Will Yale Alum Uncle Boost Early Action Odds?

Question: I'll be a senior in the fall and am thinking of applying Single Choice Early Action to Princeton. Although I have good grades and test scores and a strong resume, I know how selective the Ivy League is and I realize that there are no guarantees. So I have an uncle (my mother's brother) who went to Yale, which is probably my second choice. Do you think it would be wiser for me to apply to Yale instead of Princeton for my Early Action college because of this legacy connection?

Your uncle's Yale degree may help you think well of his alma mater, but it does not give you a legacy connection. The most selective colleges only consider parents and grandparents—not uncles and aunts–when determining who will be counted among the legacy applicants. Moreover, in today's uber-competitive Ivy admissions environment, a legacy “hook" carries a lot less clout than it used to. There are simply not enough spaces in each freshman class to accept all the qualified candidates with parents or grandparents who are alumni, especially as elite universities attempt to diversity their campuses by reaching out to prospective students who hail from under-represented minority and/or first-generation-to-college backgrounds.

If, however, your uncle is a huge donor at Yale (we're talking name-on-building not name-on-brick-on-walkway!) or if he's a big-wig there in some other way (he's extremely active in alumni affairs, is a trustee, etc.), then a letter of support from him in your folder may help somewhat. But—except in these atypical cases—if Princeton is your top choice, a Yale-alum uncle is not a reason to change your Early Action plans.