Fourth-generation football fans, Ben and Carly Stuckert, 9 and 7, walk with their family in downtown State College the day of this season’s game against Ohio State.
Orange is the Wilson family’s favorite color.
For generations, Wilsons have donned orange at the University of Tennessee, so third-year kinesiology major Josh Wilson is not exaggerating when he says it’s in his blood.
In fact, for Wilson, 20, attending the Knoxville, Tenn., campus seemed more like a birthright than a choice.
“Even as a little kid living in Texas, we always said we would go to Tennessee. In high school, I applied to a few other colleges, but it was more just to go through the process, because I knew all along that I’d be going to Tennessee,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s grandparents, father, aunts, uncles, cousins, sister and twin brother have all attended Tennessee, something that makes family gatherings a little more fun, he said.
“I still have the same teachers that my uncle had. Our house has a room full of orange where we watch games. It just makes a really cool connection because they’ve been here,” he said. “They’ve been in my shoes and they know what’s going on.”
Richard Bayer, assistant provost and director of enrollment at the University of Tennessee, said legacy, though noteworthy, isn’t the deciding factor.
“In short, we will not admit a student based solely on the fact that he or she is a legacy student,” Bayer said.
Although this approach is expressed at many universities, some studies show that it might be of more importance than explicitly conveyed.
According to an Economics of Education Review that surveyed 30 highly selective colleges, legacy applicants were 23% more likely to be admitted. Admission for primary legacies, applicants whose parent attended the university, was 45% more likely.
While acceptance is becoming increasingly selective nationally, some students’ legacy connections might be the factor that gets them in the door.
Princeton, for example, accepts less than 10% of applicants. However, one in three accepted students are primary legacies, according to a New York Times article.
As some high school students await their fate in the admission process, parental ties are a conscious factor.
Jonathan Dencker, 17, is anxiously waiting to see if he’ll continue his father’s legacy at West Point.
For Dencker, the desire to attend his dad’s alma mater goes beyond an academic decision. It’s a lifestyle choice.
“I’ve grown up with it,” Dencker said of his dad’s military perspective. “You hear all the stories and you know all the friends. I think it’s more of a connected feel.”
Dencker said that the United States Military Academy has always been present in his family, but he never felt pressured to attend.
“My dad’s never really pushed it at all. Obviously, once I showed interest, he encouraged that interest,” Dencker said.
Although his father has left it up to Dencker to get in on his own merits, he has been “like an adviser.”
“He’s very aware of how competitive I need to be,” Dencker said.
Unsure if he and his father have much in common now, Dencker said he would not be surprised if they become more similar when he leaves home for college.
“I think going there would increase the understanding on both ends,” he said.
The opposite can also be true, sometimes. Graduates can literally take their allegiances to the grave, as in a Crenshaw County, Ala., where Auburn and Crimson Tide flags flutter over headstones in the same family plot.
Some students deliberately stray from the path their families paved.
An era of University of Miami graduates ended when Jillian Kohlbrand, 18, chose not to apply to her parents’ and extended family’s alma mater. Instead, she is a freshman at the University of Florida (UF), a longtime in-state rival.
Surprisingly, her parents were relieved.
“My parents did not encourage me to go there, because they didn’t want to pay $40,000 a year,” Kohlbrand said.
Ultimately, her decision to attend UF was academic-based. However, for her family, the school divide becomes evident during football season.
“I grew up a Miami fan my whole life. My dad played on the football team and my grandpa coached the football team,” Kohlbrand said. “I still cheer for Miami sometimes, but of course I will always root for the Gators over them.”
It’s all in fun, she said. But you won’t find orange and blue in her living room.
“There’s no real family rivalry, but my dad refuses to wear Gator clothes because he feels like a traitor,” she said.
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