Opinion: College admission shouldn’t be a guaranteed slam-dunk for athletes

Paige Esterly, Author

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Although athletes may be incredibly talented on the court, their sports should not guarantee them spots in top notch colleges. Photo by Paige Esterly.

Although athletes may be incredibly talented on the court, their sports should not guarantee them spots in top notch colleges. Photo by Paige Esterly.

As many of you may know, Wednesday Feb. 6 was the National Letter of Intent signing for Palo Alto High School athletes recruited to play varsity sports in college. And, as much as I’d like to congratulate these Paly students who will be attending the colleges of their choice for their respective sports, a little bit of me can’t help but notice the unfairness of the recruitment system.

Before I begin I’d like to recognize that, yes, these athletes have put immense amounts of time and focus into their sports. With an immense amount of self-discipline and coordination (both of which I am sorely lacking), these students have managed to balance school, homework and countless hours of practice in order to get where they are today. I respect and admire this, certainly, I just don’t think hitting reliable home runs should promise both an athletic victory and an academic one.

In accepting athletes before even considering the applications of other students, colleges send out the message that those who play sports are somehow better and more coveted than other, non athletically gifted applicants. While the rest of us, no matter how talented we are at our own respective pursuits, bite our nails all the way up to the spring decision dates, athletes find themselves being courted by colleges as early as junior year. Is the star quarterback somehow more talented and desirable than the star of the musical? By specifically pursuing sports stars, colleges certainly seem to be sending the message that, yes, he is.

Then there’s the matter of star athletes landing in schools out of their academic league. Now, I’m not necessarily implying that this is an issue for any of Paly’s recruited students, but it’s certainly something to think about. According to U.S. News, the average SAT scores of college athletes lag behind those of their classmates, implying that, perhaps, these athletes won their admission with a plethora of touchdowns rather than academic prowess. This is not only unfair to other, potentially more academically eligible, students denied spots at prestigious universities in favor of athletes, but also to the athletes themselves. Struggling at school can be frustrating and embarrassing, and placing someone in an academic environment he or she is ill-suited to compete in only setting that student up for failure.

So, congratulations to Paly sports stars, as well as other stellar high school athletes world round. I’m sure that, most of you at least, will go on to do great things, both on the court and off. I just wish that perhaps the playing field was slightly more level, pun intended.