Chance recruited athlete and if not


Sorry for double post. Long time reader and first time poster. I am looking for a “chance me” on my S24, who is currently a recruited athlete. I am hoping for some feedback as athletics can be tricky and you are only as good as your last event. Specifically, is his current path going to give him a good chance at his targets (not all just listed some at bottom) without athletic recruiting? I know most are reaches. Some info:

US citizen
Northern CA
Public. Mid to Large for CA. Award winning and IB
Male, Hispanic
Recruited Athlete. 3 sports-varsity, both years. Nationally ranked in one of the sports

Intended Major- Unknown but strong lean towards STEM

GPA, Rank, and Test Scores
Unweighted HS GPA: 4.00
Weighted HS GPA: 4.79
Class Rank: 2nd out of 617
ACT/SAT Scores: Has not taken SAT yet

Frosh- Honors everything possible including Eng, Integrated 2, and Biology. AP HG (4 on AP test). Spanish- school does not offer honors. All A’s

Current Soph- Honors everything including Eng, Int 3/Pre-calc, and Chemistry. AP World Hist and AP Psych. Spanish- school does not offer honors. All A’s so far. Took college art class and got A, so he could take second AP class.

Junior year- eyeballing IB diploma with full IB coursework.

Multiple scholar athlete awards. Regional sportsmanship awards. Regional committee for HS sports (leadership just by being on committee).

Volunteer through school club (not officer) but about 20 hours so far this year (volunteer service is usually assisting child advocacy groups or cleaning up campus).

Peer tutor of at least 10 hours this year.

As mentioned three sport varsity athlete. In one of the sports nationally ranked and recruited (coaches cannot reach out to him but have reached out to his counselor and coaches). In one other sport he has local honors. He is looking at scaling back his athletics to just his primary sport in Junior year as he hears IBD is pretty time consuming.

Cost Constraints / Budget
We are middle class in CA but that leaves little for need based aid for most of his targets (why don’t they get how expensive CA is). Most likely full pay or loans if no merit scholarship (athletic or academic).

School list (may be too soon but looking for opinions with and without athletic recruitment):
*Cal Poly
*U Michigan
*Ohio State
*U of NC at CH
*VA Tech

Part of putting this up was to find out if IBD is needed or can he go AP route? Counselor already said only way to get “most challenging coursework” is to go IBD.

Considering sports, most challenging coursework available, and volunteer service, he has no time for regional science or academic competitions. How bad will this hurt him? He is a rockstar at time management but I wonder if schools will value all the time in hs athletics vs more clubs or volunteering.

Lastly, how important is it to take PSAT in the fall for National Merit? He would rather just take the SAT but peers are saying to take PSAT/NM to stack the accolades (hoping to score high enough).

Long post and thank you so much if you made it this far. Appreciate your feedback.

Interesting quandary. A lot of this will depend on how ‘recruitable’ your son is. If the coaches are all over him, then its a good chance he would be offered help in admissions. It also varies considerably by division (1, 2, 3) and sport.

Sounds like he is smart, def have him take the PSAT, as this might help him qualify for the NMSF. If he scores well, he can take the SAT later.

Regarding IB vs AP: this again depends on what schools you are considering. If Ivy league then they will pay attention to rigor and the “academic index”. Look this up and calculate his AI. Higher AI the better. But there is some flexibility depending on athletic prowess.

For finances - go to each of the colleges websites and run the Net Price Calculator. You may be surprised that some of the more fancy colleges will offer more aid.

I can only speak generally.

*the fact that d1 coaches are reaching out is strong evidence that your son is recruitable at that level. And, if he’s a recruied athlete at those schools, his chance of admission is basically 100%.

If he’s not recruited, his odds are the same as everyone else with his profile (so, like 10% at Stanford)

*schools know how time consuming it is to be an elite athlete and don’t expect other ECs, much volunteering etc. Though it’s nice if he can give back through his sport.

*my son didn’t take the psat and it didn’t hurt him with admissions or recruiting. As to scoring high enough for merit, that might be a good reason to take.

