Whether you’re writing a television series or designing the latest iPhone, it’s always important to know your audience. Now that doesn’t mean you need to ask what your audience wants. Steve Jobs taught us that he needed to show his audience what they wanted in their mobile devices — not solicit their opinions on what they thought they wanted. The man was right. Shonda Rhimes doesn’t conduct Gallup polls to decide if she should kill off a character on “Scandal.” That would be ridiculous. 54% in favor, 46% opposed! Oy vey. But both Rhimes and the late Jobs always innately seemed to know what their audiences wanted.
So how does any of this relate to college admissions, you ask? Well, it’s important to know your audience. That doesn’t mean you should give your audience what you think they want to see. You should give your audience what they need. So many college applicants participate in after-school activities that they think will impress admissions officers, activities they think will make admissions officers jump up and down in excitement. But rarely is that the case. Sorry, participation in Key Club just doesn’t wow anyone really. At Ivy Coach, our students don’t give admissions officers what they think they’re looking for. They give them what they need. They dare admissions officers not to admit them with their wonderfully weird profiles and narratives.
Our students know their audience, which is distinct from giving their audience what they think they want. And on the subject of knowing their audience in admissions, we thought we’d share with you an outstanding profile of one of the most influential figures in highly selective college admissions, Harvard’s Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons. The profile of the admissions dean, written by Michael E. Xie, was published recently in “The Crimson” and it details the story of a young man, a great college hockey goaltender, who grew up in Weymouth, Massachusetts and would go on to become one of our nation’s most important gatekeepers. A goaltender turned gatekeeper who would in the course of his lifetime and many decades of leadership at Harvard reshape America’s most prominent school’s financial aid policy so as to help low-income students attend, so many of whom have been the first in their families to attend college.
We encourage our readers to take a look at the extensive profile of Harvard’s Fitzsimmons in “The Crimson” so that they can gain a better understanding of who their audience is…so they can give them what they need. Which is distinct from what they think they want.