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How to Write a Non-Cliche College Essay About Sports + Examples
What’s covered:, what makes a sports essay cliche.
- How To Make Your Sports Essay Unique
Great Examples of College Essays About Sports
Where to get your college essay edited for free, or by an expert.
You’ve been brainstorming essay topics for your college applications, and you think you’ve finally found the right one: an extended metaphor likening your experience on the field with overcoming personal struggles. The problem: many other students have this same thought.
The purpose of a college essay is to make yourself stand out as a unique individual, but when students write about sports, they often blend in. Because of that, students are usually advised to pick a different topic.
That being said, it is possible to write a non-cliche college essay about sports if you put in a little extra effort. Read along to learn how to make your sports essay different from all the other sports essays.
Sports essays are cliche when they follow a standard trajectory. Some of these trajectories include writing a story about:
- An agonizing defeat
- Forging bonds with teammates
- Overcoming adversity
- Overcoming an injury
- Refusing to quit
- Victory during a big game
Because sports essays have very similar themes and “lessons learned,” it can be difficult to make your story stand out. These trajectories also often focus too much on the sport or storyline, and not enough on the writer’s reflections and personality.
As you write your essay, try to think about what your experience says about you rather than what you learned from your experience. You are more than just one lesson you learned!
(Keep in mind that the sports essay is not the only college essay cliche. Learn about other essay cliches and how to fix them in our complete guide).
How to Make Your Sports Essay Unique
1. focus on a specific moment or reflection..
The college essay is a way for students to humanize themselves to admissions officers. You do not feel human if you are describing yourself as just another player on the field!
One important way to make your essay about you (not just about sports) is by focusing on a specific moment in time and inviting the reader to join you in that moment. Explain to the reader what it would be like to be sitting in that locker room as you questioned the values of the other players on your team. Ask your reader to sit with you on the cot in the trainer’s room as your identity was stripped away from you when they said “your body can’t take this anymore.” Bring your reader to the dinner table and involve them in your family’s conversation about how sports were affecting your mental health and your treatment of those around you.
Intense descriptions of a specific experience will evoke emotions in your reader and allow them to connect with you and feel for you.
When in doubt, avoid anything that can be covered by ESPN. On ESPN, we see the games, we see the benches, we even see the locker rooms and training rooms. Take your reader somewhere different and show them something unique.
2. Use sports to point out broader themes in your life.
The main risk when writing about sports is neglecting to write about yourself. Before you get started, think about the main values that you want to express in your sports essay. Sports are simply your avenue for telling the reader what makes you unique.
As a test, imagine if you were a pianist. Would you be able to talk about these same values? What if you were a writer? Or a chemist? Articulating your values is the end, and sports should simply be your means.
Some values that you might want to focus on:
- Autonomy (you want to be able to set your mind to anything and achieve it on your own)
- Growth (you seek improvement constantly)
- Curiosity (you are willing to try anything once)
- Vulnerability (you aren’t afraid to fail, as long as you give it your all)
- Community (you value the feedback of others and need camaraderie to succeed)
- Craft (you think that with deliberate care, anything can be perfected)
- Responsibility (you believe that you owe something to those around you and perhaps they also owe something to you)
You can use the ESPN check again to make sure that you are using sports as an avenue to show your depth.
Things ESPN covers: how a player reacts to defeat, how injuries affect a player’s gameplay/attitude, how players who don’t normally work well together are working together on their new team.
Things ESPN doesn’t cover: the conversation that a player had with their mother about fear of death before going into a big surgery (value: family and connection), the ways that the intense pressure to succeed consumed a player to the point they couldn’t be there for the people in their life (value: supporting others and community), the body image issues that weigh on a player’s mind when playing their sport and how they overcame those (value: health and growth).
3. Turn a cliche storyline on its head.
There’s no getting around the fact that sports essays are often cliche. But there is a way to confront the cliche head-on. For example, lots of people write essays about the lessons they learned from an injury, victory, and so on, but fewer students explain how they are embracing those lessons.
