Wesleyan Announces an End to Legacy Admissions

‎April ‎24 ‎2015 Middletown Connecticut - Memorial Chapel and Zelnick Pavilion - Gothic revival brownstone located on Wesleyan University Campus with students in red robes during graduation ceremony.


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MIDDLETOWN — Wesleyan University has decided to end legacy admissions, according to a letter from University President Michael Roth published Wednesday.

In his letter, Roth said that while the number of students who have benefited in the past from legacy admissions at Wesleyan is “negligible,” the decision to end the policy came in response to the recent Supreme Court decision Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. University of N. C. at Chapel Hill striking down affirmative action.

Roth underscored in the letter that Wesleyan uses a “holistic” process in admissions, looking at personal history, academic achievement, recommendations, and interactions with the community.

“An applicant’s connection to a Wesleyan graduate indicates little about that applicant’s ability to succeed at the University …” Roth wrote in the letter. “We still value the ongoing relationships that come from multi-generational Wesleyan attendance, but there will be no “bump” in the selection process. As has been almost always the case for a long time, family members of alumni will be admitted on their own merits.” 

According to numbers provided by Wesleyan, 18 percent of students admitted into the class of 2027 have relatives that went to Wesleyan, and 8 percent of students admitted had a parent who went to Wesleyan.

According to the New York Times, Amherst College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University and Carnegie Mellon have all eliminated legacy status in admissions. 

But not all Connecticut colleges appear to be in agreement. 

In 2022, state legislators proposed a bill that would ban legacy admissions at colleges in the state. The bill was never heard by the full legislature, but administrators at multiple colleges, including Yale, Connecticut College, Sacred Heart, UConn and Fairfield University, pushed back against the idea. 

Katherine Bergeron, former president of Connecticut College, wrote in testimony that despite the “infinitesimally small” number of applications the college received that could qualify for legacy status — about 147 out of the 8,900 applications for the class of 2026, or 1.65 percent — banning legacy admissions could actually negatively affect underrepresented applicants. 

“Because the diversity of Conn’s student body began to noticeably increase after the year 2000, we are now entering a period when the children of alumni from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds are applying to be considered for admission,” wrote Bergeron. “I am sure it is the same at many other independent colleges in Connecticut. It would be a cruel irony to prohibit legacy admissions just at the point when alumni families of color might finally—after so many years—begin to benefit.” 

Christina Flowers, spokesperson for Connecticut College, told CT Examiner in an email that while they do consider legacy status as a factor in admissions, it represents “a very small role in our overall consideration.” 

“While we cannot provide a definitive statement on the future of our legacy admissions practice at this moment, our review process is ongoing,” said Flowers. 

Other college administrators argued that the state should not inject itself into a college’s admissions decisions. 

Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of admissions at Yale, argued in testimony last year that, rather than eliminating legacy preferences, the state should invest more in academic enrichment programs for high schoolers in less advantageous circumstances, in helping universities and colleges recruit low-income and first generation students, and increase scholarship funds. 

“Even without [legacy] preference, students with more resources will still have an advantage in college admissions, just as they have an advantage in securing a good job and in many other aspects of daily life. Instead, the state should support schools in their efforts to identify, recruit, and graduate low-income and first-generation students,” wrote Quinlan. 

According to Yale’s admissions data, 14 percent of students admitted in the class of 2025 had some legacy affiliation. 

Yale did not immediately respond to requests for comment from CT Examiner. Fairfield University also did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Pam Pillo, executive director of undergraduate admissions at Sacred Heart, told CT Examiner that Sacred Heart doesn’t have a legacy admissions policy, but uses a “holistic review process” when selecting undergraduates. She said that last year, about 3.4 percent of admissions offers went to applicants who had siblings or parents that went to Sacred Heart. 

Quinnipiac University and UConn both told CT Examiner that they do not consider legacy as a factor in applications. 

In his letter, Roth said the college would put more resources into recruiting underrepresented groups like veterans and community college students, and make efforts to recruit from across the country. He also said the college would increase its financial aid commitments, and invest in a scholarship program to bring in a group of undergraduate students from Africa. 

This story has been updated to include admission figures from Wesleyan University and comments from Connecticut College and Sacred Heart.

Emilia Otte

Emilia Otte covers health and education for the Connecticut Examiner. In 2022 Otte was awarded "Rookie of the Year," by the New England Newspaper & Press Association.