Is it Worth Pursuing an Athletic Scholarship to college?

The Dream

Many young athletes today aspire to play Division I sports in college. This dream is fueled, in part, by the prospect of securing the ever-elusive "full-ride athletic scholarship".

The dream often originates as early as 3rd or 4th grade, when young athletes are shunted onto "elite" travel teams if they show above-average skill for their age. Unfortunately, once this train leaves the station - it's hard to get off.

For the next 4-6 years, most weekends and holidays are dedicated entirely to the sport - no matter the cost, travel, time, or energy required. And the beat goes on for years - with an unwavering devotion. Parents and children are equally afraid to step off the train for the fear of missing out.

Though rarely admitted in public, most parents mistakenly assume that their child is on a path to some type of athletic scholarship. They don't really know what this means exactly - and are afraid to ask too many presumptuous questions - but they sure hear a lot of chatter...

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Will Mia Get into MIT?

 

As a college admissions counselor specializing in students with big ambitions (e.g. Ivy League, Military Service Academies/ROTC, Athletic scholarships), I have seen dreams realized, shattered, and everything in between.

Case Study

In this case study, I reveal what goes through an MIT college admissions officers' mind as they review Mia's application. What do they care about, what do they disregard, what jumps out, and what factors might seal the deal for her (for good or bad)?

Mia just finished her junior year at a big public high school in CA. She has a great GPA, killer SAT score, nearly perfect SAT Subject Test scores, and some impressive extracurricular activities.

Will this seemingly extraordinary application stand out?

Here are the summary findings for Mia:

Objective Academic Metrics:

Excellent.

  • SAT: 1520
  • GPA: 4.4
  • SAT Subject Tests: 800 and 790
  • AP Cal BC: 5
  • AP Physics: 4
  • Rigor of classes: very

Extracurriculars:

Very strong. A combination of academics, work, STEM camp,...

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Will "Pretty Good Pete" get into UPENN?

 

As a college admissions counselor specializing in students with big ambitions (e.g. Ivy League, Military Service Academies/ROTC, Athletic scholarships), I have seen dreams realized, shattered, and everything in between.

Case Study

In this case study, I reveal what goes through a college admissions officer's mind as they review an application. What do they care about, what do they disregard, what jumps out, and what factors might seal the deal (for good or bad)?

In this blog, I review Pete's profile. Pete just finished his junior year at a big public high school in NY. He has a pretty good GPA. pretty good SAT score, has taken pretty hard classes, is a pretty good lacrosse player, and has pretty good extracurricular activities.

Are you getting my drift?

Pete is "pretty good" at just about everything. This is the profile of a lot of high school students these days.  That's why we call him "Pretty Good Pete". He has a closely-related friend named "Pretty Good Pamela."

The question...

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Will Erin Get Into Princeton?

 

As a college admissions counselor specializing in students with big ambitions (e.g. Ivy League, Military Service Academies/ROTC, Athletic scholarships), I have seen dreams realized, shattered, and everything in between.

Case Study

In this case study, I reveal what goes through a college admissions officer's mind as they review an application. What do they care about, what do they disregard, what jumps out, and what factors might seal the deal (for good or bad)?

In this blog, I review Erin's profile. Erin is a junior at a public high school in CA. She's an elite soccer player, near straight-A student, member of student government, and involved in community service.

Sound familiar?

Many parents of talented 9th and 10th-grade athletes tell me similar stories. They want to know their child's chances. 

Here's how the story goes:

Hi, Phil. I've heard you're the expert in helping kids get into highly-selective colleges by mentoring them early in their high school careers. Can I tell...

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What are NTTAs?

Assume a group a college applicants have similar:

  1. GPAs
  2. standardized test scores
  3. and high school course loads

but participate in different "Extracurricular Activities" that could be categorized as Typical or Non-Typical Teen Activities.


TTA (Typical Teen Activities)

  • VP, Spanish Club
  • President, Student Government
  • Corresponding Secretary, Recycling Club
  • Jazz Ensemble member
  • Mathletes Competitor
  • Captain, Soccer Team
  • Chess Club Member
  • Book Club participant
  • School Tour Guide
  • Sales Clerk, Forever 21

NTTA (Non-Typical Teen Activities)

  • Founder, SlimeFest (World's Largest Slimemaking Convention)
  • Skateboard Artist and Instagram Influencer (250K followers)
  • Founder, Bird Scooter Services (maintenance, repair, charging)
  • Subject Matter Expert, 19th Century Military Leaders
  • Professional Nerf Gun Collector (350+ different Nerf weapons)
  • Khan Academy Expert (completed 750 unique learning modules)
  • TEDx Speaker (topic: the demise of local newspapers)
  • Airsoft Military Simulation World Games...
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Accepted | Deferred | Denied

If you applied in the Early Round of admissions (Early Decision or Early Action), you have probably heard back from your schools by now. If not, you should be hearing very soon.

