Ziad Saqr (NHS ’15) never wanted to go to school here. But when he was applying to colleges last fall, his older brother Eyad (SFS ’13) was a sophomore obsessed with all things Georgetown.
“He would tell me about all the basketball games and force me to watch the games on TV,” Ziad said.
Still, Ziad didn’t intend to follow in his brother’s footsteps.
“I went to high school with my two brothers my entire life,” he said. “I’ve never been to a school where one brother wasn’t there.”
But a year later, Ziad found himself on the Hilltop, just as enthusiastic about Georgetown as his older brother.
“I’m very happy about coming here,” he said. “Georgetown is my home.”
Hoyas From Birth
In this year’s freshman class of 1,603 students, 159 have at least one parent who graduated from Georgetown. An additional 112 students have at least one sibling who has attended the university, and 25 are following both at least one parent and one sibling who have gone to school on the Hilltop.
For some children of alumni, the introduction to university culture begins at a young age.
“My dad, when he was my basketball coach growing up, always called our team the Lady Hoyas,” said Mia Von Gal (COL ’13), whose father, Tim, graduated from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1981.
Greg Kelly (CAS ’83) also didn’t wait to immerse his daughter, Kimberley (COL ‘15), in the tradition.
“Our children have been surrounded by Hoya alums their entire lives,” he wrote in an email.
Kelly’s wife, Lorraine (CAS ’83), and many of their closest friends are also alumni.
“That’s … evidence that the [Georgetown] community relationships are uniquely strong.”
According to Anne Noyes (SFS ’80), the university was also a frequent topic of conversation in her household.
“Growing up, my daughters heard stories about this cool, sophisticated place [where] I went to school, where Jeane Kirkpatrick and Henry Kissinger taught senior seminars, my Russian history teacher took us to parties at the Russian embassy [and] Bill Clinton (SFS ’68) was my commencement speaker,” she wrote in an email. “Those discussions had a lasting impact on them.”
Both of her daughters, Allyson (NHS ’13) and Elena (COL ’15), now attend the university.
“To say I am thrilled that they are at [Georgetown] is an understatement,” she said.
But not all legacy students grew up with such a strong awareness. Jesse Colligan (SFS ’14) said that even though his father, Bud (SFS ’76), is an alumnus, he rarely brought up the university at home.
“My family didn’t really talk all that much about Georgetown at all when I was growing up,” he said. “It was only when my oldest brother was accepted to and decided to attend Georgetown that I first took notice of the fact that my dad went there.”
And when it came down to applying to and choosing a school, some students, like Alfonso Fernandez (COL ’14), felt a desire to separate themselves from their family history.
“I wanted to live something apart from my family, because I was scared that I’d follow their same footsteps. I wanted to create an identity apart from them,” he said. Fernandez’s father, Alfonso Fernandez, Jr. (SFS ’78), and sister, Maria (SFS ’10), both attended Georgetown.
Natalie Sergi (COL ’14) also wanted to forge a path independent of her parents and brother — all Georgetown attendees — but she felt a connection to the university after visiting the campus during her junior year of high school.
“I feared my brother would be bothered by his little sister tagging along as he became a college kid. But he told me he would love to have me there, and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to attend such a prestigious and well-rounded university,” she wrote in an email.
The “Tip Factor”
This inherited connection can be a boon to alumni’s children who choose to apply to Georgetown.
The Office of Admissions breaks down the legacy category into two groups: an “immediate legacy” — an applicant whose parent or sibling attended the school — and a “Georgetown tie,” which designates those who have a relative, such as an aunt or uncle, who graduated from Georgetown.
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charlie Deacon said that legacy is a potential advantage for students in the application process, with particular attention paid to parent involvement with the university after graduation.
The level of connection an alumnus has maintained with his alma mater creates a “tip factor” for his children when they apply.
“The university has a policy to look favorably on families who have been active since graduating,” Deacon said. “The stronger the tie is, the more important it is to consider it.”
According to Deacon, the tip factor does not come into play for 90 percent of applicants with legacy.
“Legacy kids look virtually identical to the overall applicant pool,” he said.
About 6 percent of all applicants last year — 1,100 students out of a total of 19,000 — checked the legacy box on their applications. The admission rate for legacy applicants was 11 percent higher than for the overall pool, at 29 percent versus 18 percent.
Among students who chose to enroll in the class of 2015, 16 percent have a direct legacy and an additional 7 percent have a more distant relative who attended Georgetown.
The statistics for the current freshman class mirror the overall incidence of legacy students in the undergraduate student body. Senior Associate University Registrar Scott Campbell reported that almost 23 percent of traditional undergraduate students have a parent or other relative who graduated from or currently attends Georgetown.
According to Deacon, these numbers are relatively low compared to those at other universities.
“Every university favors alumni in some way,” he said. “Georgetown doesn’t favor legacy as much as other schools do. … Our goal is to be diverse. We want the best, most talented students.”
A Shared Experience
For alums, sending their children to Georgetown has its own benefits.
“It is so much fun to visit them and to stroll down memory lane,” Noyes said of visiting her daughters.
“When my wife Lorraine and I dropped Kimmy off this year, and when we came back for parents’ weekend, it was a great mixture of positive emotion — memories of our time as students, pride that our child gained admission and excited anticipation for what she would experience in the next four years.”
Legacy students agreed that the added exposure they gain to Georgetown through their relatives gives them an advantage in adapting to life on campus.
“Georgetown definitely felt like home to me before it did to others [in my class],” Fernandez said.
Von Gal lived with another legacy student her freshman year and said it was easier for both of them to adapt to their new environment.
“I feel like we had kind of a leg up, because we knew where things were on campus and had background information on how things worked,” she said.
But there is at least one downside to having legacy status.
“Sometimes I wonder if I was only accepted because I’m a legacy … which can be a disturbing thought,”Colligan said.
Other students also question whether legacy students really deserve their spots.
“It is unfair to an extent if you can just say, ‘My mom used to go here,'” London Finley (COL ’12) said. “I guess that’s just how the system is.”
Paige Larson (MSFS ’83), an alumni admissions interviewer of 28 years, said that her child’s positive experience at Georgetown helps to validate what she tells prospective students about her alma mater.
“Every spring when I talk to the new admits from my state, I can now avow with absolute sincerity that Georgetown is an exceptional experience for the child and for the parent,” Larson said. “Cura personalisis not just a motto, it is a pledge. I think that I took it for granted as a student, but I am so very, very grateful for this now and for Georgetown’s enduring commitment to its students.”