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Articles / Applying to College / Will Yale Alum Uncle Boost Early Action Odds?

Will Yale Alum Uncle Boost Early Action Odds?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | March 9, 2017

Question: I'll be a senior in the fall and am thinking of applying Single Choice Early Action to Princeton. Although I have good grades and test scores and a strong resume, I know how selective the Ivy League is and I realize that there are no guarantees. So I have an uncle (my mother's brother) who went to Yale, which is probably my second choice. Do you think it would be wiser for me to apply to Yale instead of Princeton for my Early Action college because of this legacy connection?

Your uncle's Yale degree may help you think well of his alma mater, but it does not give you a legacy connection. The most selective colleges only consider parents and grandparents—not uncles and aunts–when determining who will be counted among the legacy applicants. Moreover, in today's uber-competitive Ivy admissions environment, a legacy “hook" carries a lot less clout than it used to. There are simply not enough spaces in each freshman class to accept all the qualified candidates with parents or grandparents who are alumni, especially as elite universities attempt to diversity their campuses by reaching out to prospective students who hail from under-represented minority and/or first-generation-to-college backgrounds.

If, however, your uncle is a huge donor at Yale (we're talking name-on-building not name-on-brick-on-walkway!) or if he's a big-wig there in some other way (he's extremely active in alumni affairs, is a trustee, etc.), then a letter of support from him in your folder may help somewhat. But—except in these atypical cases—if Princeton is your top choice, a Yale-alum uncle is not a reason to change your Early Action plans.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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