conducts holistic assessments of candidates, and alumni affiliation does not ensure acceptance at Duke.

“While DAA does not directly review applications or make admissions decisions, we do provide information and guidance to applicants and their families throughout the admissions process,” the website said.


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