STEM Student and Division III Athlete
This student is valedictorian of the class, and her transcript consists of numerous AP courses and consistent honor roll grades for four years. Beyond the classroom, she dedicates significant time each week to her US Swimming team, earning US Swimming Academic All American Honors.
She knew that she wanted to continue swimming and for athletics to be part of her college experience, but to what extent? She also has a definite interest in chemistry, and potentially chemical engineering. How do we design a list of colleges where she could reach her academic and athletic goals?
Our goal was to develop a list of ten or so colleges covering a range of selectivity where she could see herself reaching her academic and athletic goals. The family was not in a position to qualify for need-based aid, so they were also interested in colleges that would provide merit scholarships.
Academically, she identified a strong science program with undergraduate research opportunities as most important and focused on colleges in the Northeast/Midatlantic region. Her research included STEM-based research universities, flagship state universities and liberal arts colleges with strong science/engineering programs.
After consideration of the time commitment demanded of a Division I athletics commitment, she decided to focus on Division III swim programs. She believed that athletic participation at that level that would complement her academic pursuits, yet not overwhelm them.
Working from the list of strong academic fit colleges, she then researched the swim times of each and identified those colleges in which the coaches would also find her a good match for the team. For students interested in Division III athletics, the college search and application process runs on two parallel tracks. All students focus on campus visits, connecting with regional admissions representatives, developing a unique personal statement, potentially participating in an interview and ultimately completing the application by the appropriate due date. Potential athletes must also manage a parallel process of outreach to coaches, sharing academic/athletic achievements, participating in introductory team events and the ongoing communication that is required to manage all of these.
Ultimately, she applied to seven colleges, all early action. Many coaches strongly encouraged that she apply ED, though she wanted to keep her options open, especially to be able to compare financial aid packages and merit awards. Coaches at a few colleges were able to arrange “pre-reads” for her through both admissions and financial aid. When that happened, coaches were able to report back the likelihood of her acceptance as well as a draft financial aid package. She was accepted to six out of the seven colleges to which she applied. Five out of the six also granted her significant merit awards.
How did our family/student benefit?
During the spring, she narrowed down her choices to her top two colleges, based up on their academic opportunities and swim programs. Financial aid packages were also taken into consideration. At the end of the day she was deciding between a mid-sized technological research university where all students pursued STEM majors and a small liberal arts college with a strong chemistry program. She revisited each of colleges and connected (Covid-safely) with swimmers in her potential major, as well as the coaches. Although she could see herself reaching her goals at either college, she finally settled on the broader range of academic programming for science majors at the research university. When asked how she made the decision, she explained that at the research university, all of the swimmers would be in the same situation, challenged by rigorous science courses and additional commitment of lab research, on top of their hours in the pool and weight room. On the other hand, at the liberal arts college she felt that she would be one of a handful of STEM majors on the team. In the end, she decided to attend the STEM based research university where she looks forward to the shared sense of comradery in the pool, the classroom and the laboratory.