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Making the Cut

Monday, May. 20, 2013

The best student comment on "Making the Cut" wins a $100 Amazon gift certificate. Entries must be received by midnight, Sunday, June 2nd, 2013. Subscribe to the blog (by RSS or by e-mail in the right hand column) for updates. 

**DISCLAIMER: All characters and scenarios in this post are fictional.**

Patrick and Lindsey are best friends, and as their senior year of high school begins, they are anxious to look at colleges and begin the application process. Patrick has always been an athlete: while he tries hard in school, his main focus has always been becoming captain of the football team, which results in his grades being below average. On the other hand, Lindsey is a straight-A student who consistently takes AP and Honors courses, is student body president, and has an impressive list of a variety of extracurricular actives.

The academic disparity between Patrick and Lindsey has never caused an issue with their friendship in the past, but in applying to colleges Lindsey seems to think she has an advantage and will not stop bragging about what great schools she will be accepted to. As the year progresses, Lindsey submits many college applications, including some to the top universities in the country, and spends many grueling hours a week perfecting each application and essay. On the other hand, Patrick has yet to submit any applications despite the deadlines approaching, because he is too busy practicing his football skills, going to the gym, and visiting the trainer before and after school. Lindsey reminds Patrick of how difficult the applicant pool will be this year and advises Patrick to start on his applications, particularly because he is already at a disadvantage with a low GPA.

Several days later, Patrick and Lindsey’s high school has a football game against their biggest rival. The stadium is filled, and scouts are scattered among the bleachers. Patrick makes one amazing play after another and leads the team to victory. Several days later Patrick receives a recruiting call from one of the top colleges Lindsey has applied to, and he is offered a full ride scholarship to play college football. Thrilled, Patrick verbally commits and plans are made to sign the official papers.

Being a good friend, Lindsey is happy for Patrick, but can't help feeling anxious about her own college prospects. Later that week, Lindsey receives multiple denial letters, one of which is from the college Patrick has just committed to, and Lindsey is now overcome with resentment.

Should athletes (such as Patrick) be held to the same academic standards of the general applicant pool (which Lindsey was part of)? Is it possible or even realistic for athletes to take advanced courses and put as much time into studying for school as non-athletes when athletes have practices, games, travel, and tournaments? Should the practice and dedication Patrick put into football be considered equivalent to Lindsey’s efforts in the classroom?

Useful Resources

Grading College Athletes 

College Athletes: Academic Performance: Behind the Line on Grades

College Athletics: Necessary, Not Just Nice to Have


Photo by Jamie Williams available under a Creative Commons license.

