Athletic recruits get boosts in increasingly competitive landscape of Tufts admissions
Many decisions regarding recruits made in the early admissions pool
Published: Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Updated: Sunday, August 17, 2008 12:08
When freshman swimmer Joe Lessard received a letter of rejection from Dartmouth College after applying early decision, he expected to join a hugely competitive pool of students applying regular decision to some of the nation's best colleges, including Tufts.
But following his rejection, Lessard received a phone call from Adam Hoyt, the men's swimming and diving coach at Tufts, that would change the trajectory of his college search.
"[Hoyt] literally called me, I think the day after I got rejected [from Dartmouth] … and [he said], 'So you know, I'm really sorry to hear that you got rejected, and I know you're interested in Tufts. What would you think about changing to ED II [Early Decision II to Tufts]?'" Lessard said.
Lessard followed Hoyt's suggestion and opted to submit his Tufts application into the ED II pool, placing him in a group of students whose athletic skills would play a part in their final admissions decisions.
Despite its position as a Div. III school that typically emphasizes its academics over its athletics, Tufts still uses athletic recruiting as a strong piece of its admissions process and encourages its athletes to apply early in order to do so.
Hoyt said that although coaches do not make any official admissions decisions, a coach's recommendation can add a great deal to a prospective student's application.
"My role in the admissions process is alerting admissions of prospective students who applied to Tufts who are swimmers that I feel would have an impact on our swimming team," Hoyt said. "I feel like that basically gives them an added benefit to their application because now our admissions office knows that they will be an active participant on the swimming team and a contributor."
Lessard said that while Hoyt could not guarantee him a spot in the Class of 2011, the coach worked to inform the Office of Admissions of his swimming ability.
"He certainly said he'd maybe push it along - just kind of make sure the admissions office knows that 'This guy's a swimmer, and we like him; he can certainly get in on his own, but it's kind of like a heads-up,'" Lessard said.
Lessard also said that despite his interest in swimming, he felt he was academically qualified enough to stand out as a strong applicant to Tufts.
"I probably could have gotten in on my own, just academically, because I had good enough grades … It wasn't like [Hoyt] had to pull me in or anything," Lessard said.
Baseball coach and Assistant Director of Athletics John Casey agreed that coaches do influence admissions, but they are not the final decision-makers.
"I think it's more of a collaborative effort," Casey said. "We can be a personal advocate for a player and sort of say 'Here's who he is,' as opposed to just a folder. I don't think it's a lot different than if there's [a] concert pianist who's coming here … I think that Tufts looks at the whole application."
Although coaches cannot guarantee a student-athlete admission, Lessard said he believes that they do have a strong influence.
"I think coaches are hesitant to tell anyone it's a sure deal because they really can't say that," Lessard said.
Although athletes may still have an advantage over other students in regular admissions, many are encouraged to apply early decision to increase their chances of acceptance.
Associate Director of Admissions Matthew Hyde said that by applying early decision, student-athletes show that they are committed to joining a team.
"Coaches want to get a sense of some kind of commitment from their recruits, so often they counsel their recruited students in a way that pushes them towards early decision because they don't want to expend energy on a recruit that may not be all that interested in Tufts," Hyde said. "I think that's a part of the game these days and how coaches approach recruitment - they like to know that it's a sure thing if they really do encourage [admissions] to think about one of these applicants."
Although early admission is becoming a bigger factor in athletic recruiting, it may cause problems for student-athletes who are not ready to make their college decisions.
"I think they put so much pressure on kids to make decisions … and I think there are kids who feel like if they don't go early decision, they're not going to get into their schools," Casey said. "Those are 17- or 18-year-old student-athletes who have tons of stuff coming at [them] at that moment, and to say now 'You've got two days to make a decision' - that's not fair."
Casey, now in his 25th season coaching baseball, said that he believes students should find the college that best suits them without the added pressure of athletic expectations.
"If a kid comes to me and says 'I want to go early decision to Tufts,' I say, 'Not until you come up and visit, not until I sit down with you, not until you meet our players. How can you want to be here if you don't know who we are and what it is?'" Casey said. "The worst scenario for a lot of kids is they come here with this vision on the Internet and on viewbooks, and then they get on campus, and it's not what they envisioned."
Despite the setbacks to applying early decision, student-athletes are finding the option appealing because it boosts their chances of admission and in turn, coaches' jobs are made easier.
"For early admissions, I probably had anywhere from six to 10 swimmers I knew of applying that I would love to have on my team, whereas for regular decision I have about four times that amount," Hoyt said. "It's much better for me to be able to let our admissions office know of six names that I'd love to have come swim on our team rather than 40 names."
Freshman Jake Kastan, a backup quarterback on the football team, said he feels that many student-athletes apply early decision because it gives them an advantage over other applicants.