An Unfair Advantage

Since college decisions came out the first week of the term, there has been a surge of college anxiety amongst the Uppers. My decision of whether or not to row in college, which has lingered in the back of my mind all year, has felt more relevant than ever in the past few weeks. To keep recruitment an option, I have begun to contact coaches and have started the long and complicated process of recruiting. As I thought more and more about the college process and athletics in college, I began to realize how complicated my decision would be. After talking to my coach, I realized that not only does being recruited entail a serious commitment for at least one year in college, but it also completely transforms my college process. Depending on my performance this season and the recruiting policies of the schools I want to attend, I could potentially know which college I would attend by next September. I have a fairly narrow view on recruiting as I am mostly familiar with the process for women’s rowing. Woman’s rowing, because of Title IX and very limited participation, is one of the most highly recruited women’s sports. I have heard from friends who row at an Ivy League school that one of the top rowing recruits was admitted despite terrible grades. Other recruits were good enough students to keep the recruits’ average grades and average test scores at an acceptable level. If a college coach really wants an athlete who is not academically up to par, the coach can fight for that athlete in the admissions process. This anecdote is most likely an exception to the rule. Depending on the priority a college’s admissions office gives to a particular sport, recruiting can having varying effects on a student-athlete’s admission. Some admissions offices will have an officer read and edit recruits’ applications while some admissions offices will reject top recruits. Some recruits could get into their college and just use recruiting to tip the unpredictable scales of admissions in their favor. Despite these cases, there remain unfair cases in which an athlete who was not academically qualified for the school is admitted over other students, students who excelled in non-recruitable extracurriculars. If you are a female rower, the process begins when you begin contacting college coaches and give your high school coach a list of your top five schools in preferential order. Your coach then goes down the list, calling each school’s coach and asking if he would support you as a recruit. You then visit the top three schools that are interested, and in the fall commit to one. “Likely letters,” though not necessarily true, rarely do lie in saying that you are likely to be admitted. One rower whom I met at a rowing camp actually said during a conversation about the competitiveness of applying to college, “Oh god, I am so glad we don’t have to go through that.” The other girls in the conversation gave knowing nods of agreement. I took a few minutes to realize that the thing she didn’t have to go through was the admissions process. Granted these girls were very talented rowers preparing to try out for the junior national team, I still found it shocking that anyone could find themselves exempt from the admissions process. College admissions generally look at all dimensions of a student. This approach is logical, as the pure numbers given by grades and standardized tests do not accurately reflect a student’s potential. An emphasis on activities outside the classroom is more practical and relevant to real life. Colleges want interesting campuses with athletic events, school spirit, student publications and performing arts. Obviously these non-academic interests need to play a part in college admissions, but does athletic recruiting cross the line? Though athletic recruiting does not necessarily guarantee admission to a good college, it can have a disproportionately large effect on the student’s college admissions outcomes. Schools should reward the talent, effort and time required to be a recruitable athlete. But they should equally reward the talent, effort and time required to excel in many other areas. Being incredibly active in community service, or an excellent musician require just as much from a student as being a great athlete yet people with these interests are not recruited. The role of an academic institution in society is not to create Olympic athletes. Its role is to create responsible citizens who will contribute to their communities. A person’s own life experiences, perhaps more than his academic ones, will influence his success as a productive member of society. These personal experiences may include athletics, but for many these experiences include very different interests. A student’s achievements as an athlete are not more likely to translate into long-term success than a student’s achievements in any other area. If a college’s goal is to create individuals who excel in many different professional fields, then athletes should not be given a significant advantage in college admissions. Mimi Tanski is a three-year Upper from Lexington, MA and a Copy Senior Associate for The Phillipian.