The Atlantic

Elite-College Admissions Were Built to Protect Privilege

Even as selective schools opened their doors to a wider array of applicants in the early 20th century, they put policies in place to maintain the advantages of wealthy white students.
Source: Associated Press

At the very first Harvard College commencement ceremony, nearly 400 years ago, markers of exclusivity were front and center. The graduating class consisted of just nine students: no women, no people of color; only, in the words of a Boston historian, “young men of good hope.” The order in which they received their degrees was determined “not according to age, or scholarship, or the alpheber [sic], but according to the rank their families held in society.”

The freshman class was much less homogenous. According to a survey conducted by the student newspaper , more than half of the accepted students were nonwhite; more than half were women; more than half would receive financial aid once enrolled. But vestiges of the same exclusivity remained. Legacy applicants, predominantly white and wealthy, were admitted at five times the rate of

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