Often Ivy league schools will offer more money through their financial aid program than you can receive through a traditional athletic scholarship. Although tuition to Harvard is about $70,000 per year, most students that I know received financial aid packages of at least 90%, cutting their yearly tuition to about $7,000. Athletic scholarships also create a binding agreement to play that sport at that school, as well as other risks associated with how well you perform. On the other hand, there is no official binding at Ivy League schools that requires an athlete to play all four years, but almost all students do because of their passion for the sport and team. Furthermore, the admissions offices at many Ivies are “blind” meaning that they don’t use your financial need or status when making your admissions decision.
2. Only geniuses can get into Ivy League schools; I’m too much of a “jock.”
I think one of the biggest misconceptions with Ivy Leagues is that every student at these schools has a 4.0 GPA in school, alongside perfect SAT and ACT scores. One of the top factors admission officers look at, in addition to grades and test scores, are extracurriculars. That means any clubs, sports, after-school programs, or volunteering that you do has a significant impact when applying. Most students at Ivies don’t even have close to perfect scores, but they put time into some of their other passions, such as their sport, musical instrument or volunteer work.
3. Ivies don’t send a National Letter of Intent, so there is no solid form of commitment until I get in.
Although Ivies technically do not participate in the National Letter of Intent program, they do send out “likely” letters. These letters are sent out in October and essentially are a conditional letter of admission, as long as the student continues to perform well in school. They can be requested by college coaches and are issued by the college before the formal acceptance letters are sent out to all accepted students.
4. The Ivy league recruits super late, so I won’t be committed until halfway through my senior year of high school.
Although likely letters don’t arrive until around October, there are many ways that coaches make it clear that they want you at their school and that they are committed to you. Often if an Ivy League coach intends to form an informal commitment, they will express this to the athlete and their parents during the summer after junior year. Therefore, most students will have a good indication of whether they have a solid spot at an Ivy League school by the beginning of their senior year (although this is subject to change depending on the player or the sport).
In general, the better your grades and academics are, the wider range of options of schools you have when being recruited, especially within the Ivy League. When recruiting, top academic colleges won’t even evaluate the athletic skill of a potential recruit if the recruit’s grades/academics don’t meet a certain standard. When considering admissions, many Ivies use something called the Academic Index to determine whether a recruit meets the academic requirements to grant admission. For example, many Ivy football teams recruit in a way that seeks recruits that fit into five different Academic index thresholds, and this system offers more spots to those with higher Academic Indexes. Other sports may have a specific average SAT score that each recruiting class must meet.
6. All Ivy league schools have the same admissions process/requirements.
Requirements to get into Ivies differ across schools and sports. When I was being recruited, Yale, Harvard, and Dartmouth all had different SAT scores they wanted me to reach to get in. It also varies across sports: Harvard football and Harvard softball have very different recruiting methods and a different number of spots available.
7. Ivy League schools are not Division I.
There’s a lot of contention about the strength and competitiveness of Ivy League sports and many people are surprised when I tell them that we are, in fact, NCAA Division I. The real differences between other DI teams and us lie in the time restrictions placed on Ivies. There are strict limits to the hours Ivies are allowed to practice and compete, which are very tight in the off-season and loosen up in-season. Regardless of these rules, which are in place to ensure athletes have enough time to complete their academic work, Ivies still maintain highly competitive teams.
8. If I play sports at an Ivy, sports and class will create huge conflicts.
In addition to the time restrictions placed on Ivy sports, both coaches and teachers are flexible. For example, I have missed a couple of Friday classes and not been able to attend many office hours due to softball practices and games. Every teacher that I have had so far has been extremely understanding of my situation and offered to meet at a different time or the next week. On the other hand, the coaches understand that academics are a priority, and thus are very understanding when we are late to practice coming from class or office hours. Our coaches also schedule practices around our class schedule, as well as allow us to miss practice once in a while if we have overwhelming work that day/week.
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