Should I be donating to Yale to increase child's odds of getting in?
April 8, 2013 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I graduated from Yale College two decades ago and have only been making occasional donations to the alumni fund since then, in years when I could afford it. Now I have a toddler.

I know it is a little silly to think about this because who knows whether my child ultimately would be smart enough to go or would even want to. I do know that going there opened doors for me after I graduated, and I wonder if I am in effect closing a door for my child if I don't donate to the alumni fund more regularly.

Before posting this question I googled the issue a bit and I know Yale legacy admissions are down from about 30% of acceptances 20 years ago to about 10% now. Maybe whether or not you are a "legacy" isn't even considered now, and who knows what the policy would be 10+ years in the future when my toddler might be thinking about college. So, I know, this is a little bit like reading tea leaves.

But, does anyone know what the admissions legacy policy is now? When a school (especially Yale) looks at whether you are a legacy, do they look at how much money the original graduate has contributed to the school, and does that figure into the decision? If I don't donate much, would that take away whatever meager advantage the kid might have as a legacy anyway?

We are not rich, but we could afford to donate more than we currently do, like maybe $200 a year. Maybe $500 if I really worked at saving. Also, you are probably judging me right now and you should know that I myself was not a legacy at the school, my grandparents came to the US as immigrants, my parents grew up very poor and I grew up lower middle class. I don't really want to start a debate on the ethics of legacy admissions, I am just wondering what actual legacy admissions policies are and how, if at all, they relate to alumni donations. Thanks for any help or information.
posted by Go, now. Go! to Education (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not unless you can donate enough money that their development office cares. Keep giving a small amount so they know you do care somewhat, but to tip the scales from "Legacy" to "Legacy that matters" requires more than $500/year.
posted by JPD at 9:02 AM on April 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not judging you but I think two things -- first off, why not call up admissions and ask them about legacy and the weight of that on admissions? You can even say that you have a kid starting high school and are starting to think about college, etc. I seriously doubt they can tell you what the admissions will be like in 18 years. And perhaps the legacy pool is smaller because they have a larger candidate pool to choose from? But you can ask about that stat specifically.

Secondly, I would only do this if you feel that your retirement funds are fully funded and you are on track with that. And, then, if your college savings account for your kid is also funded.
posted by amanda at 9:03 AM on April 8, 2013


My advice would be to be an "engaged alumna." Donate regularly, do alumni interviews, work with the alumni association. Maybe host events for newly admitted students. It might not ensure you child gets in, but it will mean that the admissions office will "pay attention" when you ask about your child's application 15 years from now.

That said, while things may have changed back from 1991, at the time, studies indicated that legacy advantages disappeared when the applicant applied for financial aid. So unless you're wealthy already, the legacy thing might not help much, anyway.
posted by deanc at 9:05 AM on April 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I went to a talk for Yale alumni/children of alumni at Yale in 2004. Even then, they strongly downplayed the issue of legacy admissions and suggested other ways of making your kid a competitive candidate. Your child will probably be better served if you put that money in either their college fund or towards activities and tutoring that will make them a better candidate all around. (Activities which hopefully they'll enjoy and thrive in because they like them!) I suppose it might make a difference if you were active in Yale groups or committees, or if your kid got involved later, but I really doubt it, and you could ask them. Give to Yale if you feel like supporting their mission or a college or group within it.

(I applied to Yale because my parent would have been really upset if I didn't, but I wasn't thrilled with my major's department and I withdrew my application after an EDII acceptance elsewhere. I mean there's also the question of how many other kids from their school tend to apply and be accepted-- if two or three are stronger candidates and are admitted, it is less likely for other kids from the same school to be admitted. The rabbit hole for "admissions" questions kind of spirals down from there....)
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:10 AM on April 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


When a school (especially Yale) looks at whether you are a legacy, do they look at how much money the original graduate has contributed to the school, and does that figure into the decision? If I don't donate much, would that take away whatever meager advantage the kid might have as a legacy anyway?

