As a high school student, Dr. Aviva Legatt wanted nothing more than to get into NYU. She made it her mission to figure out the puzzle of the college admissions process so she could target the university and differentiate herself from other applicants to ensure her admission. She succeeded, and after graduating with a degree in music business, Aviva found her passion in helping others do the same.
Aviva used her own experience in applying to colleges to found Ivy Insight, the gold standard in college admissions consulting for undergraduate elite college applications, in 2015 and has since helped hundreds of aspiring scholars get into their dream schools. But that’s not all.
Over the course of her career, Aviva realized that the college application process isn’t only about getting in; it’s also about the experience of it and the growth that comes with the journey.
“Getting in is a great benefit,” said Aviva. “But coincidentally, if you grow and you become the best version of yourself, you're also going to be the best applicant.”
In this episode of The Conversationalist Podcast, The Conversationalist Founder and CEO Sophie Beren sits down with Dr. Aviva Legatt, the Elite Admissions Expert and founder of Ivy Insights. An in-demand leadership and college admissions speaker with a fresh perspective, Dr. Legatt has been hailed by the New York Times as a trustworthy expert on college admissions and recognized as an expert in corporate culture and diversity as a faculty member for Coursera and the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the host of the College Admissions Real Talk podcast.
Aviva discusses her own college experience as a student at NYU during 9/11. She also shares how she found her career path, how you can make your application stand out, and how to make the most of the college application process.
In proper TC fashion, we opened the conversation by breaking the ice with a series of rapid-fire questions from Sophie. Aviva shared her passion for Broadway, saying, “One of my dreams in life is to be an investor and/or producer in a Broadway production, because I really want to get involved in the theater in a formal way.”
She also described her online echo-chamber as a combination of things: Broadway theatre (of course), social action, and a mix of celebrities and friends.
Aviva shared she was a very shy and reserved student in high school. She was surrounded by high-performing, driven students, which motivated her but was also intimidating.
It's kind of like when you get to Penn, and, like, everybody's like amped up and all of that and kind of ready to dive into anything,” said Aviva. “So, I had to kind of fumble my way into this new environment.”
Aviva eventually found her place through her passion of music and Broadway, and after learning about NYU’s music business program, she knew the university was the perfect place for her to start her college career. The process, however, wasn’t as easy as she thought it would be. Aside from having pneumonia the week before her application was due, Aviva described the process as highly stressful.
“I was mostly navigating the process by myself,” said Aviva, “and luckily there were a lot of savvy friends I had who would help me with my essay and things like that. But, I really didn't have any outside help, so that was a transformative and challenging experience for me to go through.”
Her personal experience stayed in the back of her mind as she started her freshman year at NYU. Being only two miles away from the twin towers, the tragic events of 9/11 left Aviva and many other students shaken, some even making the decision to transfer. Aviva debated transferring herself, but decided to continue at her dream school and eventually graduated with her degree in music business.
It was around this same time that Aviva realized her passion lied in helping others, so she applied for her master’s degree in higher education management and eventually founded Ivy Insight, where she has since been able to help hundreds of students and their families navigate the college application process so they don’t have to have the same stressful experience as she did.
Aviva explains that Ivy Insight is everything she wishes she had during her own experience along with the things that made her into a better person, not just a better scholar. “I did such intense work and reflection on what I wanted to do and how to target my schools, and that really shaped me as a person,” said Aviva.
The experience of Ivy Insight is also not just for the applicant, Aviva explained. “There are different constraints, challenges, opportunities that families present, and the family’s going on a journey as well,” said Aviva. “And so, we're really mindful and conscious of the family dynamic and supporting the parents because if we just work with the child and exclude the parents, we're going to do a disservice to both the parent and the child.”
Here at TC, we have a whole room in our community dedicated to Hot Takes, where members can share a controversial thought, question, or icebreaker about something that they believe in. This week’s hot take was brought to us by TC Community Member Zoe Feinberg, who believes adults don’t deserve kids’ or teens' respect just because they're adults. She understands the concept of being respectful to everyone, especially your elders. But Zoe thinks that if an adult makes you uncomfortable or is disrespectful to you, then you shouldn't have to just sit there and take it because the person is an adult.
Aviva agreed. “Respect is earned. It's not just automatically provided,” said Aviva. “And even as an adult, when I was in the traditional workforce, you know, working for somebody else, it's like you have a supervisor and of course you have to respect the hierarchy and the chain of command. But if that person isn't treating you well, they don't automatically earn your respect and your trust, right?”
She also suggested that, if someone isn’t respecting you, to reflect on why that may be.
For those in the middle of the college application process, Aviva emphasized the importance of using the experience as an opportunity to learn more about who you are as an individual and what you want out of your college experience.
“If you just see the college process as a checklist, it's not going to be as rewarding or as successful as if you can really step back and think about the role of college for you and which colleges would help you to achieve your goals down the road,” Aviva explained. “So, if you can really understand yourself and figure out what places would fit you best, that will put you in the best position to succeed in the process because it will be super targeted”
To make your application the best it can be, Aviva also suggested looking at the communities within the college, not just the admissions department. “You want to get the real view of the college by going to those resources that you think you would actually access to get better information and perspective on why you would fit there,” she said. “And if it doesn't seem right, then take the college off of your list.”
If you’re interested in keeping up with Dr. Aviva Legatt and learning more about Ivy Insight, you can follow her on LinkedIn and the Ivy Insights website. Don’t forget to check out her podcast College Admissions Real Talk, where she shares advice and tips on things she’s learned that college students should know about.
We cannot give Dr. Aviva Legatt enough snaps for all of the incredible wisdom she shared with us. She is revolutionizing the college admissions process through her work at Ivy Insight and is a huge inspiration.
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