Perhaps you learned that competition is overwhelming for you and you prefer teamwork, so you switched from playing basketball to playing Dungeons & Dragons. Maybe, when your softball career ended abruptly, you had to find a new identity and that’s when you became obsessed with your flower garden and decided to pursue botany. Or maybe, you have stuck with football through it all, but your junior-year mental health struggle showed you that football should be fun and you have since started a nonprofit for local children to healthily engage with sports.
If your story itself is more cliche, try bringing readers to the present moment with you and show why the cliche matters and what it did for you. This requires a fair amount of creativity. Ensure you’re not parroting a frequently used topic by really thinking deeply to find your own unique spin.
Night had robbed the academy of its daytime colors, yet there was comfort in the dim lights that cast shadows of our advances against the bare studio walls. Silhouettes of roundhouse kicks, spin crescent kicks, uppercuts and the occasional butterfly kick danced while we sparred. She approached me, eyes narrowed with the trace of a smirk challenging me. “Ready spar!” Her arm began an upward trajectory targeting my shoulder, a common first move. I sidestepped — only to almost collide with another flying fist. Pivoting my right foot, I snapped my left leg, aiming my heel at her midsection. The center judge raised one finger.
There was no time to celebrate, not in the traditional sense at least. Master Pollard gave a brief command greeted with a unanimous “Yes, sir” and the thud of 20 hands dropping-down-and-giving-him-30, while the “winners” celebrated their victory with laps as usual.
Three years ago, seven-thirty in the evening meant I was a warrior. It meant standing up straighter, pushing a little harder, “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’am”, celebrating birthdays by breaking boards, never pointing your toes, and familiarity. Three years later, seven-thirty in the morning meant I was nervous.
The room is uncomfortably large. The sprung floor soaks up the checkerboard of sunlight piercing through the colonial windows. The mirrored walls further illuminate the studio and I feel the light scrutinizing my sorry attempts at a pas de bourrée, while capturing the organic fluidity of the dancers around me. “Chassé en croix, grand battement, pique, pirouette.” I follow the graceful limbs of the woman in front of me, her legs floating ribbons, as she executes what seems to be a perfect ronds de jambes. Each movement remains a negotiation. With admirable patience, Ms. Tan casts me a sympathetic glance.
There is no time to wallow in the misery that is my right foot. Taekwondo calls for dorsiflexion; pointed toes are synonymous with broken toes. My thoughts drag me into a flashback of the usual response to this painful mistake: “You might as well grab a tutu and head to the ballet studio next door.” Well, here I am Master Pollard, unfortunately still following your orders to never point my toes, but no longer feeling the satisfaction that comes with being a third degree black belt with 5 years of experience quite literally under her belt. It’s like being a white belt again — just in a leotard and ballet slippers.
But the appetite for new beginnings that brought me here doesn’t falter. It is only reinforced by the classical rendition of “Dancing Queen” that floods the room and the ghost of familiarity that reassures me that this new beginning does not and will not erase the past. After years spent at the top, it’s hard to start over. But surrendering what you are only leads you to what you may become. In Taekwondo, we started each class reciting the tenets: honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage, humility, and knowledge, and I have never felt that I embodied those traits more so than when I started ballet.
The thing about change is that it eventually stops making things so different. After nine different schools, four different countries, three different continents, fluency in Tamil, Norwegian, and English, there are more blurred lines than there are clear fragments. My life has not been a tactfully executed, gold medal-worthy Taekwondo form with each movement defined, nor has it been a series of frappés performed by a prima ballerina with each extension identical and precise, but thankfully it has been like the dynamics of a spinning back kick, fluid, and like my chances of landing a pirouette, unpredictable.
Why it works:
What’s especially powerful about this essay is that the author uses detailed imagery to convey a picture of what they’re experiencing, so much so that the reader is along for the ride. This works as a sports essay not only because of the language and sensory details, but also because the writer focuses on a specific moment in time, while at the same time exploring why Taekwondo is such an important part of their life.
