What Was It Like To Work In College Admissions?

May 7, 2021 | podcast

In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt discusses her college application journey and answers what it was like to work in college admissions at Wharton.


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 Reels and Get In”. Today, we’re going to discuss the question, “What was it like working in admissions”? So, as you may know, I have a background in higher education. I worked at the Wharton School prior to my founding Ivy Insight, and it was at the Wharton School, where I had a chance to serve on the freshmen and transfer committees on behalf of Wharton. I also oversaw a precollege program called “Leadership in the Business World”, which is a summer business program for rising high school seniors interested in a business education. And so in both cases, I was working with and supporting and evaluating a highly selective, highly competitive applicant pool. In terms of what it was like to work in admissions, I would say it was both rewarding and disheartening. Rewarding in that learning about people’s stories and what makes them tick, or at least what they’re telling you makes them tick. I like knowing people. I like understanding them and hearing about different peoples’ paths as a young person and the types of experiences that they’ve had along the way. And a lot of the kids that we had applied to Wharton and to LBW are really some of the most accomplished kids that you could imagine. What someone has managed to accomplish by 16 or 17 can be more than a lot of people accomplish in someone twice their age or even three times their age, whether it’s founding a nonprofit or starting a business leading large organization. Pretty amazing stuff. So it was both encouraging in terms of looking at what incredible potential there is in all of these young people and how they had managed to achieve such a great potential at such a young age. Now, the disheartening thing about that is that there’s so many more people, I think, deserve opportunities than you’re able to provide when you’re in a highly selective admissions function. So there are so many people who, by no fault of their own, just didn’t make the cut. And also, there are people who had probably potential to make the cut, but they failed to articulate themselves effectively. They failed to really tell their stories well. And so they had the unfortunate, I guess, lack of knowledge or lack of experience to be able to present themselves to the colleges effectively. So that’s one of the reasons why I love doing what I do is that I know what that college perspective is like. I have the doctorate in Higher Ed. I have the admissions experience, but I care about this process because I was stressed out college applicant when I was back in high school. I didn’t have really any help applying to college. And I really wanted to go to NYU. And this is, like, my top goal. Ultimately, I did get into NYU, but I went through a lot of stress on the way. I started in my sophomore year, going on as many visits and tours as I could. My dad was very helpful in opening a couple of doors for me to meet with a professor beforehand. He had gone there. Other than that, I was flying pretty blind, and my parents really didn’t know anything about the process. And the process was far less competitive when my dad was a student. I don’t think his grades were very good. And, you know, your grades had to be really good when I got into NYU. So it was hard. It was a lot of pressure. And I was in an environment where everybody was really accomplished. And so I talk a lot about this in my book, “Get Real and Get In”, about my own journey to college because it’s such an important part of why this is so important, because it was stressful. But more importantly than that is that college journey stretched me and pushed me to figure out a little bit more clearly who I was and what I wanted on the way to college. And that was really the important part of getting into NYU was the journey that I went through to get there, not the actual admission itself. And then if you read, if you get my book, when I got there to NYU, it was far from a dream. NYU is not an easy place to go to school. It was especially tough the year that I went because I was a freshman when September 11th happened. It was a very harsh way to adjust to college. And then have this terrible tragedy happened two miles away from where I was taking classes. Bottom line is, things are not going to be perfect at your dream school. But the process is not designed to create a perfect outcome. The process is designed to help you grow, reflect, figure out who you are, and what you want. And then when you get to college, you’ll be in such a better position to take advantage of the opportunities, the resources and pursue your own version of success wherever that you go to college. I went to NYU, and when I was at the college, I was studying music business. I’m a passionate supporter of the arts. I grew up doing theatre. I’ve done some theatre as an adult where I can of course, I love doing work and being with family, so that takes a lot of priority these days. But theatre has always been a really an important part of my life, and I wanted to do something where I could do something pragmatic with something I loved. But then it turned out that that wasn’t actually the best path for me. The music business at the time was shrinking. It was a time when music was going from physical to digital, and there was a lot of upheaval. And there was also a lot of, I would say, a culture, a bit of hazing and partying in music business, which did not resonate with me as much as an academic environment does. I grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, so being surrounded by campus and by an educated community felt more comfortable to me. And that’s how I ended up in Higher Ed as I got really involved at NYU, and I felt really good and that I was contributing in these environments. And that’s what ultimately brought me down to Penn and Wharton to work in admissions and to pursue my doctorate in Higher Ed. And then here I am today, full circle for my own admissions process. But that would not have happened if I wasn’t willing to push myself, reflect on who I am and what I wanted every step of the way. And that’s why I encourage every student to do who’s going through this process and who goes beyond the process and goes to college. College is a journey, not a destination, and it’s really important to plan and know your strategies and be thoughtful about that. But it’s also really important to stay true to your values and do what’s important for you as you progress through your journey.

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.