We may spend the majority of time on Recruiting-101 focusing on football recruiting (and basketball recruiting to an extent) but that doesn’t mean all of our readers have children who are star football players. I have had an opportunity to email with a mother who has a son that plays water polo. She followed the advice of this site and focused on doing everything she could to help her son get the best education possible while also continuing his career athletically.
When everything was said and done, what their entire family did helped open the door for him to play water polo at an Ivy League school. Since the Ivy League is such a sought after conference to get your son or daughter into, we thought it would make a good Q&A about what she went through and how the family did it.
Please describe the recruiting process that your family went through with our son.
In the spring of his Sophomore year, my son received a hand-written note from the coaching staff at UCLA congratulating him on his achievements (he had received First Team CIF honors). This was the first college attention he received.
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During the summer between his Sophomore and Junior year, he and I visited 7 New England colleges, and then he attended water polo camp at Brown University. This was a great experience – the Brown coach was very kind and encouraging and a great teacher, and my son met other “guest” coaches as well. In the long run, 2 of the 3 coaches on my son’s final “Top 3” schools were from that camp.
As soon as he came home from Brown camp, my son (and I because I basically was the administrative staff for my son!) filled out all the on line athletic recruiting profile forms for the schools he was interested in and he put together envelopes of information that included a resume, recent press, and a letter of introduction and sent them to those schools. – Remember here, my son is a water polo player and there are only 40 NCAA Division I colleges in water polo so there is a limited list.
The school where he eventually ended up committing to, Princeton, was in the batch of letters that he sent out. They (as well as several other schools) kept in touch with him, called him on or just after July 1 and continued to show interest through the club and Junior Olympic water polo season. Then he went to Princeton water polo camp in August, after the Junior Olympics, and the coaches there saw him play and decided to seriously recruit him.
The Princeton coaches suggested to my son that if he would get his application in very early, that they would take it into admissions and possibly get him a “Likely Letter” before the end of October. This is a tool that Harvard and Princeton use to secure athletes because they no longer have early admissions. Ivies with early admissions will use a Likely Letter to secure a player that they know is being offered early admissions from a non-Ivy school.
My son “sent” the Common App to Princeton on September 26th, and received his Likely Letter before the end of October, just like the coaches had said was possible.
In comparison to other colleges, how was the Ivy League recruiting process unique to you and your family?
I think the Ivy League schools have such a high standard for academics that the athletes have to get over, that the coaches are hesitant to recruit athletes until they know something about the student’s academic standing. My son sent a resume with his GPA on it at the beginning of his Junior year, and then continuously updated them as he received SAT scores, and Junior year grades so they knew they had an athlete who had a chance of being admitted.
We were unfamiliar with the “Likely Letter” process, but there was a water polo player that we knew who was recruited to an Ivy a year ahead of my son who also received a Likely Letter, and her parents were very helpful to us.
Had your family had much experience with recruiting before this?
No, we just picked up every book we could find and (lucky for me) I googled “Junior Days” when my son was invited to Princeton to Junior Day and that’s how I found Recruiting 101!!
What was the admission process like for your son to get into an Ivy League school?
Let me say that my son is an excellent student. He got 3 Bs (the rest As) in 4 years, taking all AP and Honors classes at a highly academic private school. His ending GPA is an (unweighted) 3.98 and weighted 4.7. He took the SATs once and scored 2300, and also had very high Subject test and AP scores. Still, Princeton gets applications from many excellent students so we knew that being an official recruit would help him get into Princeton.
His application was approved very quickly once it was in with the official recruits.
Was the time spent waiting until he was officially admitted stressful?
There were 3 stressful times for us. First, the time (in August) when my son re-visited his top 3 schools, met with the coaches, went to camp and then had to make a decision. He truly liked all 3 schools and had become friends with the coaches, so that was a difficult decision for him.
Second, the time between the day he pressed the button to send the application to Princeton and the day admissions called him on his cell phone to tell him he would get a Likely Letter and be admitted was a long month. However, we saw the coach at California tournaments several times, and they always said everything was in, it would just take time. And they were right.
Then thirdly, my husband really liked getting the PAPER packet of admissions materials from Princeton in April. I don’t think he believed it was a done deal until that all came in.
How important was the work your son did over the years academically in order to get into an Ivy League School?
The Ivy League schools have very high standards for athletes, no question. We know other great players and good students who were at Junior Day and on official visits with my son who did not get into Princeton. As a parent, I always told my son that he was “shooting for the moon” so he needed to get As, take the hardest classes he could handle and work really hard. It all paid off for him. The better the grades and scores, the more choices an athlete will have no matter what sport they play.
Look for Part Two soon!