It is no secret that being the sibling of a current or former private school student or a legacy, meaning the child or even the grandchild of an alumna/alumnus of a school, can help your chances of admission. For example, at Trinity, recent admissions data show, 33 out of 62 available kindergarten spots went to the siblings of current students, and another 11 were given to legacies. That left just 17 openings for other students--out of 756 applicants.
Trinity and other schools stress that the siblings and legacies they accepted are eminently well-qualified to attend the school. Reducing the number of sibling and legacy seats is, in part, an effort to make sure that students are a good fit for the school. After all, many students attend the younger grades at a school, only to find that the school is not a good fit for them academically, socially, or otherwise as they get older. Admissions committees argue that accepting students only because they are siblings or legacies doesn't do them any favors, as they may need a very different type of academic environment than their older siblings do--or than their parents once did.
Some private schools are also reducing siblings and legacies because of development needs. Schools can often raise more money from a multitude of families than they could from one family with many kids. In addition, schools are trying to increase diversity. Generally, more racially, socially, and economically diverse candidates do not have legacy or often sibling status. By opening up the class, schools are attempting to increase their diversity. For example, Trinity's new kindergarten class of 2011 has 45% students of color. The National Association of Independent Schools, with over 1,100 member schools and associations in the U.S. and abroad, reports that nationally, 25% of the students in its member schools are minority students; this figure was 17% only a decade ago.
Other schools remain committed to their sibling policy, including Grace Church, a downtown New York City school, that has determined that students whose families attend the school in greater numbers feel more connected to the institution. At Grace Church, a junior-kindergarten through 9th grade school that will soon open a high school, 24 to 26 out of 32 pre-kindergarten spots go to siblings, according to the recent New York Times article. Schools signify that they are interested in sibling or legacy connections by including this question on their application.
Private schools have their own reasons for accepting or declining siblings and legacies, but parents should make their own independent decision about which school is best for their child. Although the younger sibling of an academically inclined child may get into the same school, does this mean that the younger child will be successful at the school? Ultimately, students will do well at schools for which they are well suited academically and socially, and parents should evaluate whether their children are all well served at the same school. Though it's certainly easier for a family to send its children to the same school, it may also be important for siblings to attend schools that are the right fit for each of them.