After the emotional image is created, the student finishes their essay with valuable reflection. With the reflection, they show admissions officers that they are mature and self-aware. Self-awareness comes through with statements like “surrendering what you are only leads you to what you may become” and maturity can be seen through the student’s discussion of values “honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage, humility, and knowledge, and I have never felt that I embodied those traits more so than when I started ballet.” These are the kinds of comments that should find their way into a sports essay!
“Advanced females ages 13 to 14 please proceed to staging with your coaches at this time.” Skittering around the room, eyes wide and pleading, I frantically explained my situation to nearby coaches. The seconds ticked away in my head; every polite refusal increased my desperation.
Despair weighed me down. I sank to my knees as a stream of competitors, coaches, and officials flowed around me. My dojang had no coach, and the tournament rules prohibited me from competing without one.
Although I wanted to remain strong, doubts began to cloud my mind. I could not help wondering: what was the point of perfecting my skills if I would never even compete? The other members of my team, who had found coaches minutes earlier, attempted to comfort me, but I barely heard their words. They couldn’t understand my despair at being left on the outside, and I never wanted them to understand.
Since my first lesson 12 years ago, the members of my dojang have become family. I have watched them grow up, finding my own happiness in theirs. Together, we have honed our kicks, blocks, and strikes. We have pushed one another to aim higher and become better martial artists. Although my dojang had searched for a reliable coach for years, we had not found one. When we attended competitions in the past, my teammates and I had always gotten lucky and found a sympathetic coach. Now, I knew this practice was unsustainable. It would devastate me to see the other members of my dojang in my situation, unable to compete and losing hope as a result. My dojang needed a coach, and I decided it was up to me to find one.
I first approached the adults in the dojang – both instructors and members’ parents. However, these attempts only reacquainted me with polite refusals. Everyone I asked told me they couldn’t devote multiple weekends per year to competitions. I soon realized that I would have become the coach myself.
At first, the inner workings of tournaments were a mystery to me. To prepare myself for success as a coach, I spent the next year as an official and took coaching classes on the side. I learned everything from motivational strategies to technical, behind-the-scenes components of Taekwondo competitions. Though I emerged with new knowledge and confidence in my capabilities, others did not share this faith.
Parents threw me disbelieving looks when they learned that their children’s coach was only a child herself. My self-confidence was my armor, deflecting their surly glances. Every armor is penetrable, however, and as the relentless barrage of doubts pounded my resilience, it began to wear down. I grew unsure of my own abilities.
Despite the attack, I refused to give up. When I saw the shining eyes of the youngest students preparing for their first competition, I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was. The knowledge that I could solve my dojang’s longtime problem motivated me to overcome my apprehension.
Now that my dojang flourishes at competitions, the attacks on me have weakened, but not ended. I may never win the approval of every parent; at times, I am still tormented by doubts, but I find solace in the fact that members of my dojang now only worry about competing to the best of their abilities.
Now, as I arrive at a tournament with my students, I close my eyes and remember the past. I visualize the frantic search for a coach and the chaos amongst my teammates as we compete with one another to find coaches before the staging calls for our respective divisions. I open my eyes to the exact opposite scene. Lacking a coach hurt my ability to compete, but I am proud to know that no member of my dojang will have to face that problem again.
In the beginning, you might think this is another cliche sports essay about overcoming adversity. But instead, it becomes a unique statement and coming-of-age tale that reads as a suspenseful narrative.
The author connects their experience with martial arts to larger themes in their life but manages to do so without riffing off of tried-and-true themes. Through statements like “I knew I couldn’t let them down. To quit would be to set them up to be barred from competing like I was” we learn about the students values and their desire to be there for those who depend on them.
The student also brings it full circle, demonstrating their true transformation. By using the “Same, but Different” ending technique , the student places themself in the same environment that we saw in the intro, but experiences it differently due to their actions throughout the narrative. This is very compelling!
“1…2…3…4 pirouettes! New record!” My friends cheered as I landed my turns. Pleased with my progress, I gazed down at my worn-out pointe shoes. The sweltering blisters, numbing ice-baths, and draining late-night practices did not seem so bad after all. Next goal: five turns.
