College Recruiting for High School Athletes

Teamwork: “Selfless collaboration designed to achieve a shared goal or objective.”

To you, a sport might merely be an activity you enjoy or that you have natural ability in. It might merely be a way for you to spend time with your friends enjoying a shared passion for competition or exhibiting skill. It could be a way for you to become popular or live out a dream of one day becoming a professional athlete. But to colleges, the fact that you play a sport means much more. Many colleges feel that sport is so important that 25% or more of their incoming class might be contractually committed to playing sports at the college level. There are many reasons that colleges put such a high value on athletics and athletes. One reason is certainly the value that sports brings to the campus, both monetary and reputational. From an interpersonal perspective, one of the main reasons that colleges like to see sports activities on a college application can be summed up in one word: teamwork.

The concept of teamwork is as important in life as it is in sports. For this reason, colleges often choose high-school athletes of all kinds and ability levels to fill their seats—not merely to fill a team’s roster spots. In doing so, they feel that these athletes will form strong bonds that will strengthen a well-rounded, community-oriented, highly collaborative community of students. Statistically, approximately 1 out of 16 high-school athletes will play competitively at the college level. For these high-school athletic standouts, building a strong athletic profile for potential recruiting activities can elevate student to the top of a college coach’s list and provide a powerful selection incentive to college admission committees. For the other 15, building a strong academic profile can go a long way toward enhancing their admission profiles thus giving them a stronger possibility of admission to highly competitive colleges. In other words, playing high school sports is not just good for one’s body and mind, it is good for college admissions as well.

Furthermore, for students who participate in sports at the high school or club level, describing both their commitment and takeaways from their team-sport experiences in their activity descriptions, essays, and interviews can provide further incentive for colleges to select them. Many colleges have essay or short-answer questions about extracurricular activities, leadership positions, collaborations, and accomplishments. The Common Application, which offers students several prompts from which to choose, also provides ample opportunity for students to write about their experiences with sports, talent, collaboration, lessons from obstacles, teamwork, passion, and other concepts to which athletes can respond with highly personal experiences related to their sport.

We do not believe that you should participate in sports simply to impress college admission officials. We believe that you should participate in sports because you want to, because you love the spirit of competition, or even because you enjoy the camaraderie and teamwork. But for those who do participate in sports, the advantage that this can bring them in college admission cannot be overstated. Sports cannot exist in a vacuum. However, as part of a powerful application narrative, the addition of sport and the associated values that go along with it can be a powerful boost to a college application.

Neil Chyten - Avalon Admission