No, and no. Legacy admissions is not handled on a pay-to-play basis. And while this may not hold entirely true in the case of building-sized donations, it's absolutely true in the case of ordinary ones.

Maybe whether or not you are a "legacy" isn't even considered now, and who knows what the policy would be 10+ years in the future when my toddler might be thinking about college. So, I know, this is a little bit like reading tea leaves.

Actually the tea leaves are pretty easy to read here: legacy preferences are very likely to continue in some form (though perhaps with a diminished effect in a highly competitive admissions environment, as has been the case recently) for the next 20ish years at Ivy League institutions, because there's very little organized resistance to them among constituencies that the institutions care about. It's a policy that makes alumni happy, and the institutions want to keep alumni happy.
posted by RogerB at 9:11 AM on April 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


$500 a year to Yale is not going to make any difference for your child's chances whatsoever. I would imagine with a school that has the financial resources of Yale it's the building sized donations that could give your child an advantage. It's nice to donate that amount if you really appreciated Yale's influence on your life and want to help others experience it, but I wouldn't do it as an admission strategy.

Is your partner an alum of a less well-endowed school? In that case, maybe focus your resources there.
posted by rainydayfilms at 9:15 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


The people I know whose children were admitted under the auspices of legacy programs were in a position to donate north of a half million repeatedly.
posted by dfriedman at 9:17 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Your kid's chance of going to an Ivy has much much more to do with their upbringing. What you can do that will make a difference:

- Instill a value of good education in you kid from an early age. Your kid doesn't need to go to an Ivy to get this and to have those doors opened; there are plenty of schools that are on a similar level of prestige (and I say this as a 3rd generation Ivy attendee).

- Send your kid to a prestigious private school. There are a disproportionate number of students at my school who went to private schools. If you can't afford this, make sure they attend an excellent public school. My good-quality public high school sends several graduates to Ivies yearly.

- Expose you kid to unique interests and help him/her to pursue these interests. At my school, things that gave people a leg up were things like rowing, equestrian competition ribbons, whatnot.

- If your kid is athletic, and good enough at it to be on a college sports team, this will help. The sports that have fewer participants (like rowing) give an even greater advantage.

- Help your kid develop good study habits early.

- Encourage your kid to start volunteering young and often.

These aren't just things your kid will need to get into an Ivy though -- it's becoming more competitive every year for top schools, and more and more people are doing things to get a leg up. The thing applicants need to get into any good university is something that sets them apart.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:27 AM on April 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, donating won't help and anyway, what are the chances that Yale will be the right school for your kid? If could be that they have the chops to get in but prefer a small school. Much better (in my opinion) to make sure they have a good high school experience after which they are grounded enough to make the most of college, wherever they go.
posted by BibiRose at 9:37 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


A few hundred bucks won't make a difference. Use that money to provide educational enrichment for your children, THAT'S what will make a difference.

By the time your Toddler is old enough to attend University, who knows what that will look like? It may be so expensive that it's beyond the reach of all but the richest people. It may all be on-line.

Be prudent, contribute to your toddlers educational fund, and work with him/her to make sure that your child has every opportunity to experience as much as possible throughout his/her childhood.

Unless they name a building after you, a small, annual contribution isn't going to move the needle at all.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:37 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are still a lot of legacies at Yale, and most aren't fantastically wealthy. However, being a legacy is not a way to get around the admissions standards in the way that football might-- the legacies I know were some of the smartest & most accomplished people there.
posted by acidic at 9:43 AM on April 8, 2013


One thing to note about legacy admits (and don't kid yourself - no matter what Yale says, it matters) - often (usually?) part of why the admit rate is higher is because one of the things highly competitive schools are trying to handicap (and I think Ivies actually got caught colluding on this issue) is the likelihood of a student accepting an offer. Some of the legacy preference is derived from schools managing this. So if your child is a reasonable candidate for your Alma Mater chances are pretty good they will get in because the school thinks it is highly likely they will take them up on their offer compared to other folks in the admittable cohort.

