How Do College Admissions Differ For Athletes?

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Seniors are feeling the pressure of the first semester: maintaining high grades, completing college applications, and trying to make the most of their final year in high school. 

Some might feel envious of the stellar athletes who have already committed to college and assume that their process is easier and less stressful. Although there is truth to the claim that the actual application process is easier for athletes than that of students, there’s a much longer process behind the scenes before the application process actually begins, challenging the preconceived notion that athletes “have it easy.”

Athletic Admissions:

The commitment process varies for each sport and individual athlete. Wide receiver Alek Marshall has received numerous offers but has not yet committed. Football recruiting mainly happens through social media, where athletes post their stats for schools to view. Athletes then attend recruiting camps, and if coaches are interested, they will give the athletes their phone numbers. 

Marshall said he still cares deeply about the academics of whichever school he commits to. “I don’t know if I want to play at the level after college,” he explained. “I just want to make sure I’m set up for success after.”

Rowan Kelly, a University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) baseball commit, has a similar outlook on academics. He said, “It played a huge part [in my decision]; if baseball doesn’t work out you need to go to a good school and have a good degree.” 

Kelly began talking with coaches the summer before his freshman year. He joked, “I didn’t search, they searched for me.” He talked to about 20 schools over the phone as well as on social media, and coaches came to his tournaments to watch him play. 

Kelly still needs to maintain a 3.0 GPA in order to be accepted into UCSB, and he has a variety of college counselors and assistants to aid him in the process. 

Tatum Olesen, who recently committed to the University of Virginia for cross country, began the process a bit later. Olesen reached out to schools beginning in the summer before her junior year. Like Kelly, she contacted about 20 schools in total and then narrowed down her options from there. She took two official visits this fall after extensive communication with coaches via phone and email. Olesen said that in addition to considering athletics, “I wanted to go to a school that could push me academically, and also somewhere that had strong resources to provide help.” 

Regular Admissions:

Derick Kennedy, a senior not interested in playing for a college team, has had a very different experience applying to schools than his athletic peers. He’s applying to 16 schools with the help of a private counselor. 

The main factors he considers when applying are size, school spirit, and social life. Kennedy said, “I want to go to a social event and meet new people at every single one.”

He is still in the midst of the application process, writing countless essays, uploading transcripts, and inputting grades. When asked about the price of schools, he said, “I don’t want a college to be $80,000, but I want to look for what I want in a college first.” Kennedy hasn’t visited any colleges for fear of falling in love with one and then being rejected. 

Jade Galvez is a senior who has recently finished her applications. She’s applying to 9 schools, all in California. “I don’t want to go far,” she explained. Galvez feels that California schools offer the best prices and locations. Galvez started looking at schools in her junior year through AVID. The class took field trips to Sacramento State and UCSB, two schools she fell in love with.

The Takeaway:

The application process for students and student-athletes are very different yet similarly challenging. Students in the commitment process have to spend more time before the actual application process begins by going to recruiting camps, practicing and performing well in their seasons, sending emails, and exchanging calls back and forth; it isn’t until after they take their official visits and receive an offer from a school that they can relax.

On the other hand, regular students don’t have to worry about athletic performance and coordinating with coaches, but they have a much more arduous application process the summer going into senior year and the first semester. They must keep their grades up while applying to various schools and scholarships, which is often extremely stressful and time-consuming.

Avery is a senior in her first year of writing for the Chronicle. She seeks out stories that highlight student life on campus and runs the Galles Guide. In her free time, she likes to spend time with family and friends, often at the beach!

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