News

College ‘legacies’ are fading tradition

Elizabeth Celms
Mercer Island Reporter

In generations past, many Mercer Island High School students followed their parents’ academic footsteps. As school “legacies” they had a slight priority over other applicants.

But with an overwhelming number of incoming freshmen, schools can no longer afford to honor legacies — the University of Washington, in particular.

“We don’t do legacy admissions. If we did, we could fill our class with legacy students. If you look at alumni in the Seattle area, you’re talking about a huge number,” said UW Director of Admissions Philip Ballinger.

Other reputed schools across the country are also cutting familial ties.

Islander Andrew Schorr was surprised that his son, Ari, an honors student at MIHS, was not accepted to the University of North Carolina, even as a legacy. And so was Ari.

“I’d done everything I could have as a prospective student; I got recommendations and visited advisors on the campus,” said Ari, who is looking forward to attending the University of Michigan this fall.

“There’s often no rhyme or reason to acceptance,” his father added. “Getting into a selective college is more competitive than ever before, even if you are a legacy.”

The fact that this year’s graduating class, with 368 students, is one of Mercer Island’s largest ever does not help the situation.

“Mercer Island has an abundance of legacies, and they all have qualified kids. Today, about five kids will get accepted go to their parents’ college, when about 20 of us did,” Schorr said.

Yet trends never last. After the Class of 2008 passes through, the district’s enrollment numbers drop.

The class of 2011, for instance, may have only 310 graduates if this year’s numbers stay constant. And the Class of 2017, based on the Island’s 233 third-graders, could be even smaller.

But even if these future graduates have a better chance to become legacies, who’s to say they will chose that path?

After all, at age 18, writing your own legacy has its own allure.

Community Events, April 2014

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