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Another Fencing Question

isabella67isabella67 Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
edited January 2012 in Athletic Recruits
Let me start by saying that I have read all of Sherpa's excellent posts about college fencing and they are both helpful and incredibly generous. I sent Sherpa a private message and he thought the discussion might be helpful to other fencing parents so he asked me to post here. I am grateful for any advice that anyone has for us. Apologies for the length of the post.

I have a couple of questions about optimizing my daughter's chances of picking the right school to focus on.

She is a Junior at a highly selective (#1 in state, top 40 overall and top 20 in math/science in nation according to several respected sources) public school. All of their classes are either honors or AP. Unfortunately, her school has never produced a "recruited" athlete and the guidance counselor and head of the athletic department are no help. Additionally, her club is very small and has no history of guiding anyone through the process.

Anyway

Academics: GPA 4.0 (with 1 AP last year and 3 this year). Weighted GPA 4.9; No class rank available but top 10% out of 300. PSAT 218; Practice SAT scores between 2100-2200. She is taking the SAT in March and will be tutored before then. 5 on the AP US History test. Planning on 5-6 APs next year.

Fencing: A2011, on the Div 1 (top 30), Junior (top 16) and Cadet NRPL, has international points from several cadet designated events and a Junior World Cup. Hasn't won a NAC in a couple of years, but she has been in the top 8 (including some top 3 finishes) at several.

She wants to attend a very academically challenging school.

Can you tell me if we are doing this right:

1. She has e-mailed all of the coaches and sent a resume with fencing and academic achievements.

2. We look at the existing rosters and the incoming classes to see if there will be a need for any fencers in her weapon/gender.

3. We look at points lists for her weapon and gender to get a sense of the competition -- we do have a sense of whether most of the top girls in her weapon are looking Ivy or elsewhere. We have to consider international recruits as well, but I don't think there is much of a way to predict this factor unless those fencers fence regularly in the U.S.

And this is where I get confused

4. We look at the points lists for all of the weapons and genders to see what the competition is like for the few recruiting spots the fencing coaches have -- is this right or am I over complicating things? For example, if Brown has 4 recruiting slots, that means she has to be one of the top four desired fencers applying to Brown across all weapons and genders -- is that right?

5. Team experience -- how important is team fencing experience? It's always a hard decision about whether to add a team event when it is in the middle of two individual events, but if team experience is really important, then we will prioritize it more going forward.

Finally, is there a way to know how many recruiting spots a coach has?

I know that any of the coaches would welcome her if she got in on her own, but given that fencing is her only real EC (she has 4 others, but nothing remarkable given the ECs of most of the applicant pool) and her good but not stellar potential test scores, it seems to us like getting into an Ivy on her own is not very likely. Would you agree with that?

Are we doing everything right? Any advice would be appreciated. I am trying to remain really calm because she is so wound up over the whole situation.

Happy New Year and thank you very much for any insight you can provide!
Post edited by isabella67 on

Replies to: Another Fencing Question

  • sherpasherpa Registered User Posts: 4,761 Senior Member
    I think your daughter is doing everything right, and I also think she is laying out a blueprint for a recruit in any sport, not just fencing. I hope athletes in other sports can learn from this thread, too.

    First, she sounds like a true student/athlete, with excellent academic preparation and notable athletic achievement, and her goal of wanting “to attend a very academically challenging school” is laudable and definitely achievable.

    I’ll address each of your questions individually, but I’ll add one piece of general advice on a topic you haven’t touched on. She’s going to have some good options, so I’d recommend doing a lot of research on colleges this year, so that she’ll be in a position to make a decision when her options become clear this summer and early fall. What I’d suggest is the basic “read everything you can about the colleges” advice, but also to make “unofficial visits” to all of her target schools, where she can visit the colleges, take the tours, and hopefully meet the coaches and see the fencing facilities. Junior Olympics are in Utah this year, so you might fly to CA to see Stanford as part of that trip, and maybe try to do a northeastern college tour during her spring break. A one school per day tour of Yale, Brown, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, and Penn is pretty do-able on Amtrak. NCAA rules allow unlimited unofficial visits, and it’s an easy way to get a feel for the schools and at the same time gauge the different coach’s levels of interest.
    1. She has e-mailed all of the coaches and sent a resume with fencing and academic achievements.
    Perfect
    2. We look at the existing rosters and the incoming classes to see if there will be a need for any fencers in her weapon/gender.
    As you do this, try to put yourself in the coach’s shoes and project out team needs based on when current team members are graduating.
    3. We look at points lists for her weapon and gender to get a sense of the competition -- we do have a sense of whether most of the top girls in her weapon are looking Ivy or elsewhere. We have to consider international recruits as well, but I don't think there is much of a way to predict this factor unless those fencers fence regularly in the U.S.
    I wouldn’t be too concerned about international recruits. Very few of those end up at the elite academic schools, and it’s impossible to predict anyway.
    4. We look at the points lists for all of the weapons and genders to see what the competition is like for the few recruiting spots the fencing coaches have -- is this right or am I over complicating things? For example, if Brown has 4 recruiting slots, that means she has to be one of the top four desired fencers applying to Brown across all weapons and genders -- is that right?
    You’re not overcomplicating things, but you might be overthinking it. The variables are complex and in many cases unknowable, but you and your daughter can control her approach to the process. I’d try to keep your approach simple. Research the schools and have your daughter create her own personal ranking list, establish dialogues with the top school’s coaches, and see how it comes together.
    5. Team experience -- how important is team fencing experience? It's always a hard decision about whether to add a team event when it is in the middle of two individual events, but if team experience is really important, then we will prioritize it more going forward.
    Interesting question. The team factor will be important once she’s in college, so maybe, but I wouldn’t worry about it. I think they’ll want to know what she can do, not how her team is or if she was willing to make a sacrifice for a team event.
    Finally, is there a way to know how many recruiting spots a coach has?
    Only to ask the coach and hope they tell the truth. I’ve found them all to be pretty honest, straightforward, and open to direct communication, both with recruits and their parents.

