Essay Topic for Committed Athletic Recruit

The topic of sports-themed essays was discussed on another thread. I thought I’d ask this question on its on thread:

Should an applicant steer away from a sports-related essay if they are a recruited athlete (passed pre-read, verbally committed, etc.)? Thanks

I am unclear how being recruited already would relate to essay quality. A student should write an essay on what is meaningful to them. Quality depends on how it is written.

There is an essay reader service here on CC. You can find it if you look at latest topics. It is pinned.


The general idea is to show a different side of the applicant. Something they won’t already know from the application.

And don’t assume that coach support means getting to phone in the application.


I think it is fine to expand on something already covered in the application. The content should be different of course.

Wasn’t suggesting the applicant was planning to phone it in. She’s worked her tail off. 34 ACT, 4.0 unweighted, 4.6 weighted in full IB Diploma program. Top 3% of the class.

Was really just curious whether the topic mattered. She has played two sports competitively for years and they take up most of her time outside of the classroom.

I agree. Since she’s getting coach support, they already know she’s a dedicated and talented athlete. Have her write about something else that shows a different attribute. They want well rounded student athletes.


The application/recruitment will demonstrate that D is a dedicated and talented athlete. If she can show another aspect of herself through a sports related essay (ex. overcoming adversity as one example) then it should be fine.

I recommend students start by writing an outline or draft and see where it goes.

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I also tend to counsel recruits applying to relatively selective schools to write about something other than their sport (assuming your kid is committed to a relatively selective school…for Power 5 football commits and some others my advice would be different). It’s ok for the sport to make an appearance in the essay though, just not the main topic.

I would have your student do the typical essay brainstorming exercises, like at college essay guy’s site (and many others), and see what comes of that. Is your student leaning toward writing about their sport or are you just asking the question?


Her first draft of the common app essay was sport focused, so was curious to get some thoughts. Thanks.

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It’s hard to find a topic when so much of their time is consumed by a single activity.

Kids get stuck thinking the expectation is that they are supposed to write about an accomplishment or a lesson learned of sort. In reality they could just retell a funny story that highlights friendship for example. Or talk about a weird but special family tradition. My D wrote about a hike (but it was really about how she loves spending time with her grandparents).


Mine probably isn’t the conventional view but I think if it’s not a formulaic “the big game” type essay, it’s fine to use the sport in the essay.

As mentioned, recruits spend a lot of time and learn many lessons while engaged in their sport. They don’t need to run from it. But ideally the essay will reveal something about them, not trite observations about the sport.

I think there’s a danger in redirecting a recruit away from their interests/instinct/passion in what they’re writing about and could lead to frustration and wheel-spinning.


Thank you. That was my gut feeling as well, but wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing something. I appreciate everyone’s input.

No clue your child’s sport, level or school - but our child was told by her final school (an Ivy) to 100% not write about her sport at all in her common app essay. She already had a draft about another topic, so that didn’t change anything - but was glad that she didn’t have to make a change. Her sport came up in another optional question around leadership, if I am remembering correctly and guessing the coach knew this is where it would appear for most recruits. Would it have changed her admission’s answer - I don’t think so, but I am sure the coach had his reasons for how he liked their final admission file to read.


Top 15 LAC. She is a lacrosse player, but her first draft of the essay was about her other sport - soccer, if that makes any difference.

Thanks for the feedback.

I don’t think it matters. For a recruited athlete (or another hooked student who has already received an indication of admission), they may be using the essay as confirmation that the student is a good writer. They are no longer deciding if the student is a good fit for the school as it’s been determined she is during the pre-read.

I’d encourage her to write about what she likes and have fun with it.


I think @coffeeat3 is giving you an important point here - this is a reasonable question to ask the coach - if they’re experienced, they will know if the AO will have a negative reaction to a sports-focused/infused essay.

I think about this part of the process as “making it easy for the AO to say ok” - so finding out if this is an unexpected blocker is worth it.


I am only guessing here - but I think there is more of a sensitivity to the final app after the “Varsity Blues Scandal” - these apps just don’t go away after the student is admitted. They can be viewed and audited by the administration and there is more accountability around the quality. Not saying don’t do it - I am sure it is an excellent piece of writing by an academically qualified student- I just told my child’s story for others reading this and as a consideration. Their coach was clear (just like other coaches were clear about other part of the app they wanted to see if they moved forward) and she listened to the coach.

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For the recruited athletes, sometimes there is a need to fill some gaps in the application since so much time is spent participating in their sport. If there is an opportunity to be authentic about community service, that might be a good way to fill a gap. I agree with twoinanddone that the AO just wants to make sure that the recruited athlete can write well so the topic is not that important. Passing the preread is the main obstacle but there is “phoning in” an application to the highly rejective colleges.

For what it’s worth, my recruited athlete’s essay used anecdotes’ from their sport to reveal another part of their experience and perspective, specifically, living in and working with a diverse community.

No one here can say the essay topic doesn’t matter for whatever school we are talking about.

The topic of the essay is definitely important to the college AOs who communicate to coaches to tell the recruits not to write about sports (I’ve experienced this with a couple of schools, as have others on this thread).

Only way to know this information is to ask the coach.