This year’s admission cycle saw an increase in the number of legacy students accepted, with 30 percent of legacy applicants offered admittance to Georgetown, compared to a 15.4 percent acceptance rate for all applicants.
Legacy students are expected to comprise 10 percent of the Class of 2021, demonstrating a persistent trend in which children of Georgetown alumni are more likely to be accepted even as the Office of Admissions looks to recruit a more diverse student body.
The legacy acceptance rate was 25 percent for the Class of 2020 and 37 percent for the Class of 2019. Legacy students accounted for 5 percent of this year’s total applicant pool.
Feeder schools, which are defined as the top 10 schools that provide the most applicants to Georgetown, complement legacy status in some cases, according to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Charles Deacon. These schools end up contributing to a less diverse student population.
While the Office of Undergraduate Admissions does not actively recruit legacy students, it does consider family ties to the university when evaluating students of equal academic standing, and gives preference to students with legacy status in those cases.
Deacon said the current legacy pool tends to be made up from the East Coast, demonstrating the need to engage younger, more diverse alumni and students from a greater range of schools.
Legacy students “are more likely to be white, whereas in 20 years they are much more likely to be various students of color,” Deacon said. “We’re so anxious to get new graduates involved because they are much more diverse than the traditional alumni body would be. That’s one of the positive representations of the university in different communities across the country.”
Although the profile of the admitted legacy pool is similar to the overall profile of all admitted students, Deacon said socio-economic and racial diversity remains an issue.
“Diversity is a lagging factor. It is more typically because you’re talking about people who graduated 20 years ago, you’re talking about the ‘Old Georgetown,’ and it has been changing along the way,” Deacon said.
Deacon said the legacy tip factor is taken into account when applicants are outstanding candidates.
“If you have three or four or five competitive candidates who look pretty much the same, at the edge there will be a tip factor for some legacies if they have a long record of being involved with the university,” Deacon said. “They annually give to the annual fund, or do alumni interviews or are active in their club activities. There are records kept of that.”
Deacon said the projected shift in the demographic makeup of alumni is coupled with a shift in feeder schools that provide a significant number of applicants to the university.
“Out of 21,500 applicants, about four or five thousand are schools from which there is one applicant,” Deacon said. “Most Georgetown alumni have done well, and they want their children to do well, so they live in school districts with good schools or they will send their kids to private schools or maybe to the network of historic Jesuit schools.”
For example, in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, public schools like Walt Whitman High School and McLean High School; private schools like Gonzaga College High School, Georgetown Preparatory School and Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School; and magnet schools like Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology dominate the regional application numbers.
These typical feeder schools differ from target schools used to encourage more diverse communities to apply to Georgetown.
Deacon said the admissions office has begun to look at magnet and charter schools to supplement traditional feeder schools.
“The best route to more competitive colleges for students from lower income backgrounds is through the magnet school process, if they are able to,” Deacon said. “They become in and of themselves, feeder schools, even if they are not elite.”
Deacon said Georgetown relies on target schools to drive diverse applicants to apply each year, but as students in elite private schools or top public schools tend to apply to top-tier schools, Georgetown ends up competing for the same pool of students.
“It’s a challenge. Obviously, it is very much connected to socio-economics,” Deacon said. “If you are saying Georgetown is not diverse enough, we ought to be visiting non-traditional, lower income high schools, the question is which ones? Where do you begin?”
Deacon said magnet schools like the Bronx High School of Science and charter school networks like the BASIS Schools of Arizona are emerging as good indicators of diversity and academic excellence, though some charter schools can end up excluding students if admissions are administered through a lottery system.
Charter schools “take advantage of public funds and yet are in very elite communities. They are actually able to create elite private schools using public funds,” Deacon said. “On the one hand, charter schools give us places to point to, but on the other hand, we know that kids get left behind further by that process.”
According to Deacon, when students choose Georgetown over other highly competitive schools, they tend to come from non-traditional schools.
“When we win from Harvard, it’s more likely to be a [Georgetown Scholarship Program] student, than it is an affluent family,” Deacon said. “That’s one of the nice things, that there are no preconceived notions in most cases of what’s best.”