We Don’t Ask Admissions Officers What They Want

At Ivy Coach, we don’t ask admissions officers what they want. Nor will we ever. Rather, we give them what it is they don’t even realize they want.

We’re sometimes asked by prospective clients, “How do you know what admissions officers want? Do you ask them? Do you interface with admissions officers?” The entire line of inquiry is rather annoying because of course we don’t interface with active admissions officers — nor should any good private college counselor. We work exclusively behind the scenes at Ivy Coach. The only time we interface with admissions officers is when we bring on former admissions officers from elite schools to our team at Ivy Coach. And then we train those former admissions officers how to beat an unfair system at an unfair game the right way — because, no, just because former admissions officers admitted or denied students doesn’t mean they know how to help students optimize their case for admission. That a whole different task.

Steve Jobs Didn’t Poll People to Design the iPhone, He Just Designed an iPhone

But back to the initial question: “How do you know what admissions officers want?” Allow us to correct a misconception. We don’t poll admissions officers. We don’t ask them what they want. And we would argue that any private college counselor that does isn’t very good at what they do. No, we don’t need to ask admissions officers what they want. Rather, we give them what it is they don’t even realize they want. Steve Jobs didn’t design the iPhone by walking down the street and polling people out for a stroll. No, he just designed a great iPhone.

Admissions Officers, Like Most People, Don’t Know What They Want

Allow us to share a story that we heard on a recent episode of the podcast The Happiness Lab with Yale Professor Laurie Santos. A social psychologist noticed that people tend not to speak to one another while commuting on trains. So, naturally, he conducted a scientific study to determine if people would be happier talking to strangers on train or riding in silence. As it turns out, people thought they’d be happier riding in silence. They thought having to engage with strangers would be somewhat of a nuisance. But in fact, the study demonstrated that people were happier after engaging in conversation with strangers on the train as compared to riding in silence — in direct opposition to their instincts.

The social psychologist then went to the train company and asked if they might consider incorporating these findings into their business strategy. The executive at the train company told the social psychologist that they polled their customers and the polling clearly suggested people wish to ride in silence. Heck, it’s why they’ve created silent cars on trains. The social psychologist, naturally, scratched his head and then told the train executive if she ever considered that people don’t know what they want. In fact, his study suggested that people thought they’d be happier riding in silence — that’s what the polling showed. But, in actuality, those very people preferred engaging with strangers. The executive then said they used to have bars on trains where people could engage with one another but the train company has since eliminated such cars. The social psychologist asked why? The cars were too crowded. Yes, the people were doing what they didn’t realize they wanted to do: engage with other humans. The incredulous social psychologist sighed.

Our Students Give Admissions Officers What They Don’t Realize They Want

Just as we do…every time someone questions if we ask admissions officers what they want. No, we don’t ask admissions officers what they want. We didn’t do that twenty-five years ago. We don’t do that now. We won’t do that years from now. We won’t ever do it. The fact is our students give admissions officers what it is they don’t even realize they want. And that’s a big reason why our students at Ivy Coach so often get in. It’s a major differentiator. So here’s the lesson: if a private college counselor answers, “Yes, I regularly ask admissions officers what they’re looking for,” we suggest you run, run fast, and run for the nearest hills!


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