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College Admissions: The Real Danger in Being a High School Athlete

Monday, January 02, 2017


As millions of families in the U.S. spend thousands of dollars annually on travel teams, sports camps and athletic trainers for their kids, there is a risk that no one really talks about. It’s not concussions (although they are very concerning) or any other physical injury. It is the danger of becoming one dimensional. While it doesn’t happen to all athletes, it happens to many. In my practice, I see students every day who tell me that they are not involved in the debate team, music, art, theatre, science fairs, school newspaper, yearbook and a myriad of other activities offered at their school. Why? Because they are too busy with sports to participate in other extra-curricular activities. Two and three season athletes spend hours after school every day at practices, and then weekends, evenings and vacations with travel teams. The result is a student who has often forgone the opportunity to explore whether they have a passion for writing, robotics, theatre or something else. They lack depth in any area other than sports.

The problem starts in grammar school with town teams. We innocently sign our kids up, and the vortex begins to suck us in. Soon, there are no breaks for Father’s Day or Mother’s Day; there are travel team tournaments. The buzz builds about “getting recruited”. The allure of playing on a college team becomes infectious. Kids and parents alike get whipped into a frenzy of dreams of athletic scholarships, playing for a prestigious college team and cheering from the stands. Before you realize it, you have spent thousands of dollars and hours on teams, equipment, camps and other sports accoutrements. And then reality hits: your child won’t be recruited or gets injured. They begin to fill out college applications and go on admissions interviews. But sadly, they get denied at many of their top choice schools despite wonderful grades and decent test scores. Why? Because they look one dimensional. It’s not that admissions committees don’t respect athletics and the amount of dedication and time it takes, they do. However, the reality is that they can’t throw a rock without hitting a varsity athlete or team captain in the sea of applications they receive. Being an athlete simply doesn’t stand out in today’s competitive college landscape. Admissions officers become more intrigued by the student who worked at the local museum, went to debate camp, started a small business, did an interesting research project or wrote plays.

Obviously, a sport teaches many valuable lessons, from leadership and being a team player, to healthy living. However, athletics have taken over the extra-curricular landscape in the number of hours they demand. And the result is that too many kids are not exposed to enough art, music and theatre; outside interests are not permitted to emerge. They are taught that it’s cool to be on the lacrosse team but not the math team. School newspapers, even in digital form, are dying. A neighborhood croquet game, just for fun, is a thing of the past. So, as you drive your child to their fifth sports practice this week, stop and ask yourself “Am I fostering an environment where my child is becoming one dimensional?” If the answer is yes, then realize that it could hurt them in the long run. Help your child realize that other interests are just as important (or more important) than sports, and guide them to be multi-dimensional. It will help them in the college admissions process and in life.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com


Related Slideshow: New England Colleges With the Best Undergraduate Teaching

U.S. News & World Report released a survey conducted in 2013 of college administrators on the best schools for undergraduate teaching. Several New England made their lists for best National Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, and Regional Universities. See which schools made the lists in the slides below: 

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National Universities

9. Brown University

Providence, RI 
Students: 6,435
2013-14 Tuition: $45,612
Admissions: 9.6% Acceptance Rate
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National Universities

5. Yale University 

New Haven, CT
Students: 5,405
2013-14 Tuition: $44,000
Admissions: 7.0% Acceptance Rate
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National Universities

1. Dartmouth College

Hanover, NH
Students: 4,193
2013-14 Tuition: $46,752
Admissions: 9.8% Acceptance Rate
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National Liberal Arts Col

18. Mount Holyoke College

South Hadley, MA 
Students: 2,322
2013-14 Tuition: $41,456
Admissions: 42.1% Acceptance Rate
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Liberal Arts Colleges

9. Amherst College

Amherst, MA
Students: 1,817 
2013-14 Tuition: $46,574
Admissions: 13.0% Acceptance Rate
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Liberal Arts Colleges

5. Williams College

Williamstown, MA
Students: 2,052
2013-14 Tuition: $46,600
Admissions: 17.0% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

Regional Univ. - North

4. Fairfield University

Fairfield, CT
Students: 3,879
2013-14 Tuition: $42,920
Admissions: 71.2% Acceptance Rate
Prev Next

Regional Univ. - North

2. Providence College

Providence, RI
Students: 3,810
2013-14 Tuition: $42,206
Admissions: 61.0%

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