My son did take the SAT between sophomore and junior year, and your son probably should as well, to give an idea of his “final” score – or to know he hit the required benchmark for recruiting. I am sure it is sport-dependent, but one Stanford athlete I know just had to hit a 1250.

It’s common to have two parallel lists of schools…one where the student would play their sport, another with schools they can’t play at. There can be overlap until a certain coach passes on the student.

I would encourage your S to take IB (if he wants to) and also take the PSAT. I would take the SAT as well, either this summer or fall. Yes, I know it may seem odd to take the SAT before PSAT but getting national hispanic scholar, or even NMF could help in admissions.

Regarding money, that is the first step to get a handle on. Many of the schools on your list offer no merit aid at all. Some don’t offer athletic scholarships either. For example, Columbia offers only need based aid. Have you run their Net Price Calculator? If that is affordable, keep it on the list…if not, off it goes. Your S can take out $27K max in loans over the undergrad years, $5.5K the first year the $6.5/$7.5/$7.5. Loans above that amount will be on the parents.

For recruiting I agree things look positive now. I don’t know the sport but your S may be able to speak on the phone with coaches now (Son has to make the call, typically at a preordained time set up with HS or club coach). He will be able to meet in person over the summer or at latest Sept 1. Meanwhile your S can be filling out the recruiting questionnaires so he is on coaches’ radars. Cast a wide net and include some non reaches academically and athletically speaking.


Congratulations to your son on his many accomplishments! I think that your son would be in contention at all of the schools on your list even if he is not a recruited athlete. That being said, however, many of the highly selective universities on that list are less likely for ALL students simply because there are way more qualified students than there are spots. Thus, being a recruited athlete would definitely help.

@Mwfan1921 is 100% right about running the NPC at schools that meet 100% of need. I’d probably run it once at a private (Columbia, Cornell, Stanford, or Penn) and once at a public (UVA or UNC-CH) as both of those publics meet 100% of need of out-of-state students as well. The calculator will produce a number that it thinks your family will be able to pay every year. If you are able and willing to pay that price every year, great, keep all of these on your list. If your family is NOT able to pay all of these, then I think that schools that do not offer merit aid need to be eliminated if the NPC price is not affordable. If it’s a D3 school that offers merit aid, I would still keep it on the list, as your son might get general merit aid, even if it’s not an “athletic scholarship.”

I don’t know if it’s necessary for your son to take the SAT prior to taking the PSAT, but it would be advisable to check out a prep book from the library or download old tests online in order to get some practice. The practice should be timed and trying to simulate test-taking environs, but an official session isn’t necessary. That way your son gets a sense of what the tests are like and can figure out areas to brush up on, if necessary/desired. If you son does well enough on the PSAT he can get some VERY nice scholarships (including a full ride). Then he can take the SAT later on in junior year.

This is my very fallible guess as to what your son’s chances might be at these colleges if he ends up as a non-recruited athlete. If he’s a recruited athlete then it still depends on how the college treats recruited athletes. (At MIT, for instance, being recruited is a “helps to have” but it’s by no means a sure thing…whereas at other universities, including some listed here, it’s probably a guaranty.)

Guaranteed (100%)

Extremely Likely (80-99%)

Likely (60-79%)

  • Cal Poly – Pomona

Toss-Up (40-59%)

  • Virginia Tech
  • U. of Wisconsin
  • Ohio State

Possible (20-39%)

  • U. of Virginia
  • U. of Michigan
  • Cal Poly – San Luis Obispo

Less Likely (less than 20%)

  • Columbia
  • Cornell
  • Stanford
  • Northwestern
  • UNC-Chapel Hill
  • UCLA

Your kid sounds awesome!

When you are talking to coaches, be sure to talk with them about compatibility of athletics and certain STEM majors.

I know of a few D1 coaches who flat out told players, “If you want to play for us, you can’t major in Engineering.” Some majors with big on-campus or co-op time commitments or labs are incompatible with the travel and practice schedules expected of the D1 athletes. You will want to learn where each coach and each school stands on that.

