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The College Solution: A Guide for Everyone Looking for the Right School at the Right Price, Second Edition by Lynn O’Shaughnessy

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24. The Legacy Hook

Most Americans are firmly committed to notions of meritocracy—the conviction that opportunity and mobility should be based on ability and performance and not on the circumstances of one’s birth, including the social position of one’s parents.

—Thomas J. Espenshade, a Princeton professor of sociology and the author of No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life

If your mom or dad graduated from an elite school like Georgetown, Columbia, Harvard, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, or Stanford, congratulations; you possess a secret admission weapon—your birth certificate.

At many of the nation’s wealthiest and most prestigious schools, whom your mother and father are matters a great deal. ...

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