A Perspective on Colgate Admissions

Like all students who attend highly selective colleges, Colgate students love to talk about acceptance rates. Acceptance rates are often a good indicator of a school’s rigor and prestige in the world of collegiate comparison. However, the truth is, depending on whether or not your parents attended Colgate as undergraduates or you require institutional aid to afford a Colgate education, students faced different acceptance rates during the admissions process.

According to The Conversation, legacy has been a big deal at elite colleges and universities for almost a century. For institutions, legacy admission preferences are a great way to build a kind of brand loyalty and cultivate financial support from alumni who want to support their children’s education. According to Colgate’s most recent admissions statistics, the class of 2025 consists of 913 students, 5.8% of whom are legacy. That number may not sound very significant; however, the issue lies in the higher probability of acceptance for students whose parents or grandparents previously attended Colgate. Looking more closely at the numbers provided by Colgate, 282 legacy applicants applied, and 121 were accepted. That means the legacy acceptance rate this past year was 43%, compared with 17% overall. While it should be noted that the children of Colgate graduates are likely to have been raised in a prosperous household with access to quality childhood education, something that likely contributed to a robust application, a 26 percentage point difference is still significant. 

Elite schools like Colgate love to claim that each incoming class is composed of the best and brightest applicants. However, by giving some preference to legacy applications, Colgate reduces the credibility of its meritocratic admissions process. It is not necessarily unjust that someone whose parent went to Colgate has chosen it to be their home for undergraduate; however, it shouldn’t have influenced their chances of admission. If we truly hope for a day where everyone will be judged fairly and equally in the admissions process, getting accepted to Colgate should not be influenced by where your parents went to school, and it certainly should not be based on your ability to pay for Colgate’s ever-increasing tuition. 

Colgate relies heavily on donations from an alumni, many of whom have children previously or currently at the school, to fund their ever-improving financial aid programs. The robustness of financial aid at Colgate has been increasing as new plans have been rolled out in recent years. However, in a 2010 article in The Maroon-News, Colgate’s future prospects as a need-blind institution were discussed with administration members. According to that article, Colgate admitted the class of 2006 on a need-blind basis to test the policy’s potential. They found in the end that the increased cost for the class of 2006 was $1.5 million and that Colgate would not be able to sustain such a commitment. The article also stated that “Among applicants for the class of 2009, those who were denied admission based on financial need had an average unweighted GPA of 4.0, and an average SAT score of 1420, according to the Passion for the Climb Financial Aid Case Statement.” A Colgate education should be available to all who are qualified, not just those who are rich enough to afford full tuition. 

Colgate recently unveiled its new Third Century Plan, which comes with new financial aid programs for prospective and admitted students. However, the rejections from the class of 2009 reveal a very uneven playing field. A need-blind policy, given the university’s newfound prosperity and commitments to diversity and inclusion, would go a long way in correcting this disparity.  

Furthermore, The New York Times reports that the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases considering Affirmative Action at private institutions in the spring or summer of 2023. Given the court’s current conservative majority, they may rule to end the practice across the country. Affirmative Action has attempted to level the playing field for minority college applicants since its introduction, and with the practice potentially ending, Colgate should consider a need-blind admissions policy to ensure equal opportunity as part of its diversity initiatives.   

Colgate is a great school, and the education that it offers comes at a price. Higher education is meant as an opportunity which can provide equal opportunities to all who invest in it. However, this is far from the case given Colgate’s current policies – along with those of many other prestigious institutions. Legacy students have a significantly higher chance of getting accepted than those who demonstrate financial need in the admissions process. If Colgate truly wants to level the playing field, it should be done not only in the classroom but also in the Office of Admissions.