Students looking to get into an elite college might be better off skipping the SAT prep courses -- and instead spend their time and money on an Ancestry.com membership to try to find a long-lost relative who went to the school.

Come to think of it, that project might make a good application essay.

A new study conducted by a Harvard researcher shows that, all other things being equal, a legacy applicant is 23.4% more likely to be admitted to an elite college. If you are a primary legacy -- that is, one of your parents attended the college -- your probability of admission jumps by 45.1%.

Richard H. Shaw, dean of undergraduate admission and financial aid at Stanford University, told the Chronicle of Higher Education that "We consider access and opportunity a very important principle. We also value intergenerational connections to the Stanford experience."

The sad thing about a legacy policy is that it makes admission to an elite college easiest for students who are least likely to benefit from it. One study found that students accepted into elite schools who attend less selective colleges earn the same amount of money as students who attend elite colleges. But that study did find that there was one group of students who benefited from attending elite colleges: students from low-income families.

Finally, I have to ask: If colleges are going to operate as 19th-century social clubs -- where bloodlines rather than ability determine admissions, at least in some marginal way -- why are they still tax-exempt?

Zac Bissonnette'
s Debt-Free U: How I Paid For An Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, Or Mooching Off My Parents was called the "best and most troubling book ever about the college admissions process" by The Washington Post.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

What is Inflation?

Why do prices go up?

View Course »

Getting out of debt

Everyone hates debt. Get out of it.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

3 Comments

Filter by:
Bare & Marylena

america is all about money

February 08 2011 at 10:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sixmkx

the entire college process is a who's who and whose got the money...ACT and SAT scores account for little more than rounding out the nerd count....like everything else in the world, you can buy yourself into anywhere, Harvard included....

January 08 2011 at 1:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jcc4567

isn't that discrimination? ...oh thats right, colleges get to do that anyway. They ask what color you are & how much $$ mum & dad makes.... they also get away with modern day slave trade they call 'amateur sports' . I tell my kids college is only necessary only worth it if they pay for it & it guarantees a career...work hard no matter

January 08 2011 at 1:17 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply