Editorials and Opinions

Opposing Viewpoints, How far does the Ivy grow? Pro: The whole ten yards

By Laura Glick
Published: December 2008


Imagine a school full of super-nerds where every matriculating freshman has a 4.9 GPA and an average SAT score of 2380.  Does this fulfill the requirements of a learning and living community? 

Think about Newton South.  South wouldn’t be a great school if it didn’t have exceptional musicians, artists, writers, and yes, gifted disciplined athletes.  Similarly, Ivy League colleges do not strive to produce solely perfect academic specimens, but they endeavor to create an environment of diverse students with a rich array of skills.

In the highly competitive academic atmosphere of Newton South, the student body seems to unanimously believe that earning straight As in honors or Advanced Placement courses will allow them the opportunity to attend one of the prestigious Ivy League institutions.  While striving for a 5.0 GPA and receiving a perfect 2400 on the SATs will certainly not harm your chances of earning admission to these schools, students should be more open-minded in understanding that there are alternative ways to attend top-tier universities.

A common misunderstanding is that to be an accomplished athlete, you must be born with exceptional hand-eye coordination and be naturally fit.  However, the truth is that every hour in which the most intellectual students have their heads in their books, collegiate-hopeful athletes are running up and down a lacrosse field dodging defenders, making clean passes and strategically placing shots, all while being under attack by a four foot metal pole.  Maintaining concentration, contemplating the best angle to shoot from, and working out the projectile motion of a pass from one lacrosse stick to another takes as much practice as computing a BC Calculus problem.

While dominating a sport is just as difficult as dominating academics, it is important to understand that the Ivy League schools have carefully crafted a recruitment system in which the prospective student must have the ability to balance athletics with academics.

Institutions such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are not willing to offer students a place in their program if they do not believe that they can survive the demanding academic expectations.

In fact, the Ivy League Admission Statement explains that “the principles that govern admission of Ivy students who are athletes are the same as for all other Ivy applicants.  Each Ivy institution admits all candidates [including athletes] on the basis of their achievements and potential as a student and on their other personal accomplishments.  In addition, it is important to understand that a coach does not have supreme power over the admissions office.  They can simply create a list of recruits and send it to the admissions office, realizing that only about half of their athletes will be admitted.

Unlike the majority of Division I athletic conferences, Ivy League schools do not use what are called National Letters of Intent or NLI. These letters, if signed by the student-athlete virtually guarantee their acceptance into the institution. Rather, the Ancient Eight created a system which includes “likely letters. While these letters help the admissions office to understand the interest of the applicant in their school, they do not guarantee admission.

Lastly, the Ivy League schools are forbidden from offering athletic scholarships to their prospective students.  In this regard, student-athletes are treated as every other applicant, and only offered on the basis of need, as determined by each school.

Student-athletes are readily accused of not working as hard and taking precious admission spaces away from academically endowed students. The reality, however, is that when you are up in the wee hours of the morning studying for that AP history test tomorrow, collegiate-hopeful athletes are just beginning their homework after a full day of practice followed by individual workouts. So, if you aspire to attend an Ivy League institution, understand that giving full attention and efforts to academics is not the only way to gain admissions.

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