Words of Wisdom with Dr. Aviva Legatt of VivED Consulting
I had the pleasure of Interviewing Dr. Aviva Legatt. Dr. Legatt is the Founder of VivED Consulting, an elite college admissions consulting company that helps clients eliminate ambiguity in competing for admission to top colleges. Dr. Legatt’s expertise is regularly cited in major outlets including U.S. News and World Report, The New York Times, Business Insider, Poets & Quants, Reader’s Digest and many more. She also has a column in Forbes and is on faculty at University of Pennsylvania in Organizational Dynamics.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
My senior year of high school was a stressful time. I had become obsessed with going to my first choice college, New York University. My love of NYU — and my mistaken belief that it was my only college option — drove me crazy! I ended up getting stress-induced pneumonia the month before applications were due. While I ended up getting into NYU, I realized in hindsight that the amount of stress I put on myself during the process was completely misguided. If I had access to quality guidance, I could have probably avoided my own sense of chaos leading up to the deadline.
After getting into NYU, I got involved on campus and became inspired to enter into the field of higher education. Eventually, I wound up at Penn, where I worked at Wharton and completed my doctorate in higher education.
At Wharton, I served on the undergraduate and transfer admissions committees, oversaw the Wharton Senior Capstone, and the Leadership in the Business World pre-college program. It was an awe-inspiring experience to be at Penn for so many years. Some highlights from my time at Wharton include training with the FDNY, going to Australia, and meeting wonderful students and alums through all of the programs in which I was involved. (Here are some photos)
After acquiring relevant expertise at Penn and Wharton, I was in the unique position to help students and families strategize with the right priorities in mind. I’m privileged to offer my expertise coupled with my heart center that inspired my business in the first place.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?
I get asked to do presentations on the college application process. One of these presentations was in China. In China, I am often stopped on the street because I look different — I’m not Chinese. One family thought I was so fascinating that they decided to take a photo with me. See the photo here.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
What makes me stand out from other top-tier admissions companies is that I’m focused on letting students drive their goals as opposed to boxing them into an admissions strategy that is designed to “game” the system. Yes, there are certain strategies you can use to have a better chance of admission, but those strategies will fail if there’s an inauthentic candidate behind the application.
A story: One of my students, Mike, was a great writer with excellent grades, but he really needed to up the ante on his extracurriculars to be competitive for top colleges. When I first met with Mike, he didn’t like the idea of traditional extracurricular activities. He just wanted to write. So I asked Mike at one of our first meetings, “Well, why don’t you write a book?” To my surprise, he said yes. Mike worked on his book from February to September and published it on Amazon in September of the same year (here’s the link). Luckily, this was just in time for early decision, and Mike decided that Pitzer College, which is one of the best liberal arts colleges in the United States, was the best choice for him. Mike was happily admitted early decision and he’s loving life at Pitzer College. (BELOW is a photo of me with Mike)
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m grateful to Dorie Clark. In spring 2016, Dorie was starting a new course for people to help business owners become recognized experts. I was one of the lucky few who got into the pilot; the course sold out in 40 minutes. I credit Dorie’s encouragement, and the connections with friends and colleagues I’ve met through Dorie, with helping me gain even better purpose and clarity around my work. Here’s a photo of me (very pregnant here) with two from our group.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Through my business, I aim to bring a compassionate touch to what can be a very dehumanizing experience for people to go through (the college application process). Outside of work, I serve on the board of Narberth Community Theatre, a 100% volunteer 501c3 community arts organization. No matter how busy life gets, my family and friends are extremely important to me, and I always strive to provide the best possible support to my loved ones as a mother, wife, daughter and friend.
Here’s a photo of me getting on stage at a recent performance.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me and why.”
- Take calculated risks. When I first started out, I was a freelancer. While it was a sound initial strategy to build up my experience and client base, it was also a crutch — having money coming in didn’t make me as hungry to figure out how my unique take could add value to others. I could have launched much earlier and more impactfully if I had initially committed to my idea and doubled down on it.
- Assemble the greatest business support network you can find. I assembled a mastermind group almost two years ago. This group of 10 women see things in me that I don’t see in myself. We are cheerleaders for one another when there’s a big win, and we provide comfort for the challenging moments in our businesses (and personal life too).
- You are your own best salesperson. Like many women, I was reluctant to sell and promote myself at first. I’ve now gotten into a better habit of telling people what I do, and in fewer words. I’ve learned that self-promotion works best when it’s authentic and makes clear your interest of helping others.
- When you lean on others, make a clear ask that’s mutually beneficial. I’ve had many businesses and partners interested in doing business in me, but when push came to shove, I’ve found it difficult to get collaborations off the ground — one party ends up doing most of the work. Before entering into a collaboration, get clear on what’s in it for them, and what’s in it for you to make sure it’s a balanced partnership with shared investment.
- Entrepreneurship mirrors life’s ups and downs, so you may as well be an entrepreneur. If you’re thinking of becoming an entrepreneur, don’t wait! Entrepreneurship may be the only career that allows you to be a true architect, navigator, and change agent in your own life. You’re more vulnerable too. When you’re vulnerable, you have better opportunity to live a life that’s closer to your heart’s desires. It’s scary but it’s worth it.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. :-)
Hands down — Lin Manuel-Miranda, creator of Hamilton and In the Heights. He’s such a talented songwriter and performer, and his shows are extremely innovative and relatable. From what I can tell on a personal level, he seems humble and kind. It would be fun to talk with him about our mutual interests in musical theatre, Jewish culture, and in bringing forth diverse perspectives. And I know some people who are currently working on Broadway, so at least we’ll know a couple of people in common!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.