For as long as I can remember, ballet, in all its finesse and glamor, had kept me driven day to day. As a child, the lithe ballerinas, donning ethereal costumes as they floated across the stage, were my motivation. While others admired Messi and Adele, I idolized Carlos Acosta, principal dancer of the Royal Ballet.
As I devoted more time and energy towards my craft, I became obsessed with improving my technique. I would stretch for hours after class, forcing my leg one inch higher in an effort to mirror the Dance Magazine cover girls. I injured my feet and ruined pair after pair of pointe shoes, turning on wood, cement, and even grass to improve my balance as I spun. At competitions, the dancers with the 180-degree leg extensions, endless turns, and soaring leaps—the ones who received “Bravos!” from the roaring audience—further pushed me to refine my skills and perfect my form. I believed that, with enough determination, I would one day attain their level of perfection. Reaching the quadruple-pirouette milestone only intensified my desire to accomplish even more.
My efforts seemed to have come to fruition two summers ago when I was accepted to dance with Moscow’s Bolshoi Ballet at their renowned New York City summer intensive. I walked into my first session eager to learn from distinguished ballet masters and worldly dancers, already anticipating my improvement. Yet, as I danced alongside the accomplished ballerinas, I felt out of place. Despite their clean technique and professional training, they did not aim for glorious leg extensions or prodigious leaps. When they performed their turn combinations, most of them only executed two turns as I attempted four.
“Dancers, double-pirouettes only.”
Taken aback and confused, I wondered why our teacher expected so little from us. The other ballerinas seemed content, gracing the studio with their simple movements.
As I grew closer with my Moscow roommates, I gradually learned that their training emphasized the history of the art form instead of stylistic tricks. Rather than show off their physical ability, their performances aimed to convey a story, one that embodied the rich culture of ballet and captured both the legacy of the dancers before them and their own artistry. As I observed my friends more intently in repertoire class, I felt the pain of the grief-stricken white swan from Swan Lake, the sass of the flirtatious Kitri from Don Quijote, and I gradually saw what I had overlooked before. My definition of talent had been molded by crowd-pleasing elements—whirring pirouettes, gravity-defying leaps, and mind-blowing leg extensions. This mindset slowly stripped me from the roots of my passion and my personal connection with ballet.
With the Bolshoi, I learned to step back and explore the meaning behind each step and the people behind the scenes. Ballet carries history in its movements, from the societal values of the era to each choreographer’s unique flair. As I uncovered the messages behind each pirouette, kick, and jump, my appreciation for ballet grew beyond my obsession with raw athleticism and developed into a love for the art form’s emotive abilities in bridging the dancers with the audience. My journey as an artist has allowed me to see how technical execution is only the means to a greater understanding between dancer and spectator, between storyteller and listener. The elegance and complexity of ballet does not revolve around astonishing stunts but rather the evocative strength and artistry manifested in the dancer, in me. It is the combination of sentiments, history, tradition, and passion that has allowed ballet and its lessons of human connection to become my lifestyle both on and off stage.
This essay is about lessons. While the author is a dancer, this narrative isn’t really about ballet, per se — it’s about the author’s personal growth. It is purposefully reflective as the student shows a nice character arc that begins with an eager young ballerina and ends with a reflection on their past. The primary strength of this essay is the honesty and authenticity that the student approaches it with.
In the end, the student turns a cliche on its head as they embrace the idea of overcoming adversity and demonstrate how the adversity, in this case, was their own stereotypes about their art. It’s beautiful!
“Getting beat is one thing – it’s part of competing – but I want no part in losing.” Coach Rob Stark’s motto never fails to remind me of his encouragement on early-morning bus rides to track meets around the state. I’ve always appreciated the phrase, but an experience last June helped me understand its more profound, universal meaning.