I do think it is helpful to have two lists of schools going — one for “If I play here” and one for “If I am not a recruited athlete.” But in my opinion there should be no school on the “if I play here” list that you would not consider for academics alone.

I know athletes transfer all over the place these days, but I never wanted a sport to drive the decision. If a student is a recruited athlete but suffers a career-ending injury in week one, would they still be happy there?
Or if a new recruit takes their spot and relegates them to the bench?

Especially considering your son’s academic talent and interests, I assume you would also like him to get the full benefit of a strong STEM program that is a good fit, ideally not interrupted by one or more transfers. But as the college search process evolves, your son’s thinking may evolve, too — I know my kid’s did. Their thoughts on how hard they want to work at their sport versus their academics may change.

Some kids decide they are burned out on top-level athletics and want to focus on school and social activities instead. Others see it as perhaps their last chance to play competitively and their only shot at being an NCAA athlete, so they want to go somewhere where it might be easier for them to succeed academically. And then there are the “I don’t need sleep - let’s do it all!” types who go to MIT, etc.

My point is, what your son wants will become clearer over time. In the meantime, be forewarned: it is really hectic trying to stay on top of emails and coach calls and recruiting video and campus visits for the “sport” list of schools, while simultaneously learning about and demonstrating interest in and preparing customized essays for an “academic” list of schools. Be prepared to provide lots of organizational and logistical help and start early.

Regarding academic contests, etc., I think a high level athlete demonstrates their passion through their sport. I don’t think you can realistically compete in both arenas. But if there are a few projects he can do on his own time in support of his STEM interest, that would be great — I am thinking of things like designing an app relevant to his sport (if that is his thing) or growing an aeroponic vegetable garden on the patio, whatever — something flexible he can do around his other activities.

Best wishes!

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I realize I didn’t respond to your specific “chance me” list. I think it is a little too early to know, but @AustenNut ’s analysis looks solid.

Regarding IBD versus AP, I think AP would be sufficient in most cases — but it depends on your high school. If all the kids at the top of the class go the IBD route, then AP might not be enough. Will the school counselor’s report indicate the student took courses of the highest rigor available if he takes the AP route? Will the college see four other applicants from his class have taken the IBD route? Those are the things that can influence decisions, and they are high school specific. (Now if it is a school where your son is recruited with coach support, I am guessing APs will be sufficient.)

Also bear in mind that if your son is recruited, he will be expected to apply early decision to the school where he commits taking whatever athletic scholarship they included when they extended the offer (usually not a full ride). Of course, he will have a backup plan, but chances are he will never apply to any of the other schools on your list in that case. You will not be able to compare a variety of programs and financial aid packages and that list of “if I don’t play” schools evaporates. So you kinda have to find out earlier than most what schools are a great fit for the student and budget.


Some great advice here, particularly regarding the NPC and coming up with multiple lists for colleges if he’s going to play/not play. One great piece of advice you’ll see floating around here is that you should pick your college as if you were going to have a “career-ending injury” the first day of practice (nasty, but it happens). Also great advice about your kid having a discussion with the coaches about the compatibility of engineering/DI sports. After similar discussions with DI coaches about pre-med compatibility, one of my kids switched their focus entirely to D3 schools (and ended up playing all 4 years). This isn’t an all-encompassing list, but some highly ranked D3s with engineering (assuming that’s the direction he takes) include: MIT, Harvey Mudd, Caltech, Swarthmore, Tufts, NYU, Case Western, and CMU. There are a bunch more that are extremely strong in non-engineering STEM. As others have mentioned, coaches at some of these schools have more pull with admissions than others. IB was a bear for my kids, but a constant refrain we heard from admissions folks at selective schools is that they know what’s being offered in a particular high school, and they expect their applicants to take that route. I don’t “chance” but some on that list (and I’m sure you know which ones) are reaches/lotteries for everyone.

Thank you very much for your opinions. He is definitively looking D1 so, if he is lucky enough to continue his trajectory, we will make sure to ask about academic pursuits and how other kids in the program managed. Interesting on ED as well. Thanks again!

