“No matter what they study, our alumni succeed overwhelmingly in graduate schools, first jobs and lifelong careers. Their impact on the world is astonishingly disproportionate to their numbers, and their dedication to Williams is legendary.” As articulated by this quote from the College’s website, the passionate body of alumni is one of the defining characteristics of the Williams culture. This sense of community that thrives so strongly within the Purple Valley extends into the world after graduation. It runs through generations of families, friends and professors. This tradition, the love of our school, is one that we seek to share with those around us. For this reason, it comes as no surprise that children of alumni are so interested in following in their families’ footsteps and pursuing an education at Williams.
As the daughters of Williams graduates, we grew up surrounded by the Williams culture – whether that meant attending Homecoming games and reunions, spending time with our parents’ college friends or dressing in clothes that forever represent purple and gold. Our families’ love of the school was contagious in a way that made it so when it came time to submit college applications, there was no question that we would be applying to Williams.
People have found the legacy admissions’ process to be controversial. As Chris Huffaker ’15 opined in his piece “Favoring the Advantaged,” (Sept. 18), a major part of this controversy stems from the informational interviews process for legacy students. Children of alumni are offered the chance to meet with a representative from admissions. However, this is not to give alumni children an advantage in the admissions process. Rather, the interview is used for children of alums to get a better sense of where their application fits into the larger pool of candidates. The admissions office expresses honesty about the candidate’s chances in the application process and does not hesitate to discourage alumni children who do not have a realistic chance of being admitted from applying. This is done primarily out of respect for alumni because the admissions office does not want to be in the uncomfortable position of rejecting children of alumni who have been loyal to Williams both financially and emotionally.
As reflected in Huffaker’s piece, an air of controversy surrounds the portion of candidates who are accepted as development admits. There is often a blurred understanding of the difference between such candidates and legacy students. While Huffaker defines development admits as “students who are admitted partially because they’re expected to pay full tuition,” in reality, a development admit is a student whose family is expected to contribute in the top percentile of giving. In contrast, legacy students are simply children of alums. There is no implicit financial contribution from families of legacy students, though Huffaker cites a common misconception: that all legacy students are affluent. While it is ideal to assume that all Williams graduates find financial success after college, this is an overgeneralization, and the fact that a student is a legacy does not have any reflection on the financial status of the parents of the legacy student.
The bottom line is this: The admissions office will never accept a student that they feel is below the Williams standard and who will not be a contributing member of the College community. To argue otherwise is not only to discredit students within our community, but also those who work so hard to maintain the College’s standard of excellence. It is impossible to distinguish between legacy and non-legacy students on our campus based on their accomplishments and contributions, both inside and outside of the classroom. Both groups have found success academically and athletically, hold top positions in College Council, are key members of clubs, hold college jobs and serve as Junior Advisors. One thing that is amazing about the Williams community is that it is so embracing of differences in backgrounds, interests and all aspects of life. A student’s legacy status is just another one of these differences. None of these elements change the fact that we are all Williams.
In short, Williams is an amazing institution that all of us are fortunate to be a part of. Having alumni parents helped us realize at an early age what a truly special place this is. We’ve all worked hard to be a part of this community, and being a legacy student did not make this process any easier. The love that our families have for this school is one of the many reasons that made us want to work hard enough to gain admission here; it did not help secure us unwarranted spots in this wonderful college community. After having positive experiences at Williams, what alumni wouldn’t want to share that with their children?
Anne Longobardo ’14 is a history major from Bronxville, N.Y. She lives on Spring Street. Kara Sperry ’16 is from Darien, Conn. She lives in Morgan.