Playing sports is always seen as a positive in highly selective college admissions, right? Wrong. Many students and particularly their parents mistakenly believe that college admissions officers at our nation’s elite universities view students who play sports as leaders, as young people who have demonstrated a great commitment to an endeavor, as genuine team players. And while that all sounds well and good, it’s just now how admissions officers view student-athletes. Rather, admissions officers view student-athletes through this lens: will this student help one of our college’s athletic teams or not? More simply, is the student getting recruited for a sport by one of our coaches? If not, this student’s talent is of no benefit to the college.
Non-Recruited Athletes Are ‘Meh’ to College Admissions Officers
But we’ve been saying this for years. We say it again today because this came as a surprise to some in the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard University trial. In a “Boston Globe” article out today entitled “Harvard weights more than 200 variables from applicants. Here’s how you can get in” by Deirdre Fernandes, Fernandes writes, “Being merely captain of your high school team? Meh. Admissions officials sniffed at the abilities of a high-school varsity swim team captain. ‘Her level of talent is probably not at our varsity level,’ they summarized in a bullet point of the applicant’s strengths and flaws. ‘What, exactly, will she do at Harvard?'” There it is, in plain sight. If a swimmer isn’t fast enough to compete for Harvard’s swim team, no matter how many years she dedicated to the sport, no matter how many years she served as captain of her high school team, it doesn’t interest Harvard. It’s not a hook.
Harvard Wants Athletes Who Help Their Teams
But don’t just take our word for it. Take our word for it in “The Boston Globe.” As Fernandes writes in her piece in “The Boston Globe,” “Ultimately, Harvard wants students who will add something special to its campus, said Bev Taylor, founder of Ivy Coach, a private admissions counseling firm, who always advises her clients to do their best to avoid being excellent yet run-of-the-mill. ‘You want to stand out in some way,’ Taylor said.” Yes, we couldn’t agree more with ourselves. A non-recruited athlete doesn’t stand out to Harvard. Harvard wants singularly talented students, students who contribute a special talent to the university, and together, those singularly talented students form a well-rounded class. If a student isn’t getting recruited for a sport, think of the sport as serving to make her well-rounded — and, as our loyal readers know all too well, Harvard doesn’t want a well-rounded student (nor does any other highly selective college). They haven’t wanted the well-rounded student in over twenty-five years.
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