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Should you get a leg up on your university application just because Mom or Dad studied at that school?

So-called "legacy admissions" — long a standard practice at many prestigious American universities, including Harvard and Stanford — are coming under increased scrutiny, though it's unlikely they'll go without a fight, even in a country that extols success through individual merit.

But cracks are beginning to form, galvanized by a recent Supreme Court case and an Education Department investigation sparked by a legal complaint aiming to take down what one university president called an "aristocratic" system unfit for a democracy.

Legacy admissions don't guarantee entry into a particular university, but they do give hopefuls an edge: If a prospective student can boast that, in addition to having a solid academic record, they are the child or relative of an alumnus, that can tip the scales in their favour during the very competitive admissions process.

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