How To Build a College List

| podcast

In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt discusses how to create a college list in the COVID-19 era.



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 and author of “Get Real and Get In”. Today I’m going to be borrowing some wisdom from colleagues Eric J. Furda and Jacques Steinberg on how teens can build their college list. Eric Furda is a former colleague of mine. He was Dean of Admissions at University of Pennsylvania, and he was also the former executive director of admissions at Columbia University and joined the College counseling staff at a secondary school in Philly earlier this year. Jacques Steinberg is a former National Education correspondent at The New York Times, where he worked as a journalist for a quarter century. He’s also the author of “Gatekeepers Inside the Admissions Process of A Premier College”, which is a New York Times bestseller. So these two authors together wrote “The College Conversation”, which is a practical companion for parents to guide their children along the path to higher education. Really great book. And these authors recently spoke on the “Grown and Flown” Facebook page about how to build a college list. So here are some characteristics that they suggest that you consider, and I think that these are wonderful ways to think about your college list as well. So first is culture. This is such a key piece of the college equation because ultimately, a person’s behavior is a product of that person and the environment that they’re living in. And in order to be your best self and to thrive, you have to find a college whose culture resonates with you as a person. And so the authors are asking questions like, “What is the history and mission of the institution”? “How does that mission resonate with you as a potential applicant today”? “And how is that manifesting on campus today”? So in other words, “what resources are really demonstrating that mission”? As I talk about in my book, “Get Real and Get In”, the college application process is really a process of finding out who you are and what you Not necessarily just because of college, but college is a major inspiration behind that journey. So I would say, definitely take ownership of this journey. Really think about what it is that you really want to get out of life; what it is that you want beyond what your friends or your parents or the media are expecting of you and what is it that you really like and what you really want. And often times to find out what that is, we actually have to tune out a lot of things. We have to tune out those naysayer voices in our own minds, those naysayer voices that we may have around us. I really think about what’s been letting us up throughout our lives since we were kids. So that’s how you figure out a little bit about who you are, and ultimately you have to find the right environment to help you continue to meet and exceed your potential. The second characteristic that the authors raise is curriculum. So this is not just what majors are at the colleges but how these majors and courses are delivered. Think about the design of these courses and where these courses might build to over the next four years So I love this one because I am always very interested in what colleges are offering, what majors, and not just the major itself, but how they’re thinking about that major. So it’s a bit of culture as well as curriculum. So what is their philosophy behind whatever that subject is? What kind of professors are on faculty that are representing that discipline within that college? And then what does that mean in terms of your opportunities as a student there? So really great question about the curriculum, thinking about the structure of not only what you’re going to be taking in your primary major, but also what are the other subjects you’ll be exposed to as a student? The third category is communities. Who’s on campus? What are the physical spaces, or virtual spaces these days, that they occupy? What do they value? And how do diverse, inclusive, and supportive is this community? And this is not a question that can be answered the same way for every person. All of these questions that the authors are asking really come back to culture. So what kind of community is on campus? It’s not just demographic information. It’s also about what resources are available on campus to support the kinds of communities that you ultimately are looking for, and that will help you to thrive. Again, these are not checkbox yes-this-is-an-inclusive community. No, this is not because there are some communities where you’ll feel more at home and more included than in other communities where you won’t, and you have to figure that out for yourself. The last category that the authors talk about in their book is conclusion. So what are some of the career outcomes, for example, graduate school outcomes that you are looking to achieve? This is a really interesting one because the way the authors present it is very, I would say in this summary form, it’s very binary in terms of “college is a means to get a job” or “college is a means to go to graduate school”. My philosophy about colleges, those are definitely important short-term outcomes, but we also want to think about the lifelong value that we are gaining from college. College is an investment that pays dividends not only in terms of just whatever that first job is that you land or whatever your graduate school choice is but who’s part of your community, who’s part of your tribe beyond those four years. How can you rely on your alma mater or not rely on your alma mater after you graduate? When might you reengage in these communities and support throughout your life? Now, as a high school student, I don’t expect that you can answer these questions, but you should look at the alumni experience and alumni testimonial to really understand what the lifelong value of your education is. So the conclusion isn’t necessarily just the natural cause and effect of what your education affords in terms of short-term opportunities, but it’s really about the lifelong value that it can deliver to you as well. So make sure that you are considering both of those things as you make your college list. A couple of other categories that the authors raise in this Grown and Flown chat are one cost, which, of course, is a really important factor. And there’s a really wonderful book that came out recently by Ron Lieber called “The Price You Pay for College”. And this is a really great read to think about the overall value of college and how you calculate that even just beyond the sticker or price itself or beyond what financial aid or scholarships you get. So this is certainly an important factor, and you may have short term considerations that make your college list a little bit smaller or a little bit larger depending on your family circumstances. And finally, they also add the fifth C, which is Coronavirus, which, of course, is reverberating across the whole nation and the whole world right now and will affect the in-person experience that ultimately you have when you’re making our College list, though. So I don’t think you should necessarily worry about COVID. I know that’s counterintuitive, but the reality is if you’re at the point where you’re just making your college list now, you have no idea what the world is going to look like in a year and a half or so from now, and I would want you to envision your ideal community. So if that’s an online community, research with the best online communities are, if it’s an in-person community, research how that in-person community looks like when people are on campus. You should also research how well the campuses have handled the COVID crisis and what accommodations and supports they’ve been able to provide to students. That’s a great indicator of how supportive the college is of its students and how well it’s taking care of them as they’re on campus. With that, I want to thank these wonderful authors for this wisdom. I hope that some of the things that I’ve spiced on top of that are helpful to you as well. I look forward to continuing to chat with you. Remember, we have our college admissions summit available on replay all week. It’s at collegeadmissionssummit.com or ivyinsight.com/virtual-summit. You can sign up to get the replay if you didn’t join us live. If you have time to join us on Club House, we are getting online today Thursday at 12 Eastern. So check us out. You could follow me there @avivalegatt, join our club, College Admissions Talk, and we’ll have more events throughout the year. See you soon.

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.