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Ivy League Schools & Recruited Athletes

Ivy League schools do not award athletic scholarships even though as NCAA I schools they could. But these schools can – and do - award other forms of financial aid to recruited athletes. But the big reward for most Ivy league School athletes is simply the opportunity to gain admission.

Last year Harvard received 40,000 applications, of these only about 5% or around 2,000 were accepted.  Over 8,000 applications were from students with straight A’s and 3,500 had perfect (800) Math SAT scores. Consequently, Harvard as well as all other school with an excess of applicants with high academic credentials must look at extracurricular and other factors in order to rank applications.

This part of the admission process is often referred to as a “black box”. But the lid on this box was peeled back somewhat in 2018 when Harvard became involved in a highly publicized anti-bias lawsuit. The Harvard lawsuit specifically cited the following non-academic factors that can give an edge to a candidate:

1. Legacies / Children of Alumni
2. Relatives of a major donor
3. Children of staff / faculty
4. Racial / Ethnic minorities
5. Recruited Athletes

Since an individual has no control over his or her origins of birth (and it's difficult to choose your relatives),  few applicants have influence over the first 4 factors. But a combination of athletic talent, hard work at developing skills and focus can place an individual in the recruited athlete category.

And Ivy league schools need athletes: Harvard sponsors 40 teams, Princeton sponsors 36 and Brown sponsors 33. Athletes constitute a significant percentage of the student body at Ivy League schools:

  Admission Undergrad Total  
School Rate Enrollment Athletes Athlete %
Brown  9%          6,556            892 14%
Columbia   7%          7,552            753 10%
Cornell  14%       14,461        1,120 8%
Dartmouth  11%          4,230            903 21%
Harvard  5%          6,931        1,070 15%
Penn 9%       10,231            891 9%
Princeton  7%          5,236        1,067 20%
Yale  6%          5,468            849 16%
         

While Harvard's admission rate is only 5%, varsity athletes constitute 15% of the undergraduate population - 3 times the general admission rate. Princeton has a similar ratio, an admission rate of only 7% but athletes constitute 20% of the undergraduate population. Cornell is the only Ivy where the percentage of enrolled athletes does not exceed the admission rate.

So being an athlete can level the playing field to a significant extent in the admission process. And this is true for many schools, look at the admission rates and athlete percentages for these non-Ivy League schools:

Admission Undergrad Total  
School Rate Enrollment Athletes Athlete %
Stanford  5%                7,032 851 12%
U.S. Naval Academy 7%                4,526 1,162 26%
MIT 8%                4,444 675 15%
Cal Tech 8%                1,547 209 14%
U.S. Military Academy 9%                4,389 947 22%
Amherst College 14%                1,846 587 32%
U.S. Air Force Academy 15%                4,237 686 16%
Bowdoin College 15%                1,798 635 35%
Middlebury College 17%                2,496 698 28%
Williams College 17%                2,044 744 36%
Grinnell College 20%                1,653 392 24%
Washington & Lee  24%                1,818 504 28%
Colby College 26%                1,879 660 35%
Hamilton College 27%                1,866 579 31%
         

These are just a few examples of some very selective schools with ultra competitive admission rates. And in all cases the percentage of athletes to the undergraduate population exceeds the general admission rate, and in most cases the athlete percentage is significantly higher. All these schools have tip top academics, but they also strive to be competitive on the playing field.

So even if your parents are not alumni and your grandfather isn't a big donor, you can gain an edge in the admissions process if you have decent grades and can compete on say, the soccer field. The biggest edge an athlete has in the admission process at any school is he or she has a key insider - the team's coach - aggressively lobbying  for that athlete to gain admission.

 

 

        
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