Sports Scholarships Put Pressure on Student Athletes

Julia Govan, Opinion Editor

It’s no secret that colleges are looking for the well-rounded student. But what exactly is a well-rounded student? These days, it has become vital that early teens begin building up their college applications before even stepping foot onto their high school campus freshman year. Not only do students need killer SAT scores and stellar GPAs, but also prestigious leadership roles and hours of volunteer work regardless of whether or not they truly have a sincere interest in their organization of choice. If a student also shows great promise in a sport, his or her application is much more likely to wind up on the top of the college admissions’ stack of accepted freshmen. While it’s long been understood and acknowledged that great grades and philanthropic work give you a leg up in the college admissions process, it can be argued that the advantages given to a student athlete can seem unfair to those who don’t possess a single athletic bone in their body.

According to a recent report by the Associated Press (AP), student athletes are 10 times more likely than non-athletes to gain admission to their intended universities through a “special admissions” process. Put bluntly, if you’re a talented athlete with grades that aren’t so impressive, you’re more likely to gain admittance to an institution of higher education than your less sporty peers.

As part of the AP report, the researchers disclosed that at the University of Alabama, 19 football players were granted admittance as part of a special admissions program from 2004 to 2006, which surprisingly, are the most recent years available in admissions data provided by the 120 schools in college football’s top division. Clearly, many institutions were reluctant to divulge the statistics, perhaps because their athletes’ comparative high school GPA and test scores were relatively lower than students who didn’t receive entrance based on athletics. This could significantly influence their freshmen profiles and national rankings.

Taking this into consideration, one of the major problems facing student athletes is whether they can even keep up with the workload required by institutions of higher education. This is made evident by the fact that more than 25 schools declined to even release their athletes’ admissions data to the AP, which seems to reveal that there is certainly something that needs hiding.  Even if they’ve been accepted, how can athletes be expected to thrive in an environment of rigorous academic coursework while having to commit to hours of daily practice and travel time? Oftentimes, to counteract these challenges, colleges provide special tutors for their athletes to help manage their course load. Student athletes participating in NCAA sports are expected to have a minimum GPA of 2.3 in order to remain on the team, which puts additional pressures on the athletes. More often than not, summer school is a necessary resort for students who are falling behind and wish to graduate with their class. These additional academic hours come with a price. Not only are parents of the athletes required to dish out more money but also the student has to spend the majority of their summer in a classroom.

High school students should be aware of just how difficult it is to be a student athlete and evaluate whether or not this is the right choice for them when looking at schools. According to the April 2012 issue of the Brown Daily Herald, nearly one third of Brown’s athletes drop their sport by junior year. There are various reasons for this, including sports injuries, lack of playing time, and the inability to keep up with the increasingly difficult academic load.

Some people are envious of the obvious advantages given to those hard working athletes. But taking everything into consideration, I realize now that I’d rather be focused on my school work and college social life without having to worry about the commitments that go along with playing on a college team.  In the end, having to juggle the three obligations just may not be worth the risk or pressure and those of us on the sidelines should understand what it took to get there.