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To Play or Not to Play: College Sports and Academics


I am of two minds when my students consider playing sports in college.
Those recruited and hoping to continue following their athletic passion can surely increase their admissibility at many selective colleges.  As we know, schools aim to construct a class of students who bring diverse skills and abilities; one year a selective liberal arts school may be desperate for a bassoon player, while the next year they need a lacrosse goalie.  If they really need a goalie, and you are it, you may not need quite the academic profile that is usually required for admission; you must be in the range, yet you could be in the lower end of the range and still get in, especially if you are wiling to apply early decision.  The school is then assured that they will have their lacrosse goalie.
And you may be dying to play!!  Many high school student athletes love their sport, and cannot imagine life without the camaraderie, the thrill, and the inherent structure that team membership provides.  Division 1 is a year long commitment, while Division 3 can often be seasonal.
Yet I ask each student athlete to be certain that they want to continue down the athletic path.  A high school basketball player does not know how many new opportunities he/she will discover in so many of our rich college environments. One may actually want to attend a lecture when Warren Buffett or Steven Colbert comes to campus, and demands of practice and academics will eliminate many tempting options on any given evening.  Many students never thought that a lecture would ever rival a athletic commitment, but, as we hope, students do discover many new interests in stimulating college environments.
Further, student athletes often emphasize a good fit with a coach or an athletic program, and not look as closely at an overall fit at any given school.  Most likely you will not end up as a professional swimmer or football player, so please consider what school may help you grow as a person and an academician, not just an athlete.
All that said, a recruited athlete is in a wonderful position to gain admission to a school which would be a reach without the support of a coach. Additionally, friendships nurtured on the practice field often make for a home within a home at college.  Student athletes often treasure their teammates for decades.
Mark Montgomery
Educational Consultant
PS:  Check out this link for questions to ask coaches who are recruiting you for NCAA or NAIA play.
PPS:  Check out this link for more about the differences between Division 1 and Division 3.


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