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Brynly Wilson

Patriot Debate: College Acceptances based on academics or sports

March 20, 2014

The Patriot debates whether or not sports should be a determining factor in receiving the acceptance letter from colleges.

Pro: Athletics create a diverse environment in college

College admission personnel have a huge responsibility. Not only do they control the fate of high school students’ lives for the next four years, their choices also influence the personality and experience of the college where they work.

A new group of freshmen can gradually change the focus of a college’s energy, time, and money. If a large portion of students concentrate on service trips and volunteer work, the college will become more robust in that area. Coaches who recruit for their schools and push for student-athletes to gain admission are rounding out the colleges by expanding their athletic programs.

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A school known for its rigorous academics is less likely to attract the attention of student-athletes, and if the college just ignores its athletics outright, it decreases the diversity of its applicant pool and admitted classes in future years. Plus, it reduces a college’s overall success and popularity. Most colleges are businesses, and they need to attract student “customers.” To maintain a well-rounded campus that is attractive to the highest possible number of potential applicants, the college must recruit student-athletes.

Also, just because a student is recruited for athletics does not mean that they uninterested in academics. Professional athletic careers do not last forever. According to RAM Financial, the “average career of a Professional Athlete is anywhere from 3-5 years.” Retired athletes will need the education that they get from college to continue to live comfortably in life. These days, a college education is almost required to find a job outside of the sports arena.

Being recruited for sports and accepted into the college means that the admissions office believes you can not only contribute to the sports aspect of the school, but also succeed academically. According to Star Athletes Online, a website targeting high school athletes seeking to be recruited by allowing them to make personalized pages, coaches want “high character/good attitude, above average grades and test scores, [and the ability to be] good athletes” in students they recruit, not just athleticism.

The pool of student-athletes is vast, and coaches seek the well-rounded athlete in addition to the all-star athlete. Each school has different criteria for evaluating a student, but ultimately, decisions are made based on what is best for the school, whether that means general diversity or expanding a particular program or area. Sometimes “better” means an academically-inclined student with little interest in playing collegiate sports, and sometimes it means a strong athlete with weaker academics.

College is an experience. It is not just about education, though that is its primary purpose. It is a time to grow, to learn, to expand horizons, to make connections, and to explore in a way that is not available as a high schooler. Colleges want to provide the opportunity for higher education to everyone, and if some students are seeking to further their sports careers at the same time, the college works with the students to their mutual benefit. The student-athlete has secured a college future and a chance to continue high-level sports, and the college improves its athletic program and its student diversity at once.

Kathy Deaver is a Sports Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

Con: College admissions provide athletes with unfair advantage

In one house, senior Sophie Centi arrives home from soccer practice. As she drops her gear near her kitchen table, she spies an envelope sitting on the table–an envelope with her name on it, from Monmouth, the college where she was recently recruited for D1 soccer. This envelope contains an acceptance letter based primarily on her athletic abilities, and secondarily for her academic abilities.

In another house, senior Catey Minnis returns from a library study session with her physics tutor. As she places her backpack on the ground near her kitchen table, she notices an envelope on it–an envelope with her name on it, from the college she’s been working hard to get into. The envelope holds a rejection letter because, although her academic abilities are more than comparable to those of an athlete who got accepted in her place, sports unfairly take precedence over academics in the admissions processes of many colleges.

Going to college is about getting an education, not about playing sports. That being said, why are athletes given so many advantages in college admissions when their abilities on the field have nothing to do with their abilities in the classroom?

The question of athletics taking precedence over academics in the college admissions process is brought to the table when, according to a feature piece by Edward B. Fiske on nytimes.com, “in order to assure success on their playing fields, admissions directors are setting aside specific numbers of places for recruited athletes and going lower on the academic ladder to fill them.”

Colleges lower their usual academic standards for sports players with exceptional athletic abilities. It is questionable whether or not those students’ actual academic performance will be taken into account when they are seriously considered for recruitment and admission into the college. This is heinously unfair. Standards for acceptance into a college should be the same for everyone. If athletes want to attend certain colleges to play sports, their academic abilities should meet the standard admission requirements. Whether or not you can kick a ball down a field, or run faster than average, has no bearing on how you will perform academically.

A former admissions officer from a small, liberal arts college in Massachusetts commented on the unfair practices that are often common in college admissions, “Athletes’ applications at most schools go through a special committee. They’re read before all the other candidates’ files. That way, the coach can push for the people he really wants and make sure they get a spot,” according to thedailybeast.com.

Although it’s fine for athletes to have an advocate for their achievements and abilities on the field in the admissions office, where are the advocates for the kids who stay up all night studying to ace their SATs? If sports players get promoted in the admissions office, why shouldn’t kids who excel in the classroom have the same benefits?

Not only do athletes have advocates in the admissions area of college, they have advantages in the financial aid area as well. According to ncaa.com, “Student athletes are assured of an athletics scholarship for a minimum of one full year [when they sign an NLI, a National Letter of Intent, to play for a college].”

Sports scholarships are great, just like academic scholarships. However, to be able to get a sports scholarship at a college, certain academic criteria must be met, including the standard admission requirement for academic achievement.

It’s not a bad thing to pursue a passion for sports in college. If your dream is to play soccer professionally, and going to college for soccer will make that happen, then who is anyone to stop you? However, what gets you into the college where you will play soccer should be your achievements in the classroom, not those on the field. After all, college is primarily a place to get an education.

Kaley Martin is an Opinion Editor for The Patriot and jcpatriot.com.

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