Comments Comments

Stephen Takahashi said on May 30, 2013
Athletes should not be held to the same academic standard as non-athletes when it comes to college admissions because of the time spent training and playing takes away from their studies. A student athlete learns many valuable lessons from playing in organize sports. These lessons, if learned correctly, can single handily make up for lack of GPA. Many of the strongest academic schools have minimum GPA and SAT scores that must be obtained to get into the university anyway. If these scores aren't reached and a student is still accepted based on his athletic performance, I can see a problem. But if they have the necessary scores then, one's commitment to sports should be valued. - Like
Erika Kent said on May 30, 2013
From the situation described above, it is clear that higher education has completely different meanings to some athletes than it does for other (though I am not trying to stereotype athletes in general). If an athlete disregards their education in order to exceed in a sport, then their purpose for going to college is obviously vastly different from that of an AP student who has amazing SAT scores and spends hours on college applications. This brings me to a big question: should college be about sports or should it be about education? I am a cheerleader here at Santa Clara University, so I have come into contact with many of the athletes here. While they are dedicated to their craft, it is also apparent that they work hard in school. What I am trying to say is that I believe athlete's grades should be considered when they are recruited and given scholarships. It is not fair to the other students who are not as athletically capable to be in classes with people who are not really there to learn, for this would decrease the value of their diplomas. - Like
Michelle said on May 30, 2013
Although I do not think it is fair that an athlete take the place of a student with a higher GPA, it is more economical and realistic for the university to take the athlete. Football programs especially bring in lots of revenue and funding for universities so taking the athlete would be a better option from a monetary standpoint. Also, the athlete's GPA might have been negatively affected by the amount of time he or she spent on practices, games, and training throughout high school. However, to solve this issue of less academically qualified athletes taking the spots of people with higher GPAs there could be a specific number of admission spots allocated to athletes in addition to the rest of the accepted students. - Like
NIcole Percz said on May 30, 2013
I think that it takes a special type of person to be a student athlete. Not everyone can pull it off. There should not be lower expectations for student athletes but athletes may not find a high GPA as important as a non-athlete. Education has a relatively ambiguous definition. It is hard to measure learning. One, traditional way of measuring learning is with GPA and grades. But students still learn even if it is not reflected in GPA. Being a student athlete teaches you so many different types of lessons that can be applied to careers and future endeavors. A few of these are leadership, teamwork, pressured situations, and dedication. These lessons are just as important as chemistry forumulas. It all depends on the specific person and I do not think that one is better than the other. With this in mind colleges should absolutely keep hold student athletes at a high standard on and off the court/field. But it usually is not as important for an athlete to get good grades because they are learning skills measured elsewhere. I think that a specific GPA and SAT score that needs to be achieved should remain the same and if a student can qualify then they are just as important to the diversity of a college population as a straight A student. - Like
Sam said on Jun 2, 2013
While I do believe that college should remain centered around higher education, it is important for schools to gain notoriety. Many of the most well-known schools have earned their popularity and success based upon high-achieving athleticism. The money brought into a school from winning football teams is undoubtedly substantial and significant to the continuation of successful programs, but there is a fine line between wanting to be the most well-known school with a winning record, and being a rigorous academic institution that hands out invaluable diplomas. There are many skills that cannot be learned in a classroom, but individuals have their whole lives to develop these skills as well as become a leader, developing loyalty to a team, and dedication to something an individual is passionate about. It is my opinion that college is a time in which individuals are making the conscious choice to expand their knowledge and develop a greater understanding of academic concepts which can only be learned in a college classroom lecture, discussion, or lab. Therefore I believe that college athletes should be held to high academic standards, meaning that the number of special admission students for athletics should be minute in comparison to the admissions of regular admission students. When a school is admitting more than 50% special admit student-athletes the classroom is going to be affected and the concepts and discussions surrounding higher education will diminish in quality. Yet, I do not believe that athletes should be held to the same standards as non-athelets because they are not capable of achieving the same opportunities outside of the classroom and do not have the additional time to focus on studying or running for student positions on campus due to their athletic responsibilities (including practicing, learning plays, maintain physical stamina, etc.) which is why I believe that colleges should be able to keep the special admissions status, but should be forced to pick which student athletes they really want and reserve the most admissions spaces for regular admission students. Again, there are many benefits that a student athlete gains from experience on the team and at practices, but these skills are not limited to time in college and should only be valued in combination with academic accomplishments. Colleges are institutions designed for education and should maintain their responsibility to the public as well as the student body in upholding academic integrity and values despite the idea of fame or profit based on athletics. - Like
Robert Boscacci said on Jun 3, 2013
I believe that athlete college applicants such as Patrick should not be held to the same academic standards as the general applicant pool, of which Lindsey is a member. That would make for unexciting college sports. Likewise, I believe that excellent scholars like Lindsey could not be expected to be great athletes, considering how much time they spend on academic and extracurricular activities. That would weaken the academic community. There are of course some rare individuals who excel at both sports and academics, but they seem to be irrelevant in the scope of this question. To be really good at football, Patrick sacrifices time and energy he might otherwise spend studying to hone his athletic talent. I don't know the numbers, but I feel like there are less people playing football at Patrick's level than there are getting straight A's and participating in extracurricular activities like Lindsey. I can see why Patrick might seem like a more attractive prospective student than Lindsey: A good football team draws in more applications. That being said, Patrick will probably leave high school with an objectively lesser academic education than Lindsey, since he spent more time on football. That will probably translate to an objectively lesser college education when professors and fellow students alike expect less, academically, of Patrick. Patrick may have some haunting regrets if he is unable to make a professional career out of his athletic talent before graduation. Assigning objective value to human beings (college admissions) is hard. I find it strange to weigh these two different games, academics and athletics, against each other so closely; there's got to be a better way to determine who gets to go to the first-rate university. Why not democratize education online, a la Khan Academy? - Like - 1 person likes this.
The Big Q said on Jun 4, 2013
Congratulations to Erika Kent, winner of our "Making the Cut" contest! Thank you to everyone for your thoughtful responses, and please continue to comment on our bi-weekly cases for another chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card! - Like
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Tags: admissions, application, scholarship, sports