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Last spring, scandal opened a conversation about privilege and entry to elite universities. YR Media’s Sierra Fang-Horvath has a different take on legacy in the Ivy League.

My dad graduated from Brown University in the 80s. I grew up with Brown t-shirts and Brown hats strewn around our house.

When I was 8, we visited campus during graduation. We walked through the main green and watched graduates posing next to ivy-covered buildings. It was a magical moment that sowed a seed in my brain — I wanted to go to Brown, too.

I spent all of high school working towards that goal. When I was accepted, I cried from excitement.

So during that contentious period — when college acceptance and rejection letters were coming out — a friend said to me, “You only got into Brown because your dad went there.” I was crushed.


His comment sent me into a spiral of defensive thoughts. I worked so hard. I had good grades, played sports... I earned this.

My friend succeeded in planting doubt in my mind. When I arrived on campus, I felt like an impostor — like I tricked my way in. This nagging thought followed me as I walked around campus.

But I’m definitely not the only college freshman suffering from impostor syndrome. Some of my friends have been subjected to much more hateful comments — like, “You only got accepted because of your race,” or “Brown loves low-income students.” Whether you’re privileged or underprivileged — people find ways to say that you’re undeserving.

Legacy looks different for different families. It can mean long-term wealth… or in my case, I benefit from legacy, even though my dad was the first in his family to go to college. He broke into the Ivy League from outside, and now his children qualify as “legacy.” There’s a difference. And there’s certainly a big distinction between my “legacy” and the news of parents buying entry into elite colleges earlier this spring.

I’m done with my first year. And I’m learning to be less defensive about legacy. I realize that I’ve received a tremendous gift — which is an excellent education.

With a Perspective, I’m Sierra Fang-Horvath.

Sierra Fang-Horvath is 19 and from Oakland. Her perspective was produced by Youth Radio's new network of journalists and artists, now called YR Media.