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Overheard in Committee — It’s That Time of Year Again

November 15, 2012 by

Admit It!  You’d like to be a fly on the wall of the admission committee deliberation process.  There’s something very mysterious about it; something very urban legend about it.  We don’t try to shroud what we do in secrecy mind you.  In fact the entire purpose of the Admit It! blog is to make our process more approachable, more transparent.  So without further ado, we give you the first “Overheard in Committee” blog of the 2012-2013 admission cycle.

Overheard in Committee: “Note that this applicant is a legacy.”

There’s definitely a lot of controversy surrounding how legacy plays a role in admission processes.  For William & Mary, legacy is defined as a student whose parent (or parents) attended W&M.  We consider legacy status a plus factor; being a legacy contributes positively to the applicant’s review but does not trump or outweigh every other factor we consider.  Being a legacy cannot make an otherwise uncompetitive applicant competitive (in other words being a legacy cannot raise the dead – to extend the metaphor further it cannot even heal the sick).  Essentially, if we are deciding between two relatively similar applicants (their credentials both academically and personally are on par with each other) and one’s a legacy and one is not, the legacy would get the more favorable decision.

Legacy is simply one factor of MANY that we consider.  And we consider it because lifelong relationships are important for W&M.  A student’s relationship with W&M doesn’t last a mere four years, it lasts a lifetime.  Connecting our alumni to campus and helping them to feel good about their alma mater benefits all involved with W&M.  Plus legacies have a good gene pool right; they’re usually very qualified applicants.

So there’s your first foray into our committee process this cycle.  Stay tuned; more to come.

Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ‘09
Associate Dean of Admission


  • Erin says:

    Oh no! Have many legacies applied ED?

  • Admit It! says:

    @Erin, why an “oh no!”? Being a legacy is just one plus factor of many. Non-legacies can also have plenty of plus factors: athletic or artistic talent, leadership potential, an interesting experience/background, great writing, etc.

  • Taylor Frey says:

    Thank you very much for posting updates on the “inside process”! They definitely make the pull-your-hair-out waiting period more bearable :)

  • Admit It! says:

    @Taylor Frey, our pleasure. This blog series will continue throughout our various committee processes.

  • John's Mom says:

    Hello! I was wondering if the date ED applicants find out about their acceptance will be pushed back since the application deadline was later due to Sandy?

  • Peng Xuran says:

    It is no nice to know what the admission committee are discussing about! Seems like lots of great student joined this year‘s pool! Good luck to myself! ^^

  • Admit It! says:

    @Peng Xuran, good luck to you.

  • Kate says:

    I second John’s Mom’s question!

  • Admit It! says:

    @John’s Mom and Kate, we did respond to this question on the 17th but it look like it somehow didn’t get posted.

    We don’t yet know when decisions will be released and whether they will be delayed due to the deadline extension. Committee processes take time and there’s no way while we’re in it to know when it will conclude. As soon as we know when decisions will be released we’ll post that information online.

  • Xavier says:

    I disagree so strongly with the last part of the first paragraph. If you have two students with similar credentials academically and personally, and BOTH were qualified for admission, why in the heck would you give the legacy the more favorable decision when you could give both favorable decisions? The whole legacy stint is used oftentimes to game the system anyway. If you people in admissions hold what you said in this post to be true, you should reevaluate your “committee” and how it’s run.

  • Admit It! says:

    @Xavier, we can’t always admit both students. We have a limited number of spaces in our incoming class. Many of the people we do not admit are absolutely qualified for admission but may not stand out quite as much as other applicants. Legacy is just one plus factor of many including athletic or artistic talent, leadership, background, perspective, experience, writing ability, intellectual curiosity, and the list goes on. Our Committee process considers so many different factors when evaluating each individual applicant. Yes legacy status is among them but it is far from the only criterion we use.

    There is certainly a lot of debate surrounding the use of legacy status just as there is with athletic talent, race and other factors. We believe as long as we consider all of these factors in context and use them to build the best class possible we’re doing the best we can by our applicants and our institution.

  • Kunva says:

    Is it true W&M prefers boys over girls this year because of the lack of boys at the college?

  • Admit It! says:

    @Kunva, W&M does not prefer any particular gender over the other. We do attempt to build a class that’s representative of all different types of students (by race, religion, geography, socioeconomic status, background, perspective, experience, talent, etc.) and that includes having a class that represents both genders. Our student body is about 55% female, 45% male so yes there are fewer men but not by a ton (and this is common at many liberal arts/sciences universities across the country).

  • Courtney says:

    Any news about the decision date?

  • Admit It! says:

    @Courtney, not as of yet. We promise as soon as that news is available we will post it. We know how anxious people are to have an answer.

  • B. T. says:

    Just a suggestion, though it might be logistically difficult: try *not* to send the parents of a legacy who has been rejected from early admission a letter asking for a donation to the College anytime near the the date the rejection notices are sent. It did not happen to me, but it happened this year to a good friend. The letter asking for a donation arrived within a week of the rejection notice. Do know that I’m a proud alum of W&M, but feel that my college could have been a bit more sensitive in this situation.

  • Admit It! says:

    @B.T., thank you for your comment and your suggestion. Our best guess is that the letter asking for a donation was already on its way to the post office at the time decisions were released so likely not something done intentionally. That being said it’s definitely worth a conversation given how insensitive something like this could come across and we will share your thoughts with our colleagues in Development.