Getting Into College: Sports or Academics


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As a teacher, I have many students who are also athletes who struggle so hard to be very good at their chosen sport as well as work very hard academically to make the grade. My hat is off to these students who as a whole are forced to work harder at academics because of the demands of their sport (i.e. late hours, long bus rides, time out of the classroom).

Let me first say that I am in no way against sports. Sports help students understand the importance of exercise and living a healthy lifestyle. They foster teamwork and a sense of fair play in life. However, if students are playing a sport for the sole reason of using it as a springboard to college, they might as well play the lottery.

The New York Times reported in 2008 that college scholarships awarded to high school athletes average out at about 2% of high school athletes per year. These are to Division 1 and 2 schools and are not “full-ride” scholarships. These scholarships only pay an average of 15% of their entire college bill and have to be renewed each year. If the student-athlete has a bad year or is injured, preventing them from playing, they most likely will lose it.

Miles Brand, who at the time was the president of the NCAA stated:

The youth sports culture is overly aggressive, and while the opportunity for an athletic scholarship is not trivial, it’s easy for the opportunity to be overexaggerated by parents and advisers. That can skew behavior and, based on the numbers, lead to unrealistic expectations. The real opportunity is taking advantage of how eager institutions are to reward good students. In America’s colleges, there is a system of discounting for academic achievement. Most people with good academic records aren’t paying full sticker price. We don’t want people to stop playing sports; it’s good for them. But the best opportunity available is to try to improve one’s academic qualifications.

This statement is very sobering for many, I am sure, but it is the truth. The Common Core standards which are coming up in the next few years will be demanding more from academics. Teachers will be raising the bar in their classes to teach students to think for themselves, how to glean information pelectronically, and how to succeed in our ever changing business world. Writing will become more and more important as it will no longer be used in the humanities courses only.

The point is, we must focus more and more on academics to ensure that our students succeed. Parents must be more and more involved in the education of their children. If parents were more involved, then students would see the importance of success and would strive for the brass ring of education rather than hoping that they will play a game for the rest of their lives. Those people are rare who do that, and they are well recieved, and we applaud them for it, but in order for the society to advance and develop, great thoughts must be thought, inventions must be invented and new cures must be discovered. Solid academics will always be the road to this goal.

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One thought on “Getting Into College: Sports or Academics

  1. I had to comment on this post. As the parent of two student/athletes, I am thinking about this issue daily. Sports are a great thing – they teach discipline and time management – but they are not a ticket to a great future. I have watched several families push their children to excel at their sport, thinking they will get a free ride to a good college. It never works out the way they think it will. I’ve seen a great football player with less than great grades not get in to school anywhere at all regardless of his talents on the field. I’ve seen great swimmers get partial scholarships to good schools but then feel like slaves to the pool. My own kid missed a few practices in high school to get excellent grades and now goes to a top notch university and swims for a Div. III team. She got in on her grades and test scores, but I think her swimming helped with admission. Sports can enhance your life but can’t be your life’s work.

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