Stark, as we affectionately call him, has coached track at my high school for 25 years. His care, dedication, and emphasis on developing good character has left an enduring impact on me and hundreds of other students. Not only did he help me discover my talent and love for running, but he also taught me the importance of commitment and discipline and to approach every endeavor with the passion and intensity that I bring to running. When I learned a neighboring high school had dedicated their track to a longtime coach, I felt that Stark deserved similar honors.
Our school district’s board of education indicated they would only dedicate our track to Stark if I could demonstrate that he was extraordinary. I took charge and mobilized my teammates to distribute petitions, reach out to alumni, and compile statistics on the many team and individual champions Stark had coached over the years. We received astounding support, collecting almost 3,000 signatures and pages of endorsements from across the community. With help from my teammates, I presented this evidence to the board.
They didn’t bite.
Most members argued that dedicating the track was a low priority. Knowing that we had to act quickly to convince them of its importance, I called a team meeting where we drafted a rebuttal for the next board meeting. To my surprise, they chose me to deliver it. I was far from the best public speaker in the group, and I felt nervous about going before the unsympathetic board again. However, at that second meeting, I discovered that I enjoy articulating and arguing for something that I’m passionate about.
Public speaking resembles a cross country race. Walking to the starting line, you have to trust your training and quell your last minute doubts. When the gun fires, you can’t think too hard about anything; your performance has to be instinctual, natural, even relaxed. At the next board meeting, the podium was my starting line. As I walked up to it, familiar butterflies fluttered in my stomach. Instead of the track stretching out in front of me, I faced the vast audience of teachers, board members, and my teammates. I felt my adrenaline build, and reassured myself: I’ve put in the work, my argument is powerful and sound. As the board president told me to introduce myself, I heard, “runners set” in the back of my mind. She finished speaking, and Bang! The brief silence was the gunshot for me to begin.
The next few minutes blurred together, but when the dust settled, I knew from the board members’ expressions and the audience’s thunderous approval that I had run quite a race. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough; the board voted down our proposal. I was disappointed, but proud of myself, my team, and our collaboration off the track. We stood up for a cause we believed in, and I overcame my worries about being a leader. Although I discovered that changing the status quo through an elected body can be a painstakingly difficult process and requires perseverance, I learned that I enjoy the challenges this effort offers. Last month, one of the school board members joked that I had become a “regular” – I now often show up to meetings to advocate for a variety of causes, including better environmental practices in cafeterias and safer equipment for athletes.
Just as Stark taught me, I worked passionately to achieve my goal. I may have been beaten when I appealed to the board, but I certainly didn’t lose, and that would have made Stark proud.
This essay uses the idea of sports to explore a more profound topic—growing through relationships. They really embrace using sports as an avenue to tell the reader about a specific experience that changed the way they approach the world.
The emphasis on relationships is why this essay works well and doesn’t fall into a cliche. The narrator grows not because of their experience with track but because of their relationship with their coach, who inspired them to evolve and become a leader.
Have a draft of your college essay? We’re here to help you polish it. Students can participate in a free Peer Review, or they can sign up for a paid review by CollegeVine’s experts. Sign up for your free CollegeVine account today to start improving your essay and your chances of acceptance!
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College Essay Myths Debunked: Yes, You Can Write About Sports
The notion that all students who play sports write college essays about their athletic pursuits is simply inaccurate. Last year one our our students, a star football player, wrote about his aptitude for solving puzzles. Another student on the school rowing team wrote about her family’s immigration story. Athletes are not just athletes — they are complex humans with varied talents and experiences, many of which are worth exploring in essay form. Still, it is impractical to think that students who devote thirty hours or more of their lives each week to a sport, won’t feel compelled to write about their passion for soccer or aptitude for tennis or cheerleading. And rightfully so. Sports teach valuable skills like leadership, teamwork and discipline. They foster bonds of friendship that often last decades or longer. A working knowledge of sports can even be a lifelong conversation starter among strangers.
