ED at a D3 or hope for an Ivy/MIT?

Short question - Should my DD apply ED to the D3 school that wants her and that she loves, or should she she take a chance at an Ivy League?

Long story -
My DD is probably a top recruit for D3 in track and field. Her marks are high above the D3 standards and are at the D1 recruiting standards for Columbia, and above the walk-on standards for the rest of the Ivy Leagues. Her GPA, class schedule, and test scores (35 on the ACT) puts her within the 50%-75% range of Ivy League schools, although that still means a less than 10% chance of admissions.

She’s waiting to hear the results of the pre-read from some LAC’s. They are in the top 5 LACs in the nation, and she’d be pretty thrilled to attend any of them. She also wants to do pre-med, and it sounds like these are perfect schools in terms of academics and athletic time commitment. Also, these D3 school coaches are so warm and enthusiastic about recruiting her.

The problem is that she’s heard nothing from the UC’s or any of the Ivy League schools she’s reached out to. Well, Brown responded to her questionnaire in February with a “we’re interested and will talk to you soon” but has been silent since then. The Harvard coach actually responds to her email updates but it’s pretty clear he’s just being polite.

Then there’s MIT, another D3 school. She would love to attend MIT and the coach is said he is going to give her some sort of tip. But it sounds like MIT doesn’t do pre-reads, so her chances would still be a 50/50 chance of admission.

My DD would be really happy to go to the 1st choice D3 LAC and doesn’t want to give up the opportunity. She’d also love to be done with the college search process. But we are also wondering if it’s too early for her to give up hopes of attending Harvard, Princeton, Yale when they haven’t shown any interest in her? Or to close the door on MIT who can’t make any promises. As for the other Ivy’s and UC’s my DD would rather attend the small LAC anyway.

We’d love to get your thoughts.

Short answer: Love the one who loves you.

Longer answer: besides the ego satisfaction (which is legit ofc), what would be the objective advantages of getting an Ivy UG over a top-5 LAC?

If I am reading your posting correctly, then your daughter has an excellent chance to get accepted to a liberal arts college that competes in Division 3 sports. I am not particularly knowledgeable about college sports, but my vague recollection is that Division 3 does not provide athletic scholarships.

And I see the word “pre-med” in your post. Thus your daughter’s hoped-for career path involves premed and medical school, with the understanding that the number of students who start university thinking “premed” is much, much larger than the number of students who end up going to medical school.

Two things immediately come to mind.

The first is: What level of LAC are we talking about? The top LACs to me are very much compatible with the Ivy League universities in terms of the quality of the undergraduate education. In terms of getting a great education and in terms of getting well prepared for whatever comes next (medical school or not), I think that you can do as well at Bowdoin or Amherst or Wellesley College as you can at Harvard or Yale. On the other hand, there are a lot of LACs, and they are not all the same.

The second thing that comes to mind are finances. Medical schools is expensive. Have you run the NPC on the LAC that you are considering and it is affordable without debt?

If my daughter was thinking of applying ED to a “top 5 LAC”, then I would be concerned about affordability. However, I would not be the least bit concerned about giving up the chance to apply to an Ivy League school or MIT, nor would I be the least bit concerned about giving up the chance to compete in Division 1 sport. For a student who wanted to take their academics very seriously I would prefer Division 3 over Division 1. I only know a tiny handful of people who competed in Division 1 sports, but to me it seemed like too large of a commitment of time and effort.

I think that this is probably a long winded way of coming to the same conclusion as @collegemom3717.

I think the question that I would be asking myself is what makes an Ivy a better choice than a top-5 LAC. What does it offer that the LAC does not. There may be some things that an Ivy does offer, such as an urban area or more in the line of courses. That should be weighed against the offerings of an LAC, such as a somewhat reduced practice/meet demands (which may be better for med school applicants) and more opportunities for research with professors. Chances for admission at each institution cannot be discounted.

There is an argument that there is no causal relationship between students that attend elite schools and occupational outcomes. There is an association, but only because the students who are admitted to elite schools are so bright and driven that they are going to have good occupational outcomes regardless of where they matriculate.

I’m so confused - why would she not go to the school that she loves and they love her back?

The short answer is that if she’s happy with the D3 she should take it; Ivy isn’t likely and MIT is a gamble.

Longer answer:

While the MIT coach support is helpful, your 50/50 estimate seems about right to me. Personally, I wouldn’t trade a near-sure thing at, say Williams, for a 50% shot at MIT. There’s certainly nothing preferable about MIT from a Track standpoint.

Ivies…the track coaches can move pretty late sometimes. I’ve known athletes who were ghosted all spring then got a call in July and a quick invite for an official visit. But I wouldn’t say that’s typical, and that was in a busy year. This year is not busy, and even those kids were waiting until after the official visit to learn if they’d get support. I think if an athlete has emailed a few times, perhaps tried calling, and isn’t having conversations about the recruiting process then the coach probably is not interested at this point.

