Spring 2024 Issue

Evolving Admission Landscape

Takeaways from the Virginia law

By Catherine Tyson ’20

On March 8, Gov. Glenn Youngkin signed legislation prohibiting the consideration of legacy status in admission decisions at public institutions of higher education in Virginia. The governor’s decision follows a unanimous vote by both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly in January of this year.

This legislation states that universities and colleges in Virginia must not provide “any manner of preferential treatment in the admissions decision to any student applicant on the basis of such student’s legacy status or such student’s familial relationship to any donor to such institution.” The law will take effect July 1.

This decision makes Virginia the second state to approve bills against the consideration of legacy status in admissions, following a similar decision in Colorado in 2021. Other states, including New York and Connecticut, are considering comparable legislation. These state discussions are part of a nationwide conversation following the Supreme Court’s June 2023 ruling on affirmative action in higher education. This decision has increased scrutiny toward policies at universities that preferentially admit students in certain demographic groups.

As a public university in Virginia, William & Mary is subject to the new law, which minimally impacts admission processes. The university uses the same review process and admission standards for all applicants, including those with legacy status and/or donor relationships.

“The university uses a comprehensive, holistic admission process to ensure that each incoming class reflects the strengths and academic caliber of our talented community,” says Tim Wolfe ’95, M.Ed. ’01, associate vice president for enrollment and dean of admission.

Consistent with recent years, legacy students comprised 8% of W&M’s incoming class in 2023. The academic profile of admitted legacy applicants is on par with W&M’s overall admitted class, with a median SAT score of 1440 and a median GPA of 4.33 for entering legacy students in 2023.

“Legacy students remain an important part of our community of belonging, and we welcome all family members of our alumni to consider W&M as a top choice,” says Wolfe. “The longstanding connection our alumni feel with their alma mater and their active engagement with the university help William & Mary thrive.”