How To Use Your Connections In College Application Essays

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In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt talks about using connections in college essays.

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VO: 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? 

AL: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. This is Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and Elite Admissions Expert at Ivy Insight. Today, we are going to be discussing how to use your connections in your college application essays. Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? While people would love to believe that college admissions is a meritocracy, It’s an extremely false belief. College admissions is not fair. No one gets in purely on their merits and no one is as meritorious as they think because merit itself is a subjective measure. In my experience working on an admissions committee, there is no secret formula for being the best candidate. But all things equal, many of the candidates who get accepted to the university have developed some kind of relationship before they apply. Here’s how to use your relationships and connections in your application essays. First, an overall point, colleges want to see your demonstrated interest in attending the institution. Think of making connections and relationship building with key personnel as ways for you to gather evidence for why you want to go to this university. Once you’ve gathered the evidence for yourself, present that in your essay. You can mention, for example, a particularly enlightening conversation you had with a professor, an alumni event you attended with a friend or relative, or a new insight you gained from sitting in on a professor’s class when you visited campus. Or maybe you heard them do a lecture over Coursera or on Zoom. Anything that you can share that made a real impact on you and on the reason for your application to this university. This is how you show your demonstrated interest to admissions officers. Whatever you do, don’t assume that anyone besides you knows about or cares about your efforts to connect with school personnel. You need to put that info where it counts which is in your essay. If you have a university rep backing you via recommendation letter all the better, but don’t leave this to chance either. If you built a great relationship with someone at your top choice school ask for the glowing review. The worst someone can say is “no”. Even if you don’t have that review, you can still share your takeaways from the conversation in your essays. Especially your supplemental essays, which are targeted directly to saying why you want to go to the college that you want to go to. There is an art to cultivating connections and building relationships, but it’s not rocket science. All you have to do is make small asks in conjunction with things that you’re already doing. For example, if you are able to go in person to campus and do a college tour, You can, at that time, connect with your tour guide and discuss what that person about their experience. Another chance – if you are visiting campus – is to talk with a professor who’s course, you’ve sat on. You can even go the extra mile and email that professor in advance to ask for just a few minutes of that person’s time after class. All you’re doing is establishing yourself as a kind, friendly, courteous human being. You’re not asking for an admission ticket. You’re not asking for any special favors that anyone else could get. All you’re doing is saying “hello” and sharing a little bit more about who you are. Remember, of course you want to get into this college, but don’t make that your top of mind goal when you’re talking with people. Everyone has their strengths, their weaknesses; they are their own person. They’re not just that college. So don’t put these people on a pedestal. Think of them as potential collaborators, peers, friends, depending on who you’re talking with. And remember, also, these people see thousands of kids every year. You’re not a rare orchid. You have to learn how to present yourself well. You can go back to my podcast on interviewing tips if you want a few ideas for how to do that. So when you get to the admissions committee and the admissions officers reviewing your file, if you’re able to connect with an admissions officer, that’s an amazing thing to do. It’s not as hard as it sounds so a couple of ways to do that 1. Sometimes admissions officers will visit your high school and you’ll have a chance to connect with them in person. Don’t be shy and miss the opportunity. Make sure that you take a moment to say hello, even if you don’t have time for conversation with that person, share your interest in attending the university in a very brief way, maybe 15-30 seconds, and ask if you can have their business card so you can follow up with a thank you note afterwards. Simple as that, right? I know it sounds very daunting, but you can do it. So, when you go to apply, you have these connections and relationships; relationships with students, relationships with professors, and perhaps even a relationship with an admissions officer. The more people invested in the fate of your application, the better. This means that when your file is discussed in the admissions committee, it’s not just a blank slate of tests, GPA, activities, and essays. You are a real person and people care about what happens with your admission outcome. I don’t want to say that admissions officers don’t care about the candidates, but you can’t care equally about tens of thousands of people as you can in about one person you actually know. So go ahead rocket past the competition. It’s worth it and so are you.

VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by 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.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.