The Mystery of The Picture-Perfect College Application
BY ELSA LEWIS AND SHREE JAYAKRISHNA '25
The need for the perfect 4.0, an onslaught of extracurriculars, and a 1600 SAT score has overtaken students' high school years. On college applications, students list extracurricular activities related to art, music, academics, and athletics to showcase their passions and stand out from other applicants. However, within an increasingly competitive environment, sports play a pivotal role in college admissions, and non-athletic students are often undervalued. Schools often prioritize the monetary benefits athletics bring over art-oriented programs, which hurts non-athletic applicants’ admission chances.
For less academically passionate students, athletics aid in the admissions process; however, the value of sports can have adverse effects on the college admissions process as a whole. Colleges view student-athletes positively because of the dedication and discipline required to pursue a sport, but institutions also benefit from an added plus: the increased application rates as well as more money via ticket sales. According to the Washington Post in 2020, Harvard’s general acceptance rate was about 5%, while the student-athlete acceptance rate was 15%. Additionally, The Hill explains that athletics played a large part in past college admissions scandals; $25 million dollars bribed coaches to admit students under an athletic pretense. While student-athletes deserve recognition for their dedication, the corruption of the admissions process taints their achievements.
Although the sports culture in many schools provides great opportunities for student-athletes, it often diminishes other activities’ importance. Extracurriculars such as studio art or band require a similar time commitment but are not recognized to the degree athletics are in the college admissions process. Although art or music portfolios stand out on a student’s resume, they are much less influential than sports accomplishments. While the arts highlight appealing student qualities like creativity and originality, they do not have the same profitable aspect as the showmanship that comes with athletics. Due to the prioritization of athletics, students with other interests are disadvantaged. The Conversation found that “athletes recruited to Ivy League universities tended to have significantly lower SAT scores than their non-athlete classmates. Talented non-athletes, like musicians and actors, were not given similar leeway in their test scores during admissions decisions.” As students become increasingly aware of this gap, their motivation to pursue the arts may diminish. When colleges prioritize sports and consequently diminish the worth of other interests, artsy students may start to feel like their desired paths are pointless pursuits. As a result, the pressure to pursue a “successful” path can often overshadow what students actually want. While there is some recognition of the arts, it is not enough to even scratch the surface of colleges’ athletic frenzy.
Granted that sports certainly contribute to the value of one’s college application, they also have negative repercussions elsewhere. The importance of sports programs does not only exacerbate the corrupt admission process but also discourages talented students in the art field. Sports should not diminish the importance of other extracurriculars because every student’s talents are equally valuable.