If your child is a notch below the admittable cohort then you likely need to able to write a big check for the legacy thing to matter.
posted by JPD at 9:47 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


- Send your kid to a prestigious private school. There are a disproportionate number of students at my school who went to private schools. If you can't afford this, make sure they attend an excellent public school. My good-quality public high school sends several graduates to Ivies yearly.

From my understanding of Ivy admissions (attended one, had the help of an admissions consultant, probably would have got in anyways but they took me as a scholarship case so who was I to say no?) this is the opposite of a good plan. Schools want diversity and that means geographic and even school-level. So yes big private schools place a lot of kids because everyone is applying, but being a great candidate from an undistinguished school can work better. Of course, if you're really committed, you'll move to like South Dakota.
posted by dame at 9:52 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the responses! I am really most interested in the responses that address the question of whether and to what degree alumni donations are considered in admissions decisions concerning legacies, and also whether you are speculating or have actual knowledge. But I do appreciate that everyone is trying to be so helpful!
posted by Go, now. Go! at 9:58 AM on April 8, 2013


(dame that was not directed at you.)
posted by Go, now. Go! at 10:01 AM on April 8, 2013


At my (small, non-Ivy, prestigious) school, being a legacy was a "tip" on your application in the same way as having amazing art talent, being intelligent outside the norm for the school, or being a standout talent athletically. Basically, it could help, but you had to have all the standard grades and scores and activities as well. You wouldn't get in just for being a legacy, just as they wouldn't admit someone just to be an athlete (in theory, anyway). I think this was different if your family had their name on a building. To the best of my knowledge, your donations didn't enter into it although I guess there could be helpful name recognition if you were a super involved alum. This is mostly based on hearsay from people who worked in the Admissions office.
posted by MadamM at 10:12 AM on April 8, 2013


Thanks for the responses! I am really most interested in the responses that address the question of whether and to what degree alumni donations are considered in admissions decisions concerning legacies, and also whether you are speculating or have actual knowledge.

My impression is that if your child fulfills every requirement that DoubleLune maps out, being a legacy will generally put him "over the top", when his chances might otherwise be a crapshoot.
posted by deanc at 10:13 AM on April 8, 2013


I had this very question 15 years ago. I was making donations of around $500 per year. I was called by a development officer who was coming into town and asked me to lunch. At said lunch, I asked if the $500 per year would make a difference. The short answer was "no" Just to see if there was a number that would make a difference, I asked about $2500 a year. The response was a little better than no, but it was that all things being equal between your child and another child, they MIGHT look at giving. He indicated the number would have to be at least five figures annually for years to give that extra push. UVa, where I went, does consider legacies as part of the State pool as opposed to out of state. There are so many graduates of Yale or any university that they could probably fill half the class with legacies.

My oldest is a first year at my alma mater. It was very competitive getting in. It turns out that I had a contact in the President's office and that did not help really all that much. I annually gave a presentation to the economics department. That did not really matter for admittance. My two high schoolers got a wake up call that they need to be able to get in on their own merits. One of my high schoolers is good enough to have interest from college lacrosse programs. At my alma mater, the program is a top 5 team annually and he is not good enough for them.

Focus your efforts on supporting your children to be active critically thinking learners. It is easier if they can get in on their own merits.

If I were you, I would actually talk to the development officer responsible for the area in which you live. They will be honest and straight with you about how giving will affect admittance.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 11:16 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


My dad is an alumnus of an Ivy league school. He made me apply there (even though I didn't want to go) and I didn't get in. He asked around and it seemed like the legacies who got in were either super smart or super rich.

Private school kids will disagree with me, but sending your kid to private school increases their chances.

But getting into Yale is so competitive that you're pretty much asking, "How can I make sure that my child become an astronaut?"