Students do not have to shy away from detailing these experiences and what they learned from them — they just have to shift the lens, add another layer, or approach these topics from creative perspectives to make them both original and reflective of a greater range of interests and talents. For example, maybe your experience diving for the ball as a volleyball player allowed you to take a risk in applying for the job of your dreams. Perhaps the qualities needed to be a good basketball player and also the skills needed to command a boardroom. Students might want to steer away from major tropes like getting injured before a big game or scoring the winning goal — though if those stories are treated with sincerity and an innovative perspective, they can make for effective essays as well. The test of whether or not you have achieved the level of creativity necessary to set a sports essay apart from all the rest is this: Could any other basketball player have written your essay? If another lacrosse player put her name on your application, would the details still be mostly accurate? If the answer is yes, find another way in; add another twist; push towards a more compelling and creative conclusion. So, yes, you can write a sports essay — it just has to be a sports essay unlike any other.
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Category: College Admissions , Common App Prompts/Topics , Essay Tips
Tags: athlete college essays , college admissions , college essay , college essay tips , college essays about athletics , sports essays , writing about sports
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The Best College Essays About Sports
Spoiler alert: almost none of the best college essays are about sports.
Generally speaking, students try to make their case for writing about sports in one of two ways. Students have either spent many years playing a particular sport or have spent an inordinate amount of time learning about, watching, and/or gathering stats (read: obsessing) on a sport. Below we’ve broken down our responses:
“My dad taught me how to catch a ball when I was two years old and I’ve been playing baseball ever since. I’ve poured my heart and soul into this sport, made the varsity team as a freshman, and hit a home run in the finals game which made me the town hero.”
First, anything that you’ve spent 15 years doing will undoubtedly be included in the activities section of your application. As we’ve said many times before, writing about anything that appears anywhere else on your application is a major no .
We know that’s a tough pill to swallow, but you have a very limited number of opportunities to add depth to your application. If you could describe yourself to your dream college in only three words, you wouldn’t use “athlete” twice . They already know you play baseball.
Second, the winning goal essay is extremely overdone. It’s florals for spring. We can hardly count the number of times we’ve heard it, so you can only imagine how many times an admission officer has read it. It’s an accomplishment, but it’s certainly not a way to stand out.
“I understand!!! But I was extremely introverted and had a hard time in social situations and playing baseball really helped me to break out of my shell and gain confidence.”
We are really (seriously) glad this happened. Sports can be a good way to bond with others, create lasting friendships, and overcome obstacles. No one is taking that away from you, but as it relates to writing a college essay this path still won’t work.
Think of another way to write about this. In this case, you’re still using sports as a way to shine light on your development and because of that, your essay will be filed under the “sports essay” category with a thousand others. They won’t see your personal growth. Use something else as a vehicle to show your progress.
“I don’t play football but I know everything there is to know about the sport. I know the stats, I keep detailed excel documents, and everyone comes to me for fantasy football advice. I watch football every single week with my parents, and have been since I was a child.”
This is more common than you’d think. The biggest issue with this essay is that it doesn’t say much about you. As fun as it may be, being a sports fan doesn’t speak to any of the unique qualities you have. You’re looking for a characteristic about yourself that you haven’t had space to explore yet, and a weekly football watching date with family and friends doesn’t cut it. Essays about loving a sport also tend not to have a narrative arc: remember that you’re looking for a story with a beginning, middle, and end.
Don’t worry, there will undoubtedly be something else for you to write about. Don’t sell yourself short by focusing on a sports related hobby and brainstorm other stories you can tell about yourself.
In the history of TKG, we’ve made a few exceptions to our strict no sports rule. One example was a student who wrote about surfing . This is because teaching surfing lessons was a job and the essay was about an experience with one of his students.
We’d love to talk about some of your ideas. Contact us here .
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5 Great Examples On How to Start A College Application Essay on Sports
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- essay topic
Where do you even start when you’re brainstorming possible essay topics for your college application essays ? Some go for a walk to get inspired, and others look back on their own experiences. Here are 5 college students who decided to talk about their athletic achievements, or used sports as a metaphor:
Amherst College ‘20
The lessons I have learned in tennis can apply to everybody’s life. When someone begins learning tennis, the main focus is to keep the ball in play. Keep the ball going back and forth until you win the point. I honestly struggled keeping up my motivation in high school. However once I finally found a very steady source, it made life much easier and it kept me going much longer. Keep reading.
