How To Find The Perfect College

May 11, 2021 | podcast

In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt answers how to find the “perfect” college.


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: People ask, “how do you find the perfect college for you?” It’s such a great question and answer for how you find that might differ by percent to an extent. Some people have very practical reasons for narrowing their list of colleges. It could be financial, it could be location. It could be a specific major that you’re looking for at that college. Those are all valid and important reasons why you may narrow your list to a relatively smaller subset of schools, and why you may only be deciding that they among a pool of 10 schools versus a pool of 200 schools. Finding the perfect college for you really starts with those practical questions of “what are my college deal breakers”? So, “do I not want to be more than 100 miles from home, or do I have to be more than 100 miles from home?” “Do I need to be on one coast or another”? “Do I need to be in a large community, or do I need to be in a smaller community”? “Do I need a college that has a specific major that pertains to the exact goals that I have for myself after college”? Now I want to piggy back off of that last point, which is that some people believe they know exactly what they want to do after college when they get there. But the reality is that most people change their mind. Most people cannot decide at 17 years old what their career is going to be. That is why, in many cases, I would discourage people from applying to programs like a BSMD program or a BS to DMD program, because many times you will change your mind. And those programs are extremely competitive, extremely focused. They don’t give you a student the chance to explore and take different subjects. And you can’t bank all of your applications on this program. So you want to pick if you do want to BSMD or BS to MD, you want to make sure that you have alternate options with majors that you also would enjoy studying if that option does not pan out for you. So make sure that if you are really focused on one topic that you haven’t missed, the opportunity to take a more exploratory path, which makes sense for a lot of 18 to 22 year olds that are still deciding what they want to do and have not been exposed to a wide swath of knowledge in their individual communities. So that’s really, really important. The narrowing piece that can be the first piece. So a lot of the times, what you don’t like or what you don’t want helps you figure out what you do want. The second thing is the college culture. That’s a huge and important part of your college search. So when I say college culture, I’m not talking about things like high achieving versus low achieving are highly selective versus low selective. Those are very binary characteristics. So we could say any of the colleges on my wall have a high achieving culture, but that doesn’t really tell you what the experience day to day is like order, the rituals or the interesting little nuances that people do. Do people wait in line? Are they patient? Are they less patient about things?


 Are they tending to focus more in research, or are they more focused on pragmatic things like internships and networking? There’s a lot of nuances of culture. And beyond those ones I’ve shared, there’s also this feeling of now, where do I belong? And what kinds of smaller communities am I going to thrive in at these colleges? And so in my last question, people ask me about “what are some things I should think about when I’m applying”? And one of the things I shared was, you want to look at the individual centers where you think you would actually make a home. So for the writing example, looking at those writing communities and what that is like and the kinds of programs they have and how those programs help people to do whatever it is that they want to do. And then in terms of constraints, as I said, there could be financial ones, there could be geographic ones. So make sure that you’re really honest with yourself about what your deal Breakers are, what your constraints are before you get into these more subjective assessments. Another point about finding the perfect college for you is that you don’t have to just look on the website to figure out what’s happening. I would suggest you talk to people. So these could be alumni from your high school. They could be faculty members. They could be staff members at the college. Those people are often more helpful than admissions officers because admissions officers are really there to pitch and sell the school highlight. It highlight reel of all the resources and opportunities that come, but they’re not necessarily going to share with you about what your experience would be like. There not because they are hiding anything, but because their job is to sell the school as a package, not as an individualized environment for your situation. So when you go to these admissions info sessions, whether you’re able to go in person or you’re going online right now, it’s going to be the highlight reel. Here are some great things our alumni are up to. Here’s our starting salary for this major. So it’s really just the things that are the spikes and not necessarily what’s under the hood of the college. And what I mean by “what’s under the hood” is, you know, like, “what’s the real deal story behind all of these shiny numbers”? What is the day to day experience like? Because the day to day experience is not the highlight reel. The day to day experience is the hard work that you have to do to get to those highlights at the end, right? And the highlights, of course, the targets are always moving, right? Life goes on. So these presentations are minimally helpful in my opinion. You need to talk to people who can speak to you and your situation and really share honestly about the high points of the experience, as well as the more difficult aspects of whatever college it is they’re affiliated with.


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.