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Academic vs Sports Teams – Which Looks Better to Colleges?

With the overwhelming number of applications from academically qualified students, selective colleges find it hard to choose who to admit in their system. Students with a stellar GPA know that academic accomplishments alone won’t guarantee entry to their favorite colleges, and athletes know that their sports performance alone won’t make the cut, either. 

A balance between academics and sports teams looks best to colleges. Sports are a good demonstration of time commitment, and in some cases, they can portray your leadership skills. However, good sports clubs alone won’t help a college achieve its goals.

There are various ways academic or sports teams impact your admission to a college or university. So, let’s discuss what you’ll need to consider when applying to college as either an athlete or academic whiz. I’ll help you determine which one is more likely to land you a spot at your favorite college and give you some tips for achieving admission. 

Academics vs Sports - which looks better to colleges?

How Do Sports Teams Impact College Admissions?

Sports teams bring in publicity and revenue for colleges, and having an all-star team is a top priority for some schools. Maintaining a good image and relevance is essential for schools since that’s what keeps them running, and participating in sports is an excellent way to offer promise to a school. 

So, do sports clubs positively impact a college applicant’s success more than academic clubs? 

Sports teams impact college admissions since many colleges want star athletes to boost school spirit. However, sports are rarely the first consideration for your college admission since academics are usually the primary concern of any college or university.

Still, sports teams will be more prioritized than academic clubs in colleges where sports activities are well-funded. Here are the qualifications to be on the college’s sports team in such cases.

Firstly, you need to be a top athlete. Being a top athlete doesn’t mean you have to be the team’s captain or the leading scorer for some time. It means your performance at high competition levels should be stunning and consistent. If you’ve previously competed at national levels, it guarantees you can compete in teams, regional selections, and even Olympics (source).

Secondly, your college choice should heavily emphasize sports if your academics are not as strong as your athletic performance. Choosing a division 1 college or a university with a well-funded sports program is the best option since these schools put a considerable emphasis on the performance of their sports teams. Such schools have sports scholarships, massive fan bases, and televised sporting events.

Moreover, if you wish your sports qualifications to impact your college admission, select a college where sports are the only determining factor in your entry. 

Many ivy league schools have great sports programs and are well funded. They also compete in division 1 and are successful. However, to get in, you’ll have to have excellent academics, too. 

So, to make through with only sports qualifications, make sure you’re a national-level athlete interested in attending a division 1 college without strict academic requirements.

Sports develop a well-rounded character and skills based on teamwork. Sports aren’t different from any other extracurricular activity to college admission boards. The time commitment and goal-achieving skills attained via these sports matter most to admission boards (source).

Admission boards also know the level of commitment displayed by a varsity player is more than that of a JV player. Therefore, varsity players have a leg up on JV players in most cases.

How Do Academic Clubs Impact College Admission?

Academic clubs play a crucial role in bettering your grades. Also, academic clubs help students meet fellow college mates with the same interest. Below are other ways academic clubs affect the student’s performance.

Academic clubs and success significantly impact college admission. Firstly, your GPA is the most important academic qualification in any college as it shows your performance for over four years. You can enroll in relevant academic clubs to gain more knowledge besides study time to boost your GPA.

Academic clubs also prove that you are interested and able to take on higher-level topics. This aspect of your transcript is called academic rigor. Most college applicants don’t realize that academic rigor is critical in landing admission.

Also, it’ll be advantageous if you join academic clubs in subjects you are going to major in while you are in college. For example, if you want to be pre-med, taking AP Biology and Chemistry and performing in the Science Olympiad or a Science Club will help you. 

Standardized test scores are usually of secondary importance to your GPA and club memberships. For example, your SAT or ACT score can significantly impact your academic excellence. You may also need to perform great in SAT subject tests as this is a requirement for some colleges. Still, being a part of academic clubs may boost your test scores, so don’t doubt their importance (source). 

Tips for Joining Your College of Choice

For sports lovers, you must meet various academic qualifications to join your preferred sports club. You need to plan ahead of NCAA eligibility. Whether applying for division 1 or 11 schools, make sure you meet NCAA eligibility. 

Their standards include GPA cut-offs, required courses, and SAT/ACT score minimums. Qualified candidates may compete for NCAA funding for their first year. The NCAA is the most prominent organization that manages varsity sports at colleges and universities (source).

In addition, you may want to consider following these tips while you’re preparing for college to get a better chance at admission:

  • Work hard at academics. Raise your GPA to ensure your GPA scores are impressive to the college admission committee.
  • Choose your SAT/ACT dates wisely. Put aside your sports schedule while choosing test dates to ensure you prepare enough.
  • Think beyond spirit. Your best college is the one you’ll choose to attend if you don’t make it to the team. 

Is There a Link Between Academics and Sports?

There is a link between academics and sports. Various studies have proved that physically active people are healthier and perform better on cerebral ability tests. Thus, for colleges evaluating a student who is a severe athlete becomes challenging.

For example, the Miami Dolphins are known for packing their team with overachievers like Jason Garrett, a Princeton graduate, and Archie Roberts. Archie Roberts is an honorable cardiovascular surgeon after his NFL career. Also, the team is known for making academic donations to public schools across Florida. 

Thus, the Dolphins team believes academics go hand in hand with sports. While it may be difficult for most students to achieve a balance, others believe that the high standardization required to maintain them is excellent for succeeding in their later careers.

On the other hand, mainly football and basketball college athletes find it difficult to excel academically. Thus, sports are considered a negative factor in excelling in college academics. However, this may be due to the students being more focused on sports than academics.

Therefore, there’s no definite answer as to whether sports will positively or negatively impact your studies. The effort you put into either one will help you land a spot at college, and your admission chances are determined mainly by the promise of the other applicants for the year. 

So, do your best and go to a college that will accept you. No matter where you end up, if the college admits you, you’ve probably found the best place for you to go to school (source). 

Wrap Up

In conclusion, most college admission boards go for those students who can balance academics and sports. However, if you excel in either area more than the other, that won’t necessarily impact your chances at admission since some schools may also have similar academic or sports priorities.