The College needs to follow Johns Hopkins: A call for more transparency on legacy admissions at the College

Nicolas Shanosky

In 2014, Johns Hopkins University made the decision to no longer consider legacy status as part of their admissions process. Moreover, Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniel recently wrote an op-ed in The Atlantic evaluating the effects of ending legacy admissions. In his article, Daniel references the increased socioeconomic diversity that Hopkins’ new admission policy has provided, noting that the percentage of students attending Hopkins that are eligible for Pell-Grants has risen from nine to 19.1 percent. Hopkins’ provost of admissions, David Phillips, has also stated in an interview with NPR that ending legacy admissions had “no financial cost” and that they saw “no correlation between legacy preferences and alumni giving.” It is clear that Johns Hopkins sees ending legacy admissions as a positive change.  

Johns Hopkins is not the only university benefiting from their decision to end legacy admissions. Per Ronald Daniels and CNBC News, other top universities such as University of Toronto, MIT, CalTech, Cambridge and Oxford all do not use legacy admissions as part of their admissions process. This begs the question, why has Williams not joined its peer institutions in ending legacy admissions? This is a question that has been asked many times, but the College does not seem to be interested in answering it. Currently, on their admissions page, the College does not offer any information to prospective students on what sort of effect legacy status may have on their application.  

For progress to be made on this issue, the College administration and admissions office need to provide more clarity on how legacy status is viewed by the school. The College needs to tell its student body, and its potential applicants, why it uses legacy admissions, how much being a legacy benefits an applicant and, if it isn’t a priority to end legacy admissions now, whether it will be a priority in the future. These questions should be answered using specific language and quantitative statistics. Furthermore, the College should explain why they offer the children of alumni a webinar called College Admissions 101 on how to apply to college. Also, students should be invited to ask for clarification on how the legacy admissions process works. I have personally emailed President Maud S. Mandel to ask why this benefit is not clearly explained on the admissions website, and I encourage the whole Williams student body to request more information from the administration on this issue.  

Nicolas Shanosky ’22 is from Baltimore, MD.