University of Pennsylvania ‘18
Numerous times I felt like giving up on my basketball dreams yet I didn’t want to be labeled a quitter. Instead, I wanted to one day tell a story just like Michael Jordan’s and how he was initially cut from the varsity team only to end up becoming the best player in the world; this became the driving force of my basketball obsession after I didn’t make the varsity team during my freshman year. View full profile .
Dartmouth college ‘18.
Gliding above the liquid glass, I take deep breathes, setting a rhythm for my crew to act together with one mind. Putrid green bubbles can be seen, rising to the water’s surface to gently greet the most crimson-colored sunset found in the Sacramento Valley, only to be crushed by the blade found at the end of my Yao Ming-sized sweeping oar. Each stroke, I pull harder than I did on the one that came before it; each stroke I tear skin from the blisters found on the joints of my fingers that grasp my oar; each stroke I carry my weapon of bubble destruction with more and more confidence. In the long haul of a two-thousand meter race I remember that the pain I feel is temporary and that I am fully capable of pulling my way past the finish line. Read more .
Harvard University ‘17
It all happened within a split second. I held the orange leather ball firmly between my hands as steaming droplets of sweat ran from my forehead to the tips of my fingers. My lungs desperately begged for oxygen as I stood right before the maroon line fifteen feet away from the basket, crouched into my shooting stance that had been perfected through the hours of repetition spent on this very spot. Despite the meticulous preparation, my knees trembled out of fear and anxiety. All eyes within the gymnasium were placed on me—the shortest of the ten in uniform on the hardwood floor. Tightly shutting my eyes and stiffening my lips, I deeply meditated on the foul shot that was about to be taken. As the cheers filled my ears, I recalled the days in the past when all of this was a brand new experience; slowly, the roar of the crowd faded to a low murmur then to an utter silence. Continue reading .
University of pennsylvania ‘19.
“The 50m freestyle is next. Swimmers, take your positions.” I stepped onto the diving platform as the announcer’s voice echoed through the natatorium and tightened my goggles, not too tight, but just right, like Goldilocks’ porridge. This was my debut since my hiatus from the U10 YMCA Sharks. Standing on the diving board, I could feel the power of the room engulf my being; energy filled my body while my fingers began to tingle. “Chariots of Fire” by Vangelis began to play in my ears. View full profile .
Have you started brainstorming what you should write for your college application essay? If you’re interested in writing about it on sports , unlock the one of the above profiles for free to read the full essay for inspiration!
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About The Author
Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.
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- 1. Webinar Series: College Application Prep for High School Juniors
- 2. College Application Lessons from 2020-2021: Strategizing through Covid Changes (Part 2)
- 3. College Admissions Lessons from 2020-2021: Strategizing through Covid Changes (Part 1)
- 5. COVID-19 and Your College Essay: Should You Write About It?
- 6. College Search: How to Find Your Best College Fit
- 7. College Tours 101: Everything You Need to Know
- 8. Waitlisted? 5 Ways to Move from the College Waitlist to Acceptance
- 9. When (and why) should you send additional materials to colleges you’re interested in?
- 10. How to Make Your College Essay Stand Out
- 1. How to Write College Essays to Boost your Chances Part 2: Focusing the Priority
- 2. How to Write College Essays to Boost your Chances Part 1: Biggest Essay Mistakes
- 3. College Application Lessons from 2020-2021: Strategizing through Covid Changes (Part 2)
- 5. Winners of the AdmitSee 2020 College Scholarship
- 6. COVID-19 and Your College Essay: Should You Write About It?
- 7. Education, Access and Systemic Racism
- 8. Applying to BS/MD Direct Medical Programs: Why Early Med School Admission Might be Right for You
- 9. How to Get Off the College Waitlist (5 Go-To Strategies)
- 10. College admissions prep during the Coronavirus
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Are you a student athlete planning to play sports in college? Finding the right school for you is still about best overall fit. Make sure you are considering academics, campus culture, and financial aid—in addition to the athletics program—during your college search .