I’m a big fan of D2 schools, and he could look at a few of those at the top. Colorado School of Mines is a D2 school and plays at a pretty high level in a few sports. The football team played in the NCAA semi finals this year. Soccer is good, swimming is good. Almost everyone at the school is in engineering or a STEM (Applied Math, physics, etc)., so almost all the athletes are in engineering (I think there was ONE guy on the soccer team who wasn’t in engineering).

Colorado Mesa is D2. The engineering degrees are from U of Colorado (therefore, it is a WUE school for fr/so years but then you go to OOS tuition for jr/sr years). They aren’t in the same category as Stanford, but the WUE schools are mostly D1, are great for engineering, and really wouldn’t care if he was an IB student or and AP student. Look at Wyoming, Montana, Montana State, Arizona, Colorado State, NM schools. He may get a lot more playing time (depending on his sport).

Illinois Tech (D3), Florida Tech (D2), Embry-Riddle (d2) are also full of engineers, some of whom are athletes. My daughter played 4 years at Florida Tech, in engineer (graduated in 4 years too), and played in the NCAA tournament her jr and sr years. She also had an athletic scholarship, a merit scholarship, and got to play almost every minute of her 4 years on the team. It really was the perfect fit for her. If Colorado school of Mines had had her sport, she would have liked it there too.

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@twoinanddone has some very interesting ideas which inspired me to look for STEM-focused schools that offer merit aid if they’re D3, or that were D1 or D2, as those schools probably are more accommodating about having a STEM degree while playing intercollegiate athletics. Here are some possibilities:

• Carnegie Mellon (PA ): D3 and offers merit aid
• Georgia Tech: D1
• Worcester Polytechnic (MA): D3 and offers merit aid
• Rose-Hulman (IN): D3 and offers merit aid
• Virginia Tech: D1
• Rensselaer Polytechnic (NY): D3 and offers merit aid
• Case Western (OH): D3 and offers merit aid
• Colorado School of Mines: D2
• Purdue (IN): D1
• Texas A&M: D1
• Union (NY): D3 and offers merit aid
• Auburn (AL): D1
• Clarkson (NY): D3 and offers merit aid
• Michigan Technological: D2

Adding a couple others for consideration:

  • Oregon State: D1
  • Missouri Science & Technology: D2
  • Florida Institute of Tech: D2
  • Lawrence Technological (MI): D3 and offers merit

Wouldn’t the University of Rochester also be on that list (STEM focus + merit aid)?

I think Carnegie Mellon ended their merit aid a few years ago. Presidential & Carnegie Scholarship Programs - Student Financial Services - Division of Enrollment Services - Carnegie Mellon University

Students on financial aid can receive an endowed ‘scholarship’, but I believe it’s still a part of the need-based grants awarded. Penn does this also.

I’m a +1 for “cast a wide net.” Yes, 2024 will be here before you know it but a lot can change between now and then nonetheless. Make sure to apply to a few schools they would be happy with (and gifted with merit at) as just a student, and not a student athlete. Injuries happen. Or sometimes (our son) they get to the finish line and decide they’re ready to be done. Hopefully not the case for you but plan for all possible outcomes. Good luck to you! It’s an exciting time.

I debated whether to add U. of Rochester, but I thought there might be too many non-STEM/music majors (both of which can be very time consuming). But I was a bit stricter in the beginning than I was toward the end, so yes, U. of Rochester should probably have made the list.

You may well be right. I was depending on the College Board’s website and in the financial aid section it indicated that the average non-need based award was $37,835. And although the particular scholarships you linked to no longer seem to be awarded, Carnegie Mellon seems to leave left the door open for merit aid when it said that scholarships could be given for academic merit, financial need, or a combination of both.


Also, although I tend to make long lists that cover an array of options, I would hate for anyone in the community to think that the lists are completely exhaustive and contain all options. There are plenty of things I don’t know, I make mistakes, and the insights and experiences of anyone here are valuable contributions to OPs and to later readers of the threads.

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