The Ivy Coach Daily

August 21, 2023

The Advantage of Swimmers and Runners in Admissions

This is an image of Dartmouth's Men's Swimming & Diving Team.
Brian Taylor of our firm wasn’t fast enough to get recruited by Dartmouth’s swim team. So he walked on.

Originally Published on August 25, 2017:

Sports like football and basketball typically come to mind when people think about college athletic recruiting — and for a good reason: football and basketball coaches enjoy the most clout in the elite college admissions process.

One great point guard like Jeremy Lin can put Harvard’s basketball team on the map and in the NCAA Tournament bracket. As our regular readers know, lengthy runs in the NCAA Tournament regularly lead to increased applications and lower admission rates during the subsequent admissions cycle.

Highly selective colleges are thus incentivized to work closely with their football and basketball coaches. But what about swimming, track, and cross-country recruits? Could swimmers and runners enjoy an advantage in admissions that even football and basketball players don’t enjoy? The answer is yes.

While swimming, track, and cross-country coaches don’t enjoy nearly the clout their football and basketball coaching counterparts enjoy, swimmers and runners compete in objective sports where these student-athletes can judge their value to a college’s team.

Swimming and Running Recruits Can Compare Times

So often, we hear from swimmers and runners who don’t realize their power in the admissions process. And what’s that power? They can figure out precisely where they stand in a coach’s eyes.

You see, a football linebacker doesn’t necessarily know if he’s the linebacker the coach covets. He instead relies on the coach’s word. Yet, word to the wise, coaches often lie to recruits. They tell student-athletes that they’ll go to bat for them in admissions, but when a linebacker comes along who may be faster and stronger, he may not be forthright with the slower, weaker linebacker. He may not even tell that linebacker that he’s lost interest and that perhaps the student-athlete would be better served getting on the radar of another college football coach.

But swimmers and runners don’t have this problem. As an example, all a breaststroker interested in attending Cornell University needs to do is peruse the heat sheets on the Cornell swim team site. How does their 100-yard breaststroke compare to the current breaststrokers on the roster in the 100 and 200-yard breast? How do their times compare to other breaststrokers in the Ivy League whom they’d be competing against? And are the breaststrokers on the Cornell roster currently first-year students, or are they graduating seniors? Because if they’re seniors, the coach will likely need fresh blood in the breaststroke events.

College Athletic Coaches Are Often Untruthful, So Information is Power

So while swimmers and runners may not have coaches as influential as football and basketball coaches pushing their applications through elite college admissions offices, they have the advantage of information, of knowing precisely where they stand.

So often, college coaches say, “I think you’re a great athlete. I think you might be able to get in on your own based on your academics.” But we strongly encourage students to read between these lines. After all, it’s the kiss of death from a college athletic coach! The coach’s words indicate that the student-athlete is not-so-subtly being told that the coach is earmarking their anticipated slot in admissions for another student-athlete.

Swimmers and runners don’t need to wonder if coaches will go to bat for them in admissions to the extent that athletes in more subjective sports like football and basketball do. They can rely on their judgment and objective analysis of the data at their fingertips.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance for Swimmers and Runners

If you’re a swimmer or a runner interested in optimizing your case for admission to elite universities, fill out Ivy Coach’s consultation form, and we’ll be in touch to outline our college counseling services.

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