I will say that the HYP track recruits getting support aren’t usually looking at D3; they’re D1 recruits looking at strong track programs. You can get a sense of the talent level from their incoming class press releases. If your daughter is in the neighborhood of walk-on standards it’s very unlikely she’ll get support at those schools. But if she seems like a fit and really wants to know, I’d probably make one last try at the Ivies. I know the Brown coach isn’t real aggressive with recruiting, and Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth generally are less challenging to get support. But in the end D3 might be the best fit, and being a student athlete at one of those schools can be a great experience.

If she is serious about “pre-med” than I would look at ALL colleges that give her the best opportunity to thrive as an undergrad (i.e. get great grades) and has excellent resources (research, internships, academic advising, etc.) that maximizes outcomes for their students to get into medical school.

You said her “marks are high above” her peers at the D3 college she would ED to. This could be a red flag as she will likely not be around her academic peers and her classes might not be the strongest in the sciences? Also, she would not get any athletic $$$ (D3).

Just because a college “wants her” doesn’t mean it’s the best choice for her. For example, she could probably get close to a full ride at dozens and dozens of colleges in the U.S. that would love to have her but the important question is will she receive the best undergrad education, one that will stay with her the rest of her life? What if she changes career paths, will the college have the flexibility for a change in her major and aspirations?

As you know, there is no real future in track & field. Maybe she can do a campus club sport which allows her to focus on her pre-med studies?

Based on your description, it sounds like she would be happy and thrilled to attend many of the colleges you listed above not just that one particular D3 college. Don’t be seduced so quickly.

Lastly, I would look at the finances (solvency) of the D3 college (and all of your target colleges) closely to see how they will fare during this pandemic. Many colleges are bleeding money and some will not survive, unfortunately.

Good luck, this is an exciting time and you and your D have lots to consider.

The OP’s runner apparently is not looking for an athletic scholarship. Ivy, MIT, D3 are all signs that athletic dollars are not a consideration. Not sure what the comment “there is no real future in T&F” means. The OP is looking to run in college. Athletes tend to take their sports very seriously. Same could be said about any sport, not just T&F. Take the sure thing IF the academic and athletic fit is correct. If FA is a consideration then maybe the school will give a look at that for you as well.

I’d go ED for the top 5 LAC if DaughterJayBird loves the school and it’s affordable. I say that as someone with family ties to both an Ivy and a top LAC. Since your daughter is premed, I should mention that the family member who attended the LAC was an athlete and was pleased to find that the coach didn’t prioritize athletics over academics; it was not at all a problem if a student had to miss practice, or even a competition, for important academic stuff (taking grad school exams, finishing an important paper, preparing for a final, etc.). I don’t know how common that is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if D3 schools were more flexible than D1 schools in allowing athletes to focus on academic commitments when necessary.

I agree with what is written above, but would add that MIT is not recommended if she is set on pre-med. MIT is intense, and it is difficult to stand out and get the top grades needed for medical school. The following blog from an MIT pre-med student is somewhat dated but likely still relevant:


@MrsJayBird : these can be tough decisions, though somehow it all seems to work out. In the end, in my opinion do not chose the school based on T&F/Sports. Many students do not end up competing for all 4-years and coaches come and go quite frequently. Sports was a factor to our family but it was not top-academic reputation, the school fit, cost were all above sports.

Since talking D3s and Iveys, not any athletic money and if higher end LAC/D3 there is typically not much if any merit so that is not a factor in the decision. In general, even for D1 T&F there is not a lot of scholarship dollars.
Question-for the LAC D3 that you are considering ED, how strong of an academic candidate is she? Does she need the coaches support to get in or is this a school she would expect to get into? Also, I am not sure if cost is an issue.
If she is a strong candidate for this school, I do not agree with some of the others and would consider not locking myself in ED too soon on that school. From a track perspective it sounds like she would have no problem walking onto the team and competing. This may just be me, but I did not like getting pushed by the schools/coaches to make a commitment and we held off until we were as sure as we could be.
The Iveys do offer a little larger school/University experience than most LAC which are smaller. It may be worthwhile to take a little more time to see if it could be a fit. Ideally it would be great if your daughter got into the current top choice but had other choices too, even if the D3 LAC ends up being the best fit.
I would agree that schools like MIT, Williams, Amherst and a few others are right up there with the top Iveys with MIT and Williams certainly in the HYP category, which can offer a network and boost that not all schools can provide for grad school, jobs, etc.
Since you mentioned MIT, have you looked at and reached out to the T&F coaches at Tufts? It is a NESCAC but is not the typical LAC as it is a university and larger than most LACs. Tufts has an excellent reputation. It is not easy to get into but is certainly a little easier than trying to get into MIT.

@politeperson assessment of HYP track recruits is correct in my experience.
And I agree with their advice to take a last try at the Iveys. It can’t hurt.

