How to Get Into the College of Your Dreams by Being Your Authentic Self

St. Martin’s Press, 2021

An insider’s college admissions guide that teaches students to identify and harness their unique passions, stand out from the crowd, and achieve their dreams.

Most college applicants still follow the traditional wisdom on getting in, like “have a perfect SAT score” or “become the president of ten clubs.” Dr. Aviva Legatt has spent her career in higher education as a professor, counselor, and admissions officer in the Ivy League, and she wants to let students in on a secret: admissions officers are sick of seeing the same cookie-cutter applications. What were once considered best practices for “doing high school right” are now so commonplace that they have become a liability.

Get Real and Get In rejects these obsolete methods, teaching readers to think outside of the box and focus on what admissions officers are really looking for—young people who dare to be their most authentic selves. Through engaging, accessible, and empathetic prose, this book forms an inspirational roadmap for readers to uncover their true passions and leverage them to create applications that truly stand out from the crowd. It also features a variety of useful exercises and candid stories from many influential figures from diverse backgrounds and careers, which teach students to look beyond just getting into a “good” college and focus more actively on identifying and attaining their long-range goals.

Get Real and Get In
 is designed to ignite an essential mindset shift in students: stop trying to just “get in” and start figuring out exactly what you want from life and how to get it. Stop managing the impressions you make on admissions officers and start defying impressions. This is an essential guide to cutting through the noise of the admissions process and gaining the confidence to forge one’s own path to success—in college and beyond.

How real are you getting?

This assessment provides you with a clearer picture of your self awareness regarding your college goals. Answer each question with what comes naturally to you. Your results will only be authentic if you answer truthfully.

Praise for Get Real and Get In

Full of practical advice from an admissions insider, this work will appeal to high school students, their parents, and their guidance counselors.

– Library Journal

Full of the kind of advice that college applicants crave—and every helicopter parent desperately needs.

—Adam Grant, bestselling author of Originals and Give and Take

The decisions we make around college profoundly shape our personal and professional trajectories. Aviva Legatt is a sage guide along the way, helping young people make smarter choices as they navigate their futures. Get Real and Get In is both grounding and inspiring.

—Dorie Clark, adjunct professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and author, Entrepreneurial You and Stand Out

If practical is your thing (and it’s definitely mine), Dr. Legatt’s book offers actionable advice to approaching college admissions with the holistic mindset that admissions officers use themselves when reviewing applications. Get Real and Get In is the gentle, yet firm reminder to you, the applicant, that success trumps name brand when selecting a school and that there’s more than one way to get to where you’re trying to go in life.

—Ethan Sawyer, College Essay Guy, and author, College Essay Essentials: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Successful College Admissions Essay

I wish I could make this required reading for all my anxious, college-obsessed juniors and seniors. They get so caught up in the insanity of the college admissions process and thinking they have to fit themselves into the same cookie-cutter mold as everyone else just to get into the “right” school–all without anyone ever asking or caring if a particular school is the right one for them specifically. I appreciate Dr. Legatt’s emphasis on the college having to fit the student and that being true to yourself is the best way to view the admissions process.

Kalyn M, Educator

Get Real and Get In covers all things from the college process, applications and mental health during the season. Legatt offers an in depth and personal approach to such a crisis filled and worrying parts of teenager’s lives. The book was educated and informative, but still interesting and heartwarming. Overall a great book for teens.

Darya H, Reviewer

This book is a great resource for high school students who are thinking about college. Getting into the “best” college really means getting into the “best” college for a particular student. The book includes questions for introspection and activities to help students understand who they are and what direction they want to follow. There are a lot of good ideas in the book. It is also a valuable tool for parents, teachers, guidance counselors, or others involved with the college selection/admission process.

Jo Ann W, Educator

I received a complimentary copy of Get Real and Get In from NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. This book contains very sound advice. I would be inclined to believe that the guidance found within its pages would be quite successful for college admission, as well as for leading a genuinely happy life.

Kathryn B, Educator

As a parent and an educator I have read many books about college admissions. This is perhaps the best. Dr. Legatt gives many tips for prospective students on how to present their “true selves” to college admissions officers. Her suggestions, are practical, doable, and generally cost free. She illustrates all of her pointswith anecdotes from students she has worked with in her college counseling as well as stories of successful, sometimes famous, adults. She provides an excellent contrast to the ‘be the best at everything” philosophy some students adhere to. This should be required reading for high school students (as well as their parents) and part of every college counseling library. I thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this ARC.

Beth H, Educator

I have read several books on college admission over the past few years. Get Real and Get In is among, if not the, top book I’ve come across. If you know anyone looking to start the college admission process within the next few years this book is a must give gift that any student will thank you for upon reading. As a parent it is also helpful to read this book in order to help guide your children in the right direction. Highly recommended to anyone even thinking of reading this book. You won’t regret it, and may even breathe a little easier as you move along within this guide.

Dr. Aviva Legatt’s book “Get Real and Get In:How to Get into the College of your Dreams by Being Your Authentic Self” is a must read for college bound students and their parents. Dr Legatt provides excellent guidance, demystifies rumors, gives the route to identifying priorities, offers steps to keeping things in perspective, and finally encourages students to “ dream it”! 

Marybeth Kravets, Co-Author of the K&W Guide to Colleges for Students with Learning Differences, Kravets and Wax, 15 th Edition, Random House/ Princeton Review
Dr. Aviva Legatt GET REAL AND GET IN Photo


Dr. Aviva Legatt


Dr. Aviva Legatt is the founder of Ivy Insight, the gold standard in college admissions consulting and the author of Get Real and Get In (St. Martin’s Press). An in-demand leadership and college admissions speaker with a fresh perspective, Dr. Legatt has been hailed by the New York Times as a trustworthy expert on college admissions, and recognized as an expert in corporate culture and diversity as a faculty member for Coursera and the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Legatt wrote Get Real and Get In (St. Martin’s Press, 2021) to transform the way that students and families view their college admissions journey; from a series of box-checking and hoop-jumping exercises to the belief that this journey can be both empowering and inspiring.

Based on Dr. Legatt’s Ivy League admissions experience, higher education expertise, and extensive interviews with thought leaders, this book demonstrates that the best way for students to gain results and success in this college application process (and in life) is by bettering themselves and their surrounding communities.

Get Real and Get In

by Dr. Aviva Legatt

Published by
St. Martin’s Press