I hate the pressure put on kids to get into fancy schmancy schools. I went to a school that I could afford, I got a good education, and I'm doing interesting things with my life. I'd like to thank my parents for being cool and focusing on the important things - for the most - even though they couldn't afford to make big donations and I needed financial aid to go to college.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:31 AM on April 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've worked for two Midwestern universities that describe themselves as among the Ivy League's competitors, and are highly selective, although probably not as selective as Yale. I'm in the fundraising office, not admissions. Admissions offices do consider giving by the legacy applicant's parents and other relatives sometimes...I tend to believe them when they say they try not to let family wealth or prestige unduly influence their decisions, but maybe I'm not cynical enough. Also, it may depend on how applications to Yale are trending when your child is older. If Yale does consider your financial situation, your capacity to give may matter more than how much or whether you've already given. I think universities are reluctant to put their legacy policies (or any admissions policies) in writing or discuss them publicly for fear of being sued. The advice above to be an "engaged alumna," perhaps by volunteering or contributing to an alumni magazine or attending an event in your area, might be just as useful as donating now.
posted by homelystar at 1:40 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


> My advice would be to be an "engaged alumna." Donate regularly, do alumni interviews, work with the alumni association. Maybe host events for newly admitted students. It might not ensure you child gets in, but it will mean that the admissions office will "pay attention" when you ask about your child's application 15 years from now.

Thirding this. Well, find a way to be engaged that you enjoy and is meaningful for you, not JUST to hopefully help your kid get in -- but a combination of longtime support and engagement may net you connections that can matter down the road. But no, your giving will not have a direct pay-to-play effect on your child's chance of admission.

/I also work in a university development office.
posted by desuetude at 10:16 PM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


If one were cynical, one might suggest that being the youngest child of an alumnus helped my brother get into Yale after I was rejected, given that I looked a bit better on paper. Our dad definitely gives money to Yale at least occasionally, but not on a scale that Yale would notice if he didn't. Or it was a matter of what order the stack of applications was in--I suspect we were both in the 'could reasonably be admitted' pile, not the 'OMG, let this person in' pile. Or they could have read my application and realised I was a bit 'eh' on the whole Yale thing. (Avoid giving your kid the impression you want them to go to Yale. In retrospect, it would have been a hilariously bad choice for me, but I couldn't figure this out at 17 because separating what I wanted and what (I thought) my dad wanted was not straightforward.)

In any case, I'm cynical enough to believe it would make a difference in edge cases--given a choice of three otherwise essentially identical students, a legacy whose parent gives them money, a legacy whose parent doesn't and some random kid, who are they going to pick? I do doubt they'd distinguish between your $200 and someone else's $500.
posted by hoyland at 5:56 AM on April 10, 2013


Late to this, but I will echo that the answer is no. Source: I work in development for a university.

Admissions and development don't talk, really. If you donate $x a year, you will be put into a database in the development office where it will say that you are an alumni and you gave $x. Admissions isn't going to have any of that information. And they probably wouldn't get it even if they asked.

It would only make a difference if you had enough money to give that admissions would recognize your name. Otherwise, they just see that your kid's parent went to Yale as well.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:42 AM on April 12, 2013


Private school kids will disagree with me, but sending your kid to private school increases their chances.

This is absolutely true, as long as it's the right private school. 25% of my graduating class attended either an Ivy or Stanford (including some legacies, but no major donors). My college counselor had a close relationship with all the regional admissions officers, and she worked with them closely to help their yield numbers. For a while Brown would hardly admit anyone from my school because too many people were applying there as a safety. So my counselor started actively discouraging people from applying to Brown if they weren't set on going there, and she made sure that Brown knew that all the applicants from our school would attend if accepted. She repaired the relationship in no time. That kind of service is absolutely "worth the money" if you want to throw money at your child's admissions chances.

Another thing Yale looks at is: are you accomplished enough in your field to speak at a Master's tea? That is really, really huge. They LOVE the spawn of future guest speakers.
posted by acidic at 10:24 AM on April 14, 2013


« Older Low carb until dinner to lose weight?   |   I am angered and disgusted with myself for being... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.