At some point all athletes need to hang up their cleats. For some it’s in high school, for others it’s after college. The question is how important is playing your sport in college compared to getting the best undergrad education you can?

Is she willing to “sacrifice” going to a D3 college where she says that she is heads and shoulders above her peers academically?

With that said, if OP is looking to run in college, she has a really good shot at MIT (50% chance?) AND attend one of the best STEM colleges in the world. Getting a degree from MIT is a game changer. And if she doesn’t get into MIT, there are dozens of top pre-med colleges that will allow her to run competitively (e.g. National Intercollegiate Running Club) with other colleges. Or she could try to be a “walk-on” at some top colleges.

If the question was between two academically similar D3 colleges (one with T&F and one without) than it’s an easier answer; go ahead and be a recruited athlete, but when you are talking about two very different group of colleges, the decision is a lot more difficult, IMO and is the reason why the OP started this thread.

Remember this is a top 1% academic student who’s mom says she is competitive for admission to some of the top colleges in the country.

One other thing is, if she gets injured running in college and cannot run anymore, will she still be excited to attend that D3 college and get a degree from there?

@socaldad2002 I think you are confusing the OP’s remark that her daughter’s marks were “high above the D3 standards and are at the D1 recruiting standard”. I think the OP means her track times, not her GPA. Because you need the same grades to get into a Williams or an Amherst as you do to get in to the Ivy League.

Ok, but nevertheless, it sounds like the D3 college (not the top LACs as she is waiting for pre-reads from them) is not at the same academic standards as the other colleges of interest. Maybe OP can clarify?

Yes, OP said the D3 school is one of the top 5 LACs in the country – there aren’t concerns about being around academic peers or sufficiently intellectually challenged.

If the student loves the school and the school wants the student as a recruited athlete, it seems like a no-brainer, as long as the financial aid works. A top D3 LAC can offer more a bit more flexibility in schedules which can make the pre-med, athlete balancing act a little more manageable.

^ I thought it was pretty clear that she’s going through the pre read process at top D3s where the coaches want her and would likely support her application if she applies ED. I suppose the pre reads could come back negative but that seems pretty unlikely.

Got it, thanks for the clarification. I misread it that she is being courted by a D3 college and loves the college but she is waiting on other colleges (top 5 LACs), ivies and MIT.

Below is a great thread about pre-reads at NESCAC colleges that might be of interest to OP:


Thanks everyone for your very helpful responses! I’d say @politeperson understood our situation the most clearly

To clarify/reiterate, 3 of the D3 schools that she’s getting pre-reads from are in the top 5 LAC’s in the nation. We think the school will be a great opportunity for her athletically and academically. I think you guys have won us over to seize the opportunity. I love what @collegemom3717 wrote about loving the person who loves you. That’s probably good advice in general!

We’re ashamed to admit that the Ivy League / MIT has the “big name” draw. She’s already given up taking advantage of her legacy tip at Stanford because their D1 standards are even higher than Ivy’s. I’m surprised at how few people have heard about these top LAC’s. My D was hoping to get the most bang out of her academics and track and field bucks, but she also knows that her ticket into a top 5 LAC is still like winning the lottery, given how unpredictable and difficult it is to gain admissions in these schools. And yes, she likes these schools because, if she doesn’t do T&F or pre-med, she will still get a great education.

Thanks again for everyone’s input, and keep them coming! We still have a few more months before the applications are due. =)

She should be very pleased. There is plenty written in here about recruiting so read old threads.

  1. If she’s walk on standards at the Ivy’s then she won’t be recruited there. Even if she’s at their recruiting standards, that’s a minimum and if there’s someone better they will take that person instead. Remember the Ivy standards are well below the top D1 athletic programs too
  2. If the coach isn’t responding after concerted tries, read no interest.
  3. The top athletes in the D3’s are at Ivy plus standards.
  4. The best D3’s academically are at least as good as an Ivy and better than some of the Ivy’s.
  5. Recruiting certainty varies. You take a leap of faith when being told by the D3 apply ED and we will support you. Learn what that means. How many times they succeed. Question. Schools in the NESCAC can be very certain, with some exceptions. Some ad3’s give conditional acceptance (early writes) like U Chicago. That is D1 likely letter certain
  6. If you want bigger schools, check out larger D3’s like UChicago or Tufts etc. pre med then schools like John Hopkins are elite. UChicago is a top 5 academic school and rivals Stanford, Harvard or Yale.

So no compromises needs to be made in going D3.

Have fun and pick the best school independent of track. Congrats on potentially having great choices!

@arbitrary99 can you please provide more information regarding your comment that U Chicago gives conditional acceptance (early writes)? I’ve never heard that term before. So let’s just say theoretically that a rising senior has recently been told by the head coach of U Chicago sports team that the head coach will be supporting the student in the admissions process. To my understanding at a high academic D3 school, this means that the kid now has a hook, but still not a certainty of acceptance.