How important can athletics be as a hook for college admissions?

As part our College Q & A guide, we decided to ask your questions to the experts. Here are their answers.

The short answer is that unless you are being recruited onto an athletic team, participating in sports is just as important as any other activity that may have surfaced as your primary extracurricular involvement. Admissions officers know that being on a sports team requires discipline, commitment, teamwork and if you one of the good ones, talent. Unfortunately because playing sports is so ubiquitous it’s sometimes hard to describe that experience in a creative way, and is a tough ‘hook.’ However, if you treat your involvement with athletics as an opportunity to highlight leadership, or take your sport into the community, it may very well be a hook. For instance, if you’re a committed soccer player, but not the team all-star, what about volunteering to set up a camp for younger players or helping plan a tournament? Now it’s not about you as an athlete, but you as a leader.

It can be very important. You can be recruited to a school to play for them if you are good enough, which is one way to get into college, but otherwise, playing on a sport shows that you have a certain mental and physical discipline. Playing a team sport already shows great teamworking skills, which colleges like to see. Sports are by no means necessary, however. If you are able to demonstrate your excellent qualities through any of your activities that’s great. Colleges want to see that you get more out of your activities than simple enjoyment. If being in orchestra makes you a team player, let them know! If painting helps you express your emotions, tell them! The most important thing is that colleges see that you have good non-academic qualities. Athletics most easily demonstrates things like leadership, discipline and teamwork, but so do other things too.
Whether you are looking to fence at Cornell, play basketball at Gonzaga, or row for San Diego State, it is important to fully understand the college admissions process for student athletes. How is it different from the traditional process? How can you best prepare early in order to open up as many options as possible when it comes time for applying to colleges and exploring your athletic options? The list below is by no means exhaustive, as there are many intricacies associated with each sport and each individual school, but it can be used as a place to start. – Develop an athletic resume, summarizing your experiences and academic background – Develop a recruiting film that includes both highlights as well as a full game – Continue to take academically rigorous coursework (including AP and Honors classes, if possible) – Develop a balanced list of schools that you are interested in playing for, with a balance of Division I and Division III schools – Fill out the recruiting forms on each college’s website (once you have received your test scores) – If you are interested in playing a Division I sport, fill out the NCAA eligibility form – Contact coaches and assistant coaches to express your interest in a school. Make sure that your email contact is personalized to each school and written in a professional manner. – Attend athletic camps over your summers. These are typically about 4 days long at the end of June or during July, and are a great place to showcase your skills and introduce yourself to coaches. When looking at your different options, be sure to note the schools that will be attending for recruitment. You can also ask coaches which camps they will be attending over the summer. – Remain in contact with the schools that you are most interested in – Visit the schools that you are interested in playing for, if possible – Make your final decision. Be sure that you are making the decision that is best for you, not choosing the college that you think you should attend, but rather the college that you are most interested in attending.

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