It’s all in the family

Laura Welch

How many times have you heard “You’ll grow up to be just like your mother!” or “You’ll definitely follow in your father’s footsteps someday!” only to dismiss the idea as frivolous? Well for 24.5 percent of Villanova students, this is less a frivolous idea and more a real-life situation.Approximately one in four students at Villanova is considered a legacy student, meaning that he or she has one or more family members who graduated from here. This can range from a parent, which is most common, to an aunt or uncle. It’s not really a surprise that nearly 1,500 students have family history here. For most, this is due in part to pressure to attend Villanova, usually from the parents themselves. However, for others, like sophomore Ashley Thompson, it’s a different case.Like many, Thompson has quite a history at Villanova, with both of her parents being Villanova alumni. What makes Thompson a bit unique is that she was never really pressured to attend Villanova. In fact, she didn’t really want to come to Villanova in the first place. Given that rebellion most teenagers have, daring to be different, who could blame her? Yet, despite all of that, she still felt like she had to come to Villanova; after all, Villanova was a part of her history.For many legacy students like Thompson, Villanova is like a second home. Throughout their childhood years, they often found themselves here for one reason or another. That sense of familiarity with the campus is usually the deciding factor which makes Villanova stand out from all other college contenders as their choice school. For many students, following in their family’s footsteps ends up being not only the most sensible decision, but the most satisfying one as well. “I think it’s kind of cool,” Thompson says. “It’s like I’m walking the same path that they did, just in a different time.” Many aspects of college can seem stressful and overwhelming; having family members who have gone through the exact same transition lessens the load.While alumni parents will inevitably promote their “dear old Alma Mater” to their children, Villanova does its best to ensure that children of alumni have an opportunity to come to their conclusion that Villanova is right for them on their own. Every year the University holds a Legacy Day when children of alumni are invited to learn more about the admission process. The day includes a question and answer session with admission officers and a campus tour. Another advantage afforded to those of legacy is the “Alumni Only Hotline.” The hotline is available for any child of alumni to call if they have a question or concern they need addressed. Perhaps the biggest benefit of having a legacy at Villanova is also the most controversial. It explicitly states on the Villanova Alumni Association’s Web site that “The admission folders for all children of alumni are given special consideration in the evaluation process. Alumni children are traditionally admitted at a rate greater than the overall applicant pool.” It makes sense that people who have had such a positive experience at Villanova would want to share it with family and friends. This word of mouth plays a huge part in attracting applicants in addition to the prestigious academic reputation of Villanova. With such a competitive application pool, students of legacy are still held to a high standard. Being the child of a graduate does not usually play a huge factor as to whether or not an applicant is admitted if they do not hold up to regular standards for admissions. However, admissions officials would not ask an applicant to list family members that are either currently at Villanova or are graduates of Villanova if they simply disregarded that information. Some students, particularly those that do not fall into the 25 percent of students with legacy status, are unsure of how they feel about the policy. One of these students is Kathleen Nihill, who is the first of her family to attend Villanova. “I guess I don’t feel too strongly against it, because I did receive admission, but if I had been rejected and known that legacy students were held at a higher value, I would feel my credentials had not been properly weighed, like I’d been cheated,” Nihill says. Having Villanova alumni as parents may score you extra points during the admissions process, but that is not the only legacy students mention on their applications. While sophomore Kathleen Buckley had two names to add to her list of legacies, neither were her parents. Instead, she listed the names of her two older brothers, one of which was already an alumnus. “I always felt comfortable on this campus and looked forward to sibling weekends,” Buckley says. “My brothers’ positive experiences here definitely helped me decide this is where I wanted to go.”