    A final thought. In addition to the schools I listed above, keep Northwestern, Cornell, and Duke in mind, and I’m sure I’ve left a few others out,too.

    Good luck!
  • isabella67isabella67 Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
    Sherpa -- thank you very much for your quick and comprehensive advice! We are already deep in the planning stages of an East Coast Spring Break tour and will visit the other schools on the list later in the Spring.

    I have a couple of follow up questions.

    1. Assuming that she continues to get good fencing results, maintains her GPA, hits that 2100-2200 mark, and performs as expected on the SAT IIs, how do her commitment and results in fencing (or top national results in any sport) stand up as an EC if she is just "coach supported" instead of getting a recruited spot? Would she have a chance at the elite schools?

    2. I can't imagine her deciding to attend a school without a fencing team, but if she does, could fencing (or top national results in any sport) (plus the 3-4 other ECs -- VP honor society, tutoring, advisory rep to student council, track and field), be enough of an EC to appeal to an admissions department? Obviously, it is hit and miss and depends on what niche the school is looking to fill, but should we be worried that she doesn't really do anything else?

    Thank you for the great advice and more importantly for your generosity to everyone on these boards.
  • sherpasherpa Registered User Posts: 4,761 Senior Member
    ...how do her commitment and results in fencing (or top national results in any sport) stand up as an EC if she is just "coach supported" instead of getting a recruited spot? Would she have a chance at the elite schools?
    Ultimately, that's unknowable. And in the end I don't think it will matter. Her academics, projected scores, and fencing results will almost surely result in her being "fully" supported.
    I can't imagine her deciding to attend a school without a fencing team, but if she does, could fencing (or top national results in any sport) (plus the 3-4 other ECs -- VP honor society, tutoring, advisory rep to student council, track and field), be enough of an EC to appeal to an admissions department?
    This isn't really a fencing question so much as a general athletic EC question, so I hope some others will offer their opinions. My opinion, for what it's worth, is two-part. First, I think most non-fencing schools will be impressed, and will understand that the fencing commitment got in the way of other ECs. On the other hand, I'd be afraid most non-fencing schools would be skeptical that she'd attend, on the theory that she'd opt for a school with fencing, and might then just reject her to protect their yield.
  • isabella67isabella67 Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
    Thank you!!!

    That is a interesting point about the non-fencing schools. Really zero chance that she would consider one, but I like to think about all of the options.

    She has been reassured by hearing your thoughts (from one who has gone through it) and I think the stress has ratcheted down -- at least temporarily! I know my stress level has been significantly reduced.

    It is so nice to have a step by step process so she knows what to expect. And breaking the whole thing down into smaller pieces makes it less overwhelming.

    Warm thanks and regards!
  • 5amriser5amriser Registered User Posts: 149 Junior Member
    I shared my D's story a while ago. I think this thread is appropriate for me to bring it up again to encourage many nervous parents. My D was a competitive swimmer who devoted all her out of class time to swimming with 20+ hours a week of practices. She fractured her back during junior year so was no longer recruitable for D1 schools. She is now a Harvard freshman. Though her swimming did not get her to swim for H, her resilience, passion, time management, and many qualities enhanced by her devotion to swimming got her to H. Her swim coach actually wrote a compelling letter of recommendation to the admission about these qualities. The athletic ec is by itself a testimony to some excellent characteristics many good schools are looking for, providing it is accompanied by excellent academics. Good luck!!
  • isabella67isabella67 Registered User Posts: 15 New Member
    What a heartbreaking injury for you daughter. She must be a strong young woman and I hope she is loving Harvard. Thank you for sharing her story. It is nice to think she might have a shot at one of the schools she is interested in even if she doesn't get an official recruiting spot. Thank you for sharing!
This discussion has been closed.