Legacy student

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1902 poster featuring an archetypal "Columbia man". He is probably a legacy student, indicated by the photos in the background, featuring relatives clad in Columbia attire.

A legacy student is one whose parents also attended Columbia. While the term is sometimes used more broadly to include grandparents and siblings, the connection usually meant is that of parent-child. Having 'legacy' status is considered to be a positive factor in an applicant's candidacy for admission to Columbia. This often becomes a point of controversy in debates over affirmative action. The rationale for legacy admissions is to foster strong family ties to the school in the hopes of developing (or in some cases, maintaining) a loyal donor base.

Legacies have made up just about 6% of the incoming classes at Columbia College on average for the classes of 2004 through 2013. By comparison, the Wall Street Journal reported in January 2003 that "[s]ons and daughters of graduates make up 10% to 15% of students at most Ivy League schools."[1][2]. Taken in combination with Columbia historically enrolling the highest percentage of students receiving federal Pell Grants in the Ivy League[3], this underscores one of the stark differences in Columbia's identity relative to its peer schools.

You can find out which of your classmates are legacy! Columbia College Today prints that year's legacy admits in every fall issue.

Legacy percentage at Columbia College

Class Year Sons and Daughters of Alumni Incoming Class Headcount Percentage of Total
2016 71[1] 1091 [2] 6.5
2015 56[3] 1140 [4] 5.0
2014 57[5] 1096 5.2
2013 53[6] 1098[7] 4.8
2012 55[8] 1031 5.3
2011 59[9] 1016 5.8
2010 49[10] 1022 4.8
2009 55[11] 1024 5.4
2008 86[12] 1011 8.5
2007 56[13] 1011 5.5
2006 67[14] 1042 6.4
2005 70[15] 1005 7.0
2004 70[16] 1012 6.9
2003 52[17] 1000 (approx.) 5.2

Note: These numbers do not include children of alumni of SEAS, Barnard, or General Studies who were admitted to Columbia College, nor does it include children of alumni of Columbia College admitted to those schools.


  1. http://online.wsj.com/public/resources/documents/Polk_Alumni.htm
  2. It's unclear whether this includes graduates of all schools or just the respective colleges, as Yale's numbers include matriculating Yale College and graduate or professional school legacies (on Current 1995 Freshmen Class Factsheet: Statistics on Current 2009-10 Freshmen Class). The numbers used here for Columbia are limited strictly to children of Columbia College alumni.
  3. http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/college_guide/rankings/national_university_social_mobility.php
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