My Awkward High School Experience

Jan 11, 2021 | podcast


Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast that features college admissions tips for students seeking admission to top-tier colleges. In this very first episode of College Admissions Real Talk, I share who I was during my time at Princeton High School in New Jersey.

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Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance! Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. This is Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and elite admissions expert at Ivy Insight. Before you listen to the podcast, you may want to know a little bit about me. This episode is all about who I was in high school and why Real Talk and the college admissions process is so important to me. The year was 2000. I’m a little older than you. I was attending a competitive high school Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey. You may have heard of Princeton, where the University is…you can get the picture. I absolutely loved my experience there but there was one problem – everybody there was off the charts amazing! I went to high school at the exact same time as Oscar-winning La La Land and Whiplash director Damian Chazal. I also attended school with a now-famous yogi, two future Broadway stars, and several US top doctors, including one of my best friends. I knew multiple people who got a 1600 on the SAT in their freshman year without studying…or so they said. I spent four years at PHS where I was a relatively new student. I had come from a different school engaged in really deep conversations in a way that I had never experienced in my former schools at other districts. While it was an extraordinary opportunity to learn in this highly competitive high achieving environment, I felt like I was barely keeping up. Everybody seemed to be in AP classes I wasn’t. People were in a lot of clubs I wasn’t. I wanted to do something with theater. I love the arts and I have some talent, but I was competing for roles with future Broadway stars and Oscar winners. My dreams seem meant for someone else and not for me. The other challenge going to school at PHS was that there was a really strong culture of going to college and particularly going to a competitive college. But as I said, I wasn’t really keeping up with my peers, or at least that’s how I felt. So in sophomore year, I decided to get a head start and I picked out my first choice college, which was New York University – NYU. I chose it for a variety of reasons, but the main reason I chose it was because of their renowned music business program. I was really into theater, as I mentioned, and I was also obsessed with a band called Hanson, which was very popular at the time I was in high school. I had some business experience from working in my parent’s retail store as a kid, and I had some jobs locally that gave me exposure to business. What I did to get in was essentially try to follow all the baseline metrics that NYU accepted in its students, so was my GPA on target. Well, it was good enough! My test scores…yeah they were all right, they were about average or maybe a little bit below, and enough were the extracurriculars. I did a lot of theater but I didn’t really have much else going on, so I hoped that was enough for NYU. What I also did, which took it a step further, was go to every single NYU event that I absolutely could. I attended information sessions, I took campus tours, I also went to some prospective student gatherings that were hosted at my high school. My dad, who went to NYU a long time ago, was helpful in connecting me with one of his professors who, incredibly, remembered him and allowed us to come to his home! Actually, the professor we met was so generous he took us into his home and we spent a beautiful day together listening to music, talking about NYU, and having a warm and wonderful time together. Fortunately, this professor put in a good word for me as I applied early decision. But the pressure of applying to NYU was so much for me. I had put so much energy into all of these tours, into keeping everything right on target for NYU, that i got pneumonia right before applications were due. I was completely incapacitated for several weeks, not to mention emotionally exhausted from everything I had gone through. I barely took time to acknowledge all that I’d been through and I just waited and focused on my admissions decision. And finally it came! It was December 26th of the year 2000. Back then you got an envelope in the mail, and I knew a lot of other people had already gotten their envelopes and I was still waiting on mine. So what happened what was, in my envelope was an acceptance letter! And i could not believe it, I cried so much and I was so relieved and I was so thankful to get admitted. So why did i get accepted? I’ll never know for sure, even though I’ve served as a member and chair of an Ivy League admissions committee. But i’m fairly certain I got into NYU because of my demonstrated interest AKA obsession and persistence with going to NYU alumni connections. I have to admit that helped even though it was easy to get in when my dad got in, I still had the connection. I had some adversity in my life because my father was ill when I was in high school, and i went to an incredible high school, PHS, which had a very strong track record of sending students to NYU at that time. My grades and test scores unfortunately as I said were not great and probably on the lower end, but all that mattered to me at that time was I got in. What I realized when I got older was that it was NYU the thing that made all the difference in my life. Did it make me successful? Maybe. It did have something to do with my success, but ultimately going to NYU was what prepared me for the next phase of my life. It was not my identity and whatI  was and who I am today as it turned out, though. My high school experience laid the groundwork for my current career. Did I know then that my success now would stem from that four-year period at phs in which I felt perpetually frustrated and awkward? Um, no! But with the advantage of time, I can see how it all fits together. My time at PHS inspired me to go into the field of higher education. PHS got me obsessed with college. My high school experience led to my 15 plus year career in higher ed, and in that time I’ve had jobs in admissions, academic leadership, teaching, and consulting to students about how to get into top colleges admission. NYU and any other successes I’ve had through the years have come because of hard work. There’s no secret formula. These Real Talk episodes are designed to help you navigate this really challenging process. Know that I’m here for you and I’m rooting for you every step of the way. College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Dr. Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight, visit www.ivinsight.com, and you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, Get Real and Get In, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.