What should you do if you were:

ACCEPTED

Congratulations! You did it. Enjoy the rest of senior year.  You now know that you're going to college next year.

If you applied Early Decision, which is binding, it's time to rescind any other applications you may have already submitted. If you haven't submitted any other applications yet, then you're all set. No need to apply anywhere else. It's time to send your deposit to your ED school.

If you applied Early Action, which is non-binding, be happy that you have one or more schools in your back pocket. If you would attend your EA school(s) over any other schools that you haven't submitted yet, there's no reason to submit any more applications. Save the money. You still have a few months to make your final decision. Make sure you are able to afford your EA...

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What is ROTC and Why Should I Care?

If your child has any inclination to serve their country, consider two compelling paths that lead to graduating from college as a military officer (at little-to-no cost).

What are the options?

If your child wants to serve as a military officer in any of the branches, service academies and ROTC programs are two great places to start.

What do these programs have in common?

  • world-class education
  • unparalleled leadership training
  • international travel
  • high-prestige and reputation
  • engaged alumni network
  • emphasis on camaraderie and teamwork
  • guaranteed summer jobs
  • highly-transferable technical skills
  • guaranteed job for 5 years after college
  • paid a monthly stipend starting freshman year
  • free education

Yes, a free (or nearly free) education. With the rising cost of college, these programs are becoming more and more competitive.  And with options like attending Harvard and Princeton on an ROTC scholarship, people are paying attention.

What are service academies?

Military service...

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Should I Apply Early Decision?

What is Early Decision?

Early Decision (or ED) is a binding agreement between a student and their ED school. A student admitted in the ED round (usually in mid-December) must retract all other applications and make a deposit to the ED school.

[Note: Students may only apply to one ED school]

[Note: ED is different from Early Action or Restrictive Early Action]

[Note: RD is Regular Decision]

The trend in applying ED is on the rise.

Here's what you need to know:

Who normally applies Early Decision?

  • Recruited athletes who want to take advantage of "support" from a coach
  • Legacy students who hope to keep their longstanding family tradition alive
  • Students with a dream school that is their #1 choice by a long shot
  • Students not worried about affordability (either their family can pay full-freight or they are confident they can live with the financial aid package)
  • Students with no chance if they wait to apply Regular Decision (RD)

Why is it easier to get into a school by applying ED?

  • ...
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Running Out of Extracurriculars?

As applications are reviewed by college admissions officers, they must survive several "screens" to make it to the end. The more selective the school - the less porous the screens.  This week, we address the first two screens in the process.

Screen #1

  1. GPA
  2. Standardized Test Scores (SAT or ACT)
  3. Rigor of coursework

Outcomes on these three criteria will dictate the "selectivity" of colleges to consider. 

Screen #2

When (and if) a student gets through Screen #1, the more selective schools dig deeper.

Next stop: Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular Activities include anything that happens outside the classroom:

  • Sports teams
  • Debate Team
  • Part-time work
  • Elder or childcare responsibilities
  • Summer experiences
  • Volunteer work
  • Theater
  • Travel

On the Common Application, there is room for 10 such Activities. The activities should be listed in the order of importance to the student. Space is limited (50 characters for the position and organization name and 150 characters for the...

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How to Audit Your Child's Extracurriculars

Before we get too far into the new school year, I encourage you to perform an extracurricular activity audit with your 8th, 9th, or 10th-grader. Sounds like a blast, right?

This will either reinforce that you're on the right path, or open your eyes to a world you never knew existed.

Extracurricular activities are a critical component in the college admissions process - especially for very or most-selective colleges (Top 75).

Admissions Screen #1

There are 3 primary factors that determine whether or not your child will pass through the first admissions screen:

  1. GPA
  2. Rigor of course work (number of AP, Honors, IB classes)
  3. SAT or ACT score

As you move up the selectivity scale, the holes in the screen get smaller and smaller.

Admissions Screen #2

Once your child gets through Admissions Screen #1, admissions officers will then review their extracurricular activities:

  • sports
  • clubs
  • theater
  • music
  • family support (child or elder care)
  • job
  • summer experiences
  • internships
  • shadowing
  • volunteer...
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