Legacy applicants — the children or grandchildren of alumni — get an admissions advantage worth about 160 SAT points. By contrast, the median student with a family income over $200,000 scores about 140 points higher than the median student in the overall dataset. Another way to describe the legacy advantage is that legacies get in if they can score at the 95th percentile, while unhooked applicants must score above the 99th percentile. But “legacy” is insufficient to describe Zoe Kazan’s pedigree. She’s something closer to royalty at Yale. When an applicant like this comes before an admissions committee, they will be very motivated to admit her.
What is extraordinary is that she almost didn’t get in. The test score bar is much lower for special cases like hers, but there’s still a bar, and she had to struggle and cram and hire an expensive tutor to get over it, and she had to sweat out her college admission just like the rest of us. And there are other applicants who are the children and grandchildren of exalted and famous families who can’t get their scores high enough, and they don’t get in, and that means there are more seats at schools like Yale that are available to the rest of us.
You can tell an objective, meritocratic system is working when it pushes out people that the establishment would prefer to admit (people like Zoe Kazan), and it admits the people that the establishment would prefer to reject (Jews and Asians). It is phenomenal that CEOs and power brokers and celebrities are getting indicted for desperately trying to bribe someone to get their mediocre kids into good schools, because that means meritocratic systems are throwing barriers in front of the children of elites when they can’t compete on an objective test.