In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt answers the question “what steps can I take when I first apply to 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: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. I am Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and Elite Admissions Expert at Ivy Insight and author of “Get Real and Get In”. Today, we’re going to talk about the listener question, What are the first steps I should take when I apply to college? So the answer to that has several steps in itself. So the first step is figuring out what major that you want to apply to. And it might sound counterintuitive to decide your major before you apply. But hear me out on this one. When you go to apply as a student, you have to make a very specific case for why that college and why that major. You don’t want to necessarily go in undecided, because then it’s hard for you to talk about yourself in a focused way, and you don’t want a name too many things to the point where people can’t figure out who you are or what you want. So as you’re going to apply to college, think about what would be the best fit major for you today, even if you decide not to do it in the future. With most majors, you can do that. You can pick something and then change. But with other majors like engineering or specific seated program, let’s say, in computer science or creative writing. You do have to decide and commit to that program. In the vast majority of cases, If you’re doing a hard science, if you’re doing something humanity, the related social sciences, related mathematics, all of those majors are changeable once you get to college. What you have to do to decide your major for your application process is look at where you’ve demonstrated your strengths academically and outside of class and where you have the most compelling evidence to share about what you want to do and why. So let’s say you want to study computer science, but you’ve never taken any computer science classes. You haven’t done any programming. You can definitely take computer science classes in college and explore that interest there. But I would not write that on the application because you don’t have quite the right experience to back that up. So whatever major you’re choosing, make it strategic and make it strength based on what you’ve actually managed to accomplish so far, that’s going to give you the best possible chance. The second thing is that you have to communicate what that major strategy is within your network of people that are helping you apply. So this includes the people who are recommending you for college at school, you will have people who are writing you letters of recommendation, and those people need to know where you’re applying and what kind of studies you want to take on. This will help them to help you to create the best possible application for the colleges of your choosing. The other thing that you want to do is to get a clearer picture of what the colleges that you’re interested in are actually like. So if you’re interested in a topic like writing, tap into the writing center or the writing communities at these colleges and understand what those communities are like. Because at every college there is a wider community of students, alumni, faculty, staff. And then there are smaller pockets of people who joined together around a shared interest or around a similar ideology. So if you are a writer and you check out the writing communities of all the colleges you’re interested in, that’ll give you a better and deeper nuanced understanding of what this college experience would actually be like for you if you were to attend this college. So think of whatever your number one interest is and find it at the college and how it plays out. Explore those resources and get a better picture. This will help you in a few ways. One, it’ll separate the wheat from the chaff in terms of which colleges you think do fit you and feel right and which colleges don’t. And second, for the colleges that do feel like a bit, you’re going to have much better story to tell about why you want to go there and what these communities are like and why that resonates with you. So this is a super important step that most applicants don’t take that you can take. The other thing you can do that’s very pragmatic is you have to look at your school list as a balance of where you can get into. Realistically, where would be a bit of a stretch and where would be a really high stretch, and you have to manage your energy and the number of colleges that you have accordingly. So what we saw this past application cycle was that students were applying to 25-30 colleges. And if you look at the stats around the common app, overall applications per student were up overall on average of all the students people applied to more colleges. So there’s more competition there. And then there was more competition because of the optionality or alleged optionality, as I like to think of the standardized tests. So standardized tests are still really important. Even though the colleges are saying that they’re optional, they actually should say optional, but recommended for the colleges that have released data on their admission numbers and how many of their admits took the test, the data is pretty staggering because it shows that these colleges are privileging people who submit tests. And while they don’t share the average scores, you have to guess that the higher the score, the better the chance that they had in getting in. There wasn’t a bonus for sending in 1100 over 1500 versus somebody who didn’t send in or test. So you want to make sure that those test scores are in line, we’ll hook up the college averages we’re seeing before the pandemic before the test optional, because that’s really going to improve your chances at that college to have the scores and to have them in the right range, because the history of standardized tests that these colleges is really, really far, and it’s not going to be so easy to then be like, wow, tests don’t matter. And then for students, obviously, even if nobody has a test, there’s a lot more competition. So having the good test score and sending it in is going to help you stand out in this very, very competitive climate. Don’t skip on test preps. Take those exams, make them a priority.

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.