Who Gets In and Why

| podcast

In today’s episode of “College Admissions Real Talk”, Dr. Legatt discusses her Forbes article “Who Gets In and Why”.



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”. This podcast episode is all about who gets in and why and what you can do about it. It’s inspired by New York Times-bestselling author Jeffrey Selingo’s book “Who Gets In and Why”. This book provides a fascinating look at the American higher education system through the lens of college as it gives readers a rare opportunity to see what’s inside of three different admissions offices. And he reports on his observations and interviews with admissions officers at Emory University, Davidson College and University of Washington. Selingo wanted to understand how admissions decisions are made, and anyone who’s been a college admissions officer like myself has a really great sense of this. I think that Jeff Selingo’s book does a great job accurately depicting what happens behind the scenes. One of the Selingo’s conclusions getting accepted to or rejected by the college is more about the institutions, priorities and less about the on paper qualifications of the student. He points out, “one of the biggest myths of college admissions is that it is a meritocracy”. It isn’t, never was and never will be. Now I don’t want to leave it hanging without saying that you, as a student have some influence over these admissions decisions. They’re not completely out of your control, but there are many things in this process that you can control and others that you can’t. For example, if you didn’t have standardized test scores this past year and the college is where you are applying, said they were optional, but really, they advantage students who had them and submitted them. That’s nothing you can do about right. So you could have had the best application possible. But they were privileging people with those test scores versus those without or if you were applying to a college where they were looking for students who were more locally based because of COVID. And you were coming from across the country or even across the world, that’s out of your control. Even if you were the best applicant possible, there’s not much you can do about it. The college admission scandal, the trend away from standardized testing and questions about the impact of COVID-19 have intensified the fervor and anxiety around the college admissions process. And of course, we all want certainty. Selingo says, in an uncertain world, people want to know what happens in college admissions. In some cases, they try to gain the system. I wouldn’t advise anyone to gain the system, but having knowledge of the system in a way that Selingo lays out can really help you figure out what the colleges priorities are and how they better aligned with your goals for college. Here is my framework on how you can do your own independent research on the college’s priorities as you are narrowing down your college list. One: review the college’s strategic plan. This document is typically located on the college’s website, the college president, chancellor, or dean, and put forward a statement or a very long document in some cases about what the college is looking to accomplish over the coming years. For example, you can see strategic plans from Stanford and from MIT on my Forbes article, which was published back in September. These documents contain a number of pillars and initiatives which the colleges are planning to prioritize. You can check your own college goals against these priorities to see if there is a match. Second: research your intended major and its curriculum. Each college will have their own take on University majors, including the number and type of core requirements, related faculty research and expected outcomes. When you consider a college, you want to find and identify your intended major and understand what that major actually looks like at the college. Third: mission statement and school motto. Each college has a mission statement which gives you a sense of the history and culture of the institution. For example, Yale’s mission statement you can find on my Forbes article. Their motto is “Lux, a Veritas” and Brown’s mission statement is also in my Forbes article and the motto is “In Deo Speramus”, and hopefully I pronounce those Latin words as best as possible. My Latin scholars can call me out otherwise. So both of these models reflect the roots of these colleges as institutions which educated clergy and their continued pursuit of knowledge grounded in ethical and moral reasoning. Fourth: recent donations. If the college has money to create something or to build something, the college will need to find students like you who can participate in these projects and programs. An influx of donations in a specific area in indicates that they’re looking for many more students in this area versus another area which is not being actively funded at this time. In order to find out how much money is coming through to colleges as donations, you can check colleges press release pages or the individual college/university websites. You can also check a volume called The Chronicle of Philanthropy and search for your topic of  interest there to see which universities may be funding it at this time or have received donations at this time. So, Selingo advises, when you apply to college, make sure you don’t treat the colleges as the same and I would completely agree there. It’s easy to fall in love with the highlight reel of any college and many colleges. Highlight reels may sound very similar, for example, any research centers, programs, activities, graduate outcomes, and so on.  But those statistics and elements of universities do not ultimately tell you what that university is all about and how it fits. You make sure that you follow the framework that I provided as a better way to ground your research and definitely make sure that you talk with representatives at that college, including students, alumni, faculty, and admissions officer, to get a true flavor for what’s happening on campus. Until next time.


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.