The College Admissions Process Differs for Recruited Athletes

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Staff illustration: Sophie Fang.

Note: This story is a part of the spread package covering academic competition and college pressure at Menlo. It is an online extension of the 48.1 print edition.

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Outside of athletic competitions and scouting events, potential recruits have to prepare earlier than other students for college admissions. “For students who are going through the recruiting process, [the admissions process] is often earlier and a little bit accelerated,” former Menlo Director of College Counseling and current Director of College Alumni Outreach Matt Mettille said. 

At Menlo, most recruited athletes end up committing to Division III or Ivy League schools. Only 28% of the collegiate athletes from the Menlo classes of 2020 and 2021 play sports for the non-Ivy league, Division I schools. These Division III and Ivy league schools come with a different recruiting landscape than typical Division I schools. 

“In most cases with Division III, you need to be close to the typical profile of an admitted student academically to get that support and get in,” Director of College Counseling Mark Moody said. “[At the DIII level], some sports have more leverage than others in terms of getting you in if you might not be competitive without the athletic hook, but for DI, if the coach wants you, you can make their team.” 

Basically, it is less likely in Division III to receive admissions assistance as an athlete if you aren’t a competitive applicant without considering athletics. 

Both Mettille and Moody discussed the reliability of Division III offers. “Every Division III athlete is technically a walk-on,” Moody said. “If you’re officially a recruited athlete at a Division III school, you can get support in the admissions process, but it is never really guaranteed.” 

Menlo college counselors have to pay attention to these recruiting situations, especially for Division III schools. “[We have confidence in the offer if] the communication we’ve seen from the coach is corroborated by [discussion with] admissions,” Mettille said. 

Senior Aidan Housenbold committed to Williams for Division III lacrosse this past summer. “I still have to maintain good grades, but I have been given a pre-read by admissions, which gives me more confidence that I will likely get in,” Housenbold said. An admissions pre-read allows the admissions staff to make initial evaluations on how competitive a student-athlete would be if they apply based on information like test scores, transcript and upcoming course schedule. 

Although most Menlo student-athletes commit to playing sports at Division III schools, some have found homes at the Division I level. Generally, the admissions process is simpler at the top level of college athletics. “In general, [these students] just need to meet NCAA requirements, and so those are the top-level athletes who, in some ways, don’t go through the college counseling process,” Mettille said. “It works out so they sign their National Letter of Intent, and that is their ticket. Of course, they fill out the application, but it’s kind of a done deal if the coach wants them.” 

Menlo alumnus Cole Kastner (‘20) committed to play Division I lacrosse at the University of Virginia in July before his senior year. “Prior to receiving my offer, I had to send in my high school academic report and test scores to be approved by UVA’s admissions,” Kastner said. 

The window for offers for the class of 2022 is beginning to close, the opportunities for the class of 2023 are in full swing, and the recruitment for the class of 2024 is around the corner. Regardless of the situation, the Menlo counselors are prepared to advise athletes. “There is no harm in being open-minded and starting the communication early [to get on] the radar of [college coaches],” Mettille said.