Whether you have dreams of going pro or just want to play for fun, here's an overview of your sports options in college and some specific admission tips for athletes.
Playing Sports in College
Varsity athletes represent their schools at the highest level of competition. Funded by college athletic budgets, varsity teams play in conferences across the country. Athletes are recruited by college coaches or “walk-on” the team at the beginning of the season.
What are the NCAA Divisions?
The National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) is the largest organization that governs varsity sports at colleges and universities. The NCAA divides its member schools into three divisions based on 1) school size, 2) funding for athletics, 3) campus experience for athletes, and 4) availability of athletic scholarships.
Club sports teams compete with other universities and colleges but are not regulated by an athletics association like varsity sports. Club teams are run by students who plan everything from hiring coaches to fundraising for gear and uniforms. Competition can still be fierce with rigorous weekly practice, regional tournaments, and national championships.
These recreational sports teams are for students of all athletic abilities. Instead of competing against other universities you’ll compete against other student teams at your school. Intramural teams can run the gamut from traditional sports like soccer, rugby, or softball to quirky options such as Ultimate Frisbee, Quidditch, or inner-tube water polo.
Read More: How to Write a High School Resume for College Applications
College Admissions Tips for Athletes
Meet with your college counselor early and often to make sure you're moving toward your goals! Follow these tips for a smooth admissions process.
Understand the rules of recruitment.
If you have your eye on a varsity sport, be aware that members of the team are usually recruited by college coaches. There are rules for when and how coaches can get in touch with you. Check out the NCAA recruiting guidelines .
Plan ahead for NCAA Eligibility.
If you are applying to Division I or II schools, you will also need to meet NCAA Eligibility. These academic standards include: 1) required courses, 2) GPA cu t-offs, and 3) SAT/ACT score minimums. Eligible students may practice, compete, and get NCAA funding for their first year in college.
Raise your GPA.
NCAA Eligibility does not mean automatic admission! You’ll still have to go through the school’s admission committee, so work to get good grades in challenging courses. Our online tutors are here for you if your GPA needs a boost!
Choose your SAT/ACT test dates wisely.
Consider your sports schedule when choosing your test dates so that you can get in enough prep! For example, if you play a spring sport, you’ll have more time to prep for the SAT and/or ACT tests in the fall. Learn more about when you should take standardized tests .
Be original in your application essays.
Strategize with your college counselor about how to talk about playing sports in your college essays . Many essays sound the same—tell your sports story that nobody else can tell. Get feedback on your application essay .
Think beyond sports.
Your best fit college is one you would attend even if you don’t make the team! Learn more about how to find the right school for you .
Need help crafting the right application plan for you? Our College Counselors will help you find, apply, and get accepted to your dream school. Get a personalized college admissions plan today!
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How to Make Your Sports Essay Unique 1. Focus on a specific moment or reflection. The college essay is a way for students to humanize themselves to admissions officers. You do not feel human if you are describing yourself as just another player on the field!
The notion that all students who play sports write college essays about their athletic pursuits is simply inaccurate. Last year one our our students, a star football player, wrote about his aptitude for solving puzzles. Another student on the school rowing team wrote about her family’s immigration story.
Sports can be a good way to bond with others, create lasting friendships, and overcome obstacles. No one is taking that away from you, but as it relates to writing a college essay this path still won’t work. Think of another way to write about this.
Some go for a walk to get inspired, and others look back on their own experiences. Here are 5 college students who decided to talk about their athletic achievements, or used sports as a metaphor: LESMAR16 Amherst College ‘20 The lessons I have learned in tennis can apply to everybody’s life.
Be original in your application essays. Strategize with your college counselor about how to talk about playing sports in your college essays. Many essays sound the same—tell your sports story that nobody else can tell. Get feedback on your application essay. Think beyond sports. Your best